San Francisco recommits to global network of resilient cities

San Francisco hosts cities from across North America to learn about how San Francisco is becoming more resilient to earthquakes, sea level rise, and other impacts of climate change.
May 04, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO, CA---Today, City Administrator Carmen Chu signed a letter reaffirming San Francisco’s commitment to becoming more resilient to climate change and other disasters, alongside Chief Resilience Officers from across North America.

“I am proud to welcome cities from across North America as we recommit to building a stronger, more resilient San Francisco,” said City Administrator Carmen Chu, who oversees San Francisco’s resilience and capital planning programs. “San Francisco’s history is one of tenacity and resilience in the face of challenge. We rose stronger than ever from the 1906 earthquake and fires, Loma Prieta, and the booms and busts of past economies. Ongoing seismic risks, a global pandemic and climate change continue to test us in ways we’ve never seen before, and the only way we will be able to meet these challenges is to recommit to work together to innovate and adapt to what the future demands of us.”

The letter signed by City Administrator Chu recommits San Francisco to the Resilient Cities Network, a global network of cities committed to resilience practices. San Francisco became an inaugural member of the Network in 2013.

On the day of the signing, San Francisco hosted Chief Resilience Officers and representatives from 18 member cities across the United States and Canada as part of a North America convening on urban resilience. The Chief Resilience Officers shared resources and best practices around meeting the impacts of climate change, such as earthquakes, flooding, and sea level rise, and other challenges facing cities.

“For decades the Port has been an innovator to create a more equitable, sustainable, and resilient waterfront,” said Elaine Forbes, Executive Director of the Port of San Francisco. “We’re here today because we know that our iconic waterfront faces incredible risks from sea level rise and flooding. The Port is honored to join with resilient leaders from around the globe to ensure that we protect all cities, and the millions of residents and visitors who enjoy our beloved waterfront as it evolves into a safer, more resilient and more inclusive public space for generations to come.”

In 2014, San Francisco became the first city in the world to hire a Chief Resilience Officer. Today, over 100 cities globally have hired a Chief Resilience Officer to lead resilience plans, policies, and programs and break down silos in city government.

“San Francisco has long been a champion of coordinated citywide resiliency planning and initiatives because we know that meeting the challenges of today and of the future requires working and innovating together,” said Brian Strong, Chief Resilience Office and Director of the Office of Resilience and Capital Planning. “Together with City departments and community partners, San Francisco continues to push forward systems improvements and policies so that our communities are more equitable, safe, and able to respond and thrive in the face of future threats."

San Francisco released its first citywide resilience strategy in 2016. To date, the City has accomplished 90% of the initiatives outlined in that strategy, including the Soft Story Retrofit Program which requires seismic retrofit of certain wood-framed buildings, the Climate Action Plan which charts a pathway for San Francisco to achieve net-zero emissions, and passing the 2018 Seawall Safety Bond to support disaster prevention and safety along the waterfront. The remaining strategies are incorporated in the City’s 2020 Hazards and Climate Resilience Plan. The plan identifies close to 100 strategies to reduce the impacts of earthquakes, climate change, and other shocks and stressors facing San Francisco. Strategies include designing buildings to better withstand hazards, supporting businesses and workers to be ready to bounce back after a disaster, enhancing the reliability of communications and power during emergencies, building more and safer affordable housing, and strengthening the waterfront to withstand seismic and flood risks.

To learn more about how San Francisco is preparing for and adapting to sea level rise, Resilient Cities Network member cities participated in a tour of the Embarcadero between Pier 1 and Pier 14 after the signing ceremony. For over ten years, the Port has planned for and prepared the waterfront for rising sea levels and flooding.  All new projects have been adapted to sea level rise projections including the Downtown Ferry Terminal Project, James R. Herman Cruise Terminal, Brannan Street Wharf, and neighborhoods including Mission Rock and Pier 70. In all future projects, such as the Mission Bay Ferry Terminal, the Port is planning for projected sea level. The State of California projects that the most likely scenario for sea level rise is 3.5 feet by 2100. The Port of San Francisco and other City partner agencies, in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, are developing a Waterfront Adaptation Plan to defend the 7.5 miles of waterfront from Heron’s Head Park in the south to Aquatic Park in the north.  

“The City and County of San Francisco has built a strong foundation in resilience, and is preparing for future shocks and stresses with a recognition of the interconnectedness of city systems and the need to include community voices to create bold solutions,” said Laurian Farrell, Global Director for Knowledge Transformation & Regional Director for North America of the Resilient Cities Network. “With this approach, and through the efforts of Chief Resilience Officer Brian Strong, San Francisco has provided leadership and shared knowledge with cities across the global Resilient Cities Network. We are pleased to receive the City and County of San Francisco’s recommitment to the network and welcome the opportunity to continue our work together to accelerate urban resilience.”