San Pablo Bay Common



San Francisco Bay is broken into multiple areas and identities – South Bay, Central Bay, the Delta / Suisun Bay, and San Pablo Bay. San Pablo Bay has the least clear identity and, yet it has major unique features. Large areas to the north retain much of their rural character. Large areas of sloughs and tidal marsh are awaiting restoration through the removal of levees. To the south, a denser corridor of working class cities and industry stretch from Richmond to Vallejo. Yet all these places share San Pablo Bay as their common front door.

Current infrastructure like Highway 37 and freight rail lines that encircle the San Pablo Bay but are brittle and about to break due flooding and liquefaction. San Pablo Bay’s unique character and topography creates an opportunity to unite communities with not only ferries connecting promontories of stable, higher ground, but with a dense network smaller boats and landings, adapted to varied ecological and community needs. Perhaps we need to think longer term about adjusting our development patterns so that these headlands connecting with stable uplands becoming a focus of not only water transport but related ferry-oriented development, even key civic facilities over the longer term. 

Perhaps the softer, lower zones around this Bay are more appropriate for parks, agriculture, wetlands, stream networks and other development more flexible and tolerant of liquefaction and flooding. These are very long-term shifts that won’t happen quickly but as climate change accelerates, they are probably inevitable. Native American tribes knew how to live flexibly within the shore as a zone. Going forward we will need alter our lives and create adaptations to become more comfortable with the Bay. Maybe a bit more aquatic lifestyle is something for landlocked communities to get excited about.

This could be about reconsidering the working and productive history of this section of the Bay as a system that could be revitalized and reconnected – through enhancing mobility and understanding of local conditions. Turning our face onto the Bay. Maybe we could think of San Pablo Bay as a test case for increasing civic agency in the Bay Area by connecting communities through improved transport and public field stations for learning about the places we inhabit and one another.
As a site, San Pablo Bay Commons has three components with purposely different characters and stories:

Sears Point we propose as a sort of rural cultural landing. A way to open this side of the bay to carefully considered recreational use, education, and activism on behalf renewed hydrologic and ecological process. Interventions here leverage the existing character, power of water and dramatic topography and the remote but also friendly mystique of the human record there.

Richmond – Northshore State Park is in many ways a social enterprise anchored to a local ferry landing and the city at large. It looks to local activism to help unlock vast ambition for transforming half the city’s shore into an ecological open space for the future. Through cleaning up from the ravages of industry and its infrastructure this is something that would transform the city’s image and ability to support the lives of working families and the fabric of their communities.

Vallejo / Mare Island Channel and Terminal makes a major urban proposal about linking the two halves of a city with new water transport as the stimulus. It draws organizes many types of linkages across the city to direct people to a new ferry hub that spans the channel. WETA is interested in new visions of life and intermodal service in places like Vallejo that can go together with increased ferry service and extend their value to communities.

Concept Board

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San Pablo Bay Common

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Common Ground

TLS Landscape Architecture | Exploratorium | Guy Nordenson & Assoc | Michael Maltzan Arch| HR&A Advisors | Sitelab Urban Studio | Lotus Water | Rana Creek | Dr. John Oliver | Richard Hindle, UC Berkeley

TLS Landscape Architecture is a critical landscape architecture and urban design practice rooted in the craft of material, respect for communities, and the spirit of collaboration. At the same time, we are rooted in the Bay Area– we know the land and the culture. Collectively our team deftly bridges global awareness and Bay Area expertise. This is a team of exceptional leaders in their...

TLS Landscape Architecture | Exploratorium | Guy Nordenson & Assoc | Michael Maltzan Arch| HR&A Advisors | Sitelab Urban Studio | Lotus Water | Rana Creek | Dr. John Oliver | Richard Hindle, UC Berkeley

TLS Landscape Architecture is a critical landscape architecture and urban design practice rooted in the craft of material, respect for communities, and the spirit of collaboration. At the same time, we are rooted in the Bay Area– we know the land and the culture. Collectively our team deftly bridges global awareness and Bay Area expertise. This is a team of exceptional leaders in their individual disciplines that share a common commitment to working together on this critical issue.

Our team has a foundational understanding of the Bay Estuary environmental gradients, expertise in urban infrastructure strategies for climate change and coastal adaption, on building socially responsive architecture engendered with authentic community development, economic strategies that engage open space, and a unique scientific and artistic understanding for incrementally making landscapes more legible. It is a collective ethos of practical futurism.  Our approach explores the Pacific-Specific, dual dynamic of flooding through incremental sea level rise and the instantaneous seismic risk of these same lands.  Titled Common Ground, we investigate the incremental and instantaneous dynamics of the Bay Area Shoreline through both a top-down and bottom-up perspective.

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