Community Infrastructure and Resilience

How can we prepare San Diego to be resilient in the face of climate change, beach erosion, and rising water levels?


Cities around the world are preparing to face the negative effects that climate change will have on their physical infrastructure. Already, cities at sea level like Venice are experiencing historically high floods that affect residents and threaten to drastically change how people are able to continue to live there in the future. Here in San Diego, we are located by the coast. As sea levels are projected to rise, flooding can directly impact neighborhoods and communities along the coast line, threatening to displace thousands of people. In late 2019, California lawmakers said that the state must act now to prevent the negative impacts of sea level rise, citing cities like San Diego.

Specific angles to explore

One new way to build healthy, sustainable infrastructure now is by focusing on localized, immediate community needs. This might include, for example, curating more public spaces like libraries. Libraries are educational and social hubs for communities, but they also provide free, public air-conditioning, which can be the difference between life and death for the young or elderly on a historically hot day. Another example: Public community gardens provide food for a neighborhood, but also absorb C02 emissions and purify the air we breathe. By producing more food locally, carbon emissions from transportation can also be reduced. Relating to rising sea levels, finding ways to build structures to prevent future flooding and educating residents about what to do in the event of the flood can help mitigate the effects of flooding. Public spaces, such as libraries, can also be reappropriated to house or support residents during climate crises.

Unused spaces: How might we repurpose unused spaces (ex. abandoned buildings, vacant lots) in communities into vibrant hubs that promote local resource production?

Sea level rise: How might we prepare San Diego residents living near the coastline to physically protect their properties against rising sea levels?

Community engagement: How might we encourage more residents to actively participate in existing community gardens and learning hubs in San Diego?

New infrastructure: How might we improve existing parks and spaces to integrate more infrastructure that reduces carbon emissions?