By Isaac Pearlman

Traffic-choked, flood-prone Highway 37, traversing the northern Bay Area, has been locked for years in a debate between restoration groups and transportation agencies seeking what they thought might be opposing goals: resilient landscapes and a roadway meeting the North Bay’s transportation needs. As part of the Resilient by Design Challenge, the Common Ground team was assigned to bridge the divide over the highway’s future. “Getting committed to a long-term process is like driving cross-country in a car with different people,” says Tom Leader of Common Ground. “You’d be throwing away a lot of value by having a single-minded agenda.” Called the “Grand Bayway,” the team’s vision describes a raised road through an ecological Central Park, with revitalized ghost towns like Wingo acting as a gateway to the baylands for residents and tourists. Though consensus on how to fix SR-37 still hasn’t been reached, the vision of what the area could be has expanded. “There’s a second chance if we can get our act together,” says Leader. “The shoreline isn’t just a margin, it’s central to life.”

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North Bay: Common Ground on a Grand Bayway?

By Isaac Pearlman

Traffic-choked, flood-prone Highway 37, traversing the northern Bay Area, has been locked for years in a debate between restoration groups and transportation agencies seeking what they thought might be opposing goals: resilient landscapes and a roadway meeting the North Bay’s transportation needs. As part of the Resilient by Design Challenge, the Common Ground team was assigned to bridge the divide over the highway’s future. “Getting committed to a long-term process is like driving cross-country in a car with different people,” says Tom Leader of Common Ground. “You’d be throwing away a lot of value by having a single-minded agenda.” Called the “Grand Bayway,” the team’s vision describes a raised road through an ecological Central Park, with revitalized ghost towns like Wingo acting as a gateway to the baylands for residents and tourists. Though consensus on how to fix SR-37 still hasn’t been reached, the vision of what the area could be has expanded. “There’s a second chance if we can get our act together,” says Leader. “The shoreline isn’t just a margin, it’s central to life.”

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Resilent by Design Bay Area Challenge

The Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge (2017-2018) invited nine teams to design innovative shoreline adaptations to rising sea levels at nine sites around the San Francisco Estuary. The visions provided by this pre-disaster challenge — modeled on the post-disaster Rebuild by Design challenge in New York that followed superstorm Sandy — are powerful, silo-crossing conversation starters for a region now working to prepare low-lying communities, creeks, habitats, and infrastructure for a bigger Bay.
About the author

Isaac Pearlman covers sea level rise, flooding, and other topics for ESTUARY, and also works as a climate adaptation planner for the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC). A Bay Area native, Isaac's writing is informed by his master's degree in environmental science, as well as many adventures from living and working in South America, Europe, and Southeast Asia. His stories and essays have been featured in Earth Island Journal, the Progressive Populist, and Ecosystems among other outlets. The views and opinions expressed in his writing are his own and do not reflect those held by BCDC.