Our site extends from the center of historic San Leandro Bay to approximately one mile inland from Oakland and Alameda’s current shorelines. Since the 1870s, this area has been extensively altered by cutting and filling activities, when a 30-year project cut a tidal canal between San Leandro Bay and the old Oakland Harbor, isolating Alameda from the mainland. More than four square miles of coastal wetlands in Oakland were filled with urban rubble or dredge sand. During this filling process, the channels of several new creeks were created (Lion Creek and Elmhurst Creek) or relocated (San Leandro Creek). Arrowhead Marsh extends into San Leandro Bay from the mouth of San Leandro Creek and serves as an important habitat for two federally-listed wetland species – the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse and the Ridgeway’s Rail. The area surrounding San Leandro Bay is divided by jurisdictional and infrastructural boundaries but shares the risks of sea level rise and groundwater flooding. San Leandro Bay connects the Oakland Coliseum area, City of Alameda (main island), Bay Farm Island, Oakland International Airport, and the San Leandro watershed.
The complex mix of urban, ecological, social, and economic challenges confronting San Leandro Bay are both confounding and inspiring. ABC’s vision is deeply informed by the history of this estuarine environment, the urgent challenges facing the communities that surround it, and the longer-term risks we can now only glimpse. Designing for resilience requires us to think differently about how resources and places are shared, and we must recalibrate how communities, government agencies, and private entities co-create their socioeconomic and physical environments. Working together with stakeholders and community organizations through a process of learning and co-creation led us to Estuary Commons.
The idea of a commons derives from a rich political and urban history. It joins people and place through shared management of resources for the benefit of all. A commons is at once the public process of governance and civic life and the spaces that bring us together. ABC envisions Estuary Commons as a network of communities joined in mutual obligation to share and manage the resources of a working urban landscape. Locals have been referring to San Leandro Bay as “The Estuary” for years, and Estuary Commons reaffirms this community-conceived identity and speaks to the shared place, process, and path forward that will drive resilient outcomes for generations.
Our study area’s major assets include Oakland Coliseum, Oracle Arena, Coliseum BART Station, North Field of Oakland International Airport, Interstate 880, and Capitol Corridor Amtrak and Union Pacific Railroad lines. Many miles of road infrastructure already experience flooding during high-tide and king-tide events. Research on flooding at the Oakland Coliseum site reveals rising sea levels are likely to cause problems first through the lower reaches of local creeks and then spreading out of the creek channels near I-880. In addition, groundwater mapping reveals the Oakland Coliseum site and land to the north and south have a shallow water table, increasing the risk of groundwater flooding.
The presence of more socially and economically vulnerable residents in our study area heightens the importance of developing resilient concepts that give all communities the opportunity to thrive in the San Leandro Bay-Coliseum area. The 2010 Census recorded approximately 50,000 people living in the study area, about half in Oakland and half in Alameda. People who live in the adjacent Oakland neighborhoods are predominately African-American and Latino, and people living in Alameda are predominantly Asian-American and Caucasian. In terms of pollution burden and socioeconomic vulnerability, the State of California ranks the Oakland portion of the study area in the 90th percentile, downtown Alameda neighborhoods below the 50th percentile, and Bay Farm Island below the 10th percentile.