30 June 2016

New Mission Bay Kids' Park Opens Friday!

San Francisco will get two new parks in Mission Bay very soon: Mission Bay 
Playground Kids' Park, and Mariposa Park. Tomorrow the playground designed for residents living in Mission Bay Kids Playground will open thanks to expedited work that was approved by the Board of Supervisors earlier in June.

Mission Bay Kids' Park Playground with playground OPENING July 1, 2016!!!!!

I kid you not. SF Gate and an e-mail to Mission Bay residents from Sarah Davis, the godmother of the playground - who's been waiting over a decade for the park to come to be AND open sent out a newsletter saying the Mission Bay Kids' Park Playground will open July 1, 2016.

Willow huts at Mission Bay Kids/ Park. Image: RHAA
View from a nearby housing development overlooking the playground. Image: Urban Life Signs/Brian Stokle

Mission Bay Kids' Park

The playground appeared to be completed with grass growing, playground equipment shining in a multitude of colors, and new nature huts of basking in the San Francisco sun, over a year ago. Sadly the entire playground has been fenced off for months. The reason is a complex procedural thing of transferring private redeveloped land over to the city. You can learn more about that here and here. Initially it was due to the fact that the area surrounding it is a massive construction site.

Mariposa Park, adjacent to the new UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay, is likely to open soon as well, but there is less information on its status.
My daughter, 3-years old at the time in 2015, looking at the playground behind the fence.
I'm just thankful my four-year old daughter will be able to play at this playground that looks positively awesome.

The plan calls for the park space to be made mostly up of the playground itself, plus some picnic table areas beside a small lawn. The most intriguing, or unusual features are the willow huts. The playground went through two rounds of design processes and outreach. Kelley Kahn, a senior project planner with the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency who worked on Mission Bay, indicated that during the second outreach phase in 2010, more residents were already living in Mission Bay and consequently could provide input as actual residents of the neighborhood. Earlier design outreach was made before any residential buildings even existed in the new neighborhood.

01 June 2016

Expanding our Rail Network while Saving it from the Seas

Sea Level Rise - East Bay Transportation

Sea Level Rise and Climate Change. Most of us in the Bay Area seem to believe it's happening, know we need to reduce carbon emissions and need to get ready for rising seas. Unfortunately, apart from a few examples, we're actually not doing much in the way of physically getting ready for rising seas.

The Bay Area's transportation infrastructure is significantly threatened by sea level rise. All three major airports are at or near sea level. Much of our freeway system is close to the sea (I-80, Hwy 101, I-880). The Port of Oakland, and many pieces of our rail and transit system are under threat. Virtually all of this infrastructure was built before sea level rise was known or understood.

However, we must get ready for the coming higher storm surges and sea rise, to protect our infrastructure – for without our transportation system, we cannot function as an economy or an interconnected regional society.

How can we ensure that our 100-year investment in new rail won't be squandered by the lack of sea level rise preparedness? (You don't put on your seat belt in a car because you think you'll have a car crash - but you do want to be safer in case it does happen. With a 100-year investment you better not place your investment where you know it will be flooded someday.) Preparing for sea level rise must be treated just as we prepare for earthquakes – as an inevitable reality that we prepare for by investing in stronger buildings and infrastructure.

One way to ensure that our infrastructure is safer would be to create redundancies where duplicate infrastructure is needed anyway. In the case of mass transit, the Bay Area clearly needs more capacity and service. Building a Second Transbay Crossing is one of those redundancies we need. A new “tube” and associated rail approaching the crossing would also provide a backup tunnel to repair the first one, and offer late night service.

Rough shoreline of 8 foot sea level rise from San Leandro north to Berkeley. 
Source image: Surging Seas http://sealevel.climatecentral.org/

Rail Segments at Risk of Flooding

Focusing our attention on rail and on Oakland, we find that several segments of both BART and the freight rail infrastructure are at risk from sea rise. Although predictions indicate sea level may only rise 6 inches to 2 feet in the next 80 years, some have said it may go as high as 4 to 6 feet. With infrastructure that should last 100 or more years, it is much safer to build assuming seas will rise on the higher end of the range.  If we roll the dice and hope for a 2 feet rise, but get 6 feet sea rise we have squandered BILLIONS of dollars.

Although BART is elevated in many sections, it also goes underground and at ground level in a few spots. BART is at grade when it passes I-880 between Lake Merritt and Fruitvale. In addition it is momentarily at grade where it enters the Transbay Tube at the Port of Oakland. Although elevated in segments, areas that may flood would still affect the train as the columns holding up the aerial tracks were not build to withstand water inundation and wave action.  The tracks near Oakland Coliseum are in a zone that would be flooded if storm surges rose 8 feet even though the tracks would be above the water.

Image: Jamison Wieser

Much of the Capitol Corridor follows the shoreline - at sea level - all the way from Martinez to San Jose, with a few spots in Richmond and between San Leandro and Fremont where it is less vulnerable. In Berkeley and Oakland, the corridor is at risk from 8 feet sea rise north of Berkeley Station at University, from Emeryville station south all the way to 23rd Ave, and from High Street to just south of Hegenberger Road. These are very long segments, with lots of business, homes, infrastructure and industry surrounding the rail.