American Society of Civil Engineers: Rockefeller Foundation Cites 11 Most Resilient U.S. Cities, January 7, 2014


For the island city of Alameda, sea level rise is part and parcel of its concerns about earthquakes and tsunamis. The city of 76,000, with a population density of 4,000 people per square mile, is built on an island at the intersection of two major fault zones and has the highest tsunami risk on the West Coast, according to a recent study by the California Department of Conservation. It’s a serious convergence of risks, according to Mike D’Orazie, Alameda’s fire chief, who is participating in the development of the city’s resilience strategy.

“We are built mainly on landfill, and a 7.6 earthquake would create major liquefaction,” he explains. “In the event of a tsunami, we have no high ground to protect us, and most of our downtown [has] old, unreinforced masonry and wooden structures that predate seismic safety standards.”

Alameda’s resilience plan includes reinforcing public and residential structures, engineering changes to the city’s extensive waterfront to prepare for gradual sea level rise as well as flooding caused by a tsunami or earthquake, and developing protective infrastructure at the historic Alameda Naval Air Station, unused since 1997.

In developing policies to prepare the community, buildings, and infrastructure to respond to and recover from a disruption, Alameda plans to engage with the local Regional Resilient Design Studio for expert guidance. Regional Resilient Design Studios were developed as a collaboration between the American Institute of Architects and Architecture for Humanity, and are among the suite of services that the Rockefeller Foundation will offer to the 100 resilient cities. These studios will train local architects to design public and private structures in their communities for resilience before disasters strike.