Bay Towns - San Rafael

San Rafael is today a cool, charming and diverse North Bay town, oriented around San Rafael Creek and its Canal District. San Rafael’s shoreline is long – more than 10miles of edge border the canal district and central reach areas – and nearly all of San Rafael (from the Central San Rafael Basin and the southern portions of Downtown San Rafael extending from the San Rafael Canal/Creek westward) is flood prone today and will be dramatically impacted by sea level rise. 

San Rafael’s large low-lying area contains dense urban development including Marin County’s largest concentration of commercial businesses, public services as well as its highest density residential district – the Canal Neighborhood. Furthermore, relative to other North Bay communities and watersheds, the East San Rafael shoreline has remarkably fragile and diminishing tidal marshes. 

We propose 4 transformational projects to help address the various environmental, urban and engineering issues and create a more resilient San Rafael:

First, we propose a thickened ecological edge. We identify low-lying, underutilized sites along the shoreline and behind the existing levee. These sites become transitional ecological areas: parks today that evolve into tidal marshes with rising tides. Within the shallow mudflat areas, we expand the living shorelines experiments to trap sediment and build up bay mud for even more marsh and subtidal habitats. 

Next, we propose a network of “sponges”, a collection of green infrastructure projects throughout San Rafael that capture stormwater, reduce threats of flooding and also serve as parks and public amenities for the whole district. 

Next, we propose to leverage the SMART Hub in Downtown San Rafael as a major multi-modal transit node, linking trains to buses, shuttles and water taxis - tying San Rafael and North Bay communities to the wider region.   

Finally, we propose to revitalize the Canal District as a mixed use corridor with resilient forms of development. At low-lying and under-utilized sites, we create higher ground for new development and housing - all interspersed with parks, public amenities and sites with long-term ecological function.  

The result is a more ecologically rich, more economically robust, more socially equitable, and more resilient San Rafael.  

Any future work in San Rafael would be collaboratively developed with a coalition of local and regional organizations and individuals, beginning with: The City of San Rafael; Canal Alliance; Community Action Marin; County of Marin - Water Resources; Marin Community Foundation; Marin Community Housing Action; San Rafael Community Development; Shore Up Marin; State Coastal Conservancy; Youth in Arts; WETA, and many others!

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Bay Towns - San Rafael

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Scenario

James Corner Field Operations, Moffatt & Nichol, Magnusson Klemencic Associates, SF BAY National Estuarine Research Reserve, Romberg-Tiburon Center, SFSF, Andrea Baker Consulting, James Lima Planning + Development, The Bay Institute, SeArc / ECOncrete, HT Harvey and Associates, Playhou.se, Adventure Pictures

The Field Operations Team brings a bold and optimistic vision for how the Bay Area can better adapt to climate change, rising sea levels and related environmental stresses in the coming decades.

We begin with the framework of ‘One bay, many communities, many solutions.’ The notion...

James Corner Field Operations, Moffatt & Nichol, Magnusson Klemencic Associates, SF BAY National Estuarine Research Reserve, Romberg-Tiburon Center, SFSF, Andrea Baker Consulting, James Lima Planning + Development, The Bay Institute, SeArc / ECOncrete, HT Harvey and Associates, Playhou.se, Adventure Pictures

The Field Operations Team brings a bold and optimistic vision for how the Bay Area can better adapt to climate change, rising sea levels and related environmental stresses in the coming decades.

We begin with the framework of ‘One bay, many communities, many solutions.’ The notion of ‘One Bay’ speaks to the bay as something shared and fundamental. The notion of ‘Many Communities’ speaks to the great number of settlements that surround the bay, and the great diversity of priorities and points-of-view. The notion of ‘Many Solutions’ speaks to the diversity of conditions around the bay - and the importance of an approach that accommodates rich variation and difference. These three guiding frameworks will form the basis around which our work will take shape.

James Corner Field Operations is an interdisciplinary urban design and landscape architecture practice based in New York City and San Francisco. Our Team of innovative, collaborative and locally-based designers, engineers, ecologists, urban strategists, and communication specialists aims to thoughtfully imagine new possibilities for the Bay Area that can grow in scale, incentivize investment, build public support and excitement, facilitate coordination across jurisdictions, and contribute to the larger global effort to increase resilience.

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