Mapping Our Future: A Work Plan for Public Engagement and Equity in Climate Adaptation Planning in the San Francisco Bay Area

This report presents a work plan for regional agencies to partner with community groups on climate adaptation, and support local governments in doing so as well. It also provides parallel recommendations for funders and community groups.

The report describes climate vulnerability as based on income, race, health conditions, age, living conditions/location, occupation, language barriers, and related factors. For each of these, the report describes why these factors play into  disproportionate risk. For example, in its description of race, the report says:

"Race is frequently related to other vulnerability factors such as income, living location (neighborhood), occupation, and language barriers. However, it is also a vulnerability factor on its own due to historic and current institutionalized racism in many social systems including zoning, infrastructure spending, access to neighborhood amenities, and quality of emergency response. These factors result in more severe impacts of natural disasters, heat waves, and other health hazards on people of color (Morello-Frosch et al. 2008, Cooley et al. 2012, Rossi et al. 1983, Pastor et al. 2006, Beyers et al. 2008, Lum 2010, Pavel 2009)" (p. 5).  

In 2012, the San Francisco Bay Area's Joint Policy Commission commissioned the local non-profit 'Bay Localize' to prepare a regional work plan for community outreach and social equity in Bay Area climate adaptation planning. The recommendations are based on extensive consultation with regional grassroots social justice and other community leaders through a survey and a workshop. The in-depth online survey in both English and Spanish was voluntarily distributed by fifty-five Bay Area community and social service organizations throughout the nine counties, with responses by more than 400 residents. Bay Localize then hosted a workshop with thirty regional social justice, public health, and community engagement experts to shape the proposals. 

The report describes the results of the survey and the workshop. From the survey they learned that rising food prices, impacts of major storms, drought, and air quality were the impacts of climate change in the bay area that concerned residents most. From the workshop, Bay Localize devised the following list of recommendations for equitable adaptation efforts: 

  1. Understand the demographics.
  2. Establish open and transparent processes that don’t play favorites.
  3. Prioritize grassroots groups grounded in vulnerable communities.
  4. Structure decision making to prioritize representation of and accountability to vulnerable communities.
  5. Open all aspects of decision making on public resources to partnership with vulnerable communities.
  6. Address existing infrastructure that makes communities more vulnerable to impacts of climate change. 
  7. Leverage existing tools, resources, and policies for incorporating equity in planning.
  8. When investing in a community, ensure continued affordability for existing residents.
  9. Invest in community-led climate resilience education. 

The work plan was designed to provide information and consultation to key Bay Area adaptation stakeholders (including local governments, regional agencies, and community groups) that will help to fully integrate social equity and environmental justice issues into Bay Area adaptation planning. See Appendix B for research methods, sample characteristics, and workshop attendees. This project was supported with funding from the Kresge Foundation. 

Publication Date: February 2013

Author or Affiliated User:

  • Kirsten Schwind

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  • Case study
  • Engagement

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