Berkeley’s Resilience Strategy – the first in the Bay Area – is designed to advance community preparedness for some of Berkeley’s most pressing physical, social, and economic challenges.
From natural disasters to wildfires, drought and flooding from climate change to racial inequity, Berkeley’s strategy recognizes that the city’s challenges and opportunities are complex and interconnected. At its core, Berkeley’s Resilience Strategy will focus on multi-stakeholder, multi-benefit problem solving grounded in stronger connections and engagement within the community and across the region. And this strategy fits into a larger focus throughout the Bay Area on building urban resilience to the various threats posed by urban growth, seismic threats, a changing climate, and rising seas.
The goals and actions identified in this strategy are grounded in community input, members of our community contributed their insights and ideas through a combination of an online survey, public workshops, City Council meetings, City Commission meetings, and events hosted by community-based organizations. The City of Berkeley would like to thank the many partners that contributed to the Berkeley Resilience Strategy, including AECOM. Most important, the City thanks the hundreds of community members who participated in public workshops and surveys and provided thoughtful input and creative ideas.
We will engage and improve all community members to be resilient.
Fundamental to preparedness is connectedness. A connected community enables everyone to take part in a coordinated response and recovery effort.
A connected community ensures that Berkeley’s most vulnerable residents have vital lifelines before, during, and after a disaster.
We will create safe and green community centers, care and shelter facilities distributed across the city. These facilities can provide overnight sheltering, food distribution, and other services to those in need, while providing essential services on a daily basis to thousands of Berkeley residents, including seniors and youth, creating critical, multi-benefit facilities in our community.
We will connect residents with the city by partnering with community-based organizations to launch the Community Resilience Center (CRC) Program and provide free disaster supply “caches” and disaster planning assistance to community-based organizations, including large apartment buildings, social service providers, and cultural centers. CRCs will serve as hosts for training and conduits to information and support tailored to the needs of the people in the community.
We will foster neighbor-to-neighbor connections to advance disaster readiness and strengthen the community before and after a major disaster, when government resources and assistance may not be available immediately and socially isolated seniors and residents with disabilities are especially vulnerable. In partnership with local community leaders, we’ll identify Neighborhood Disaster Preparedness Liaisons to serve as conduits for nearby residents to provide training, information, and other support.
To strengthen economic recovery and assistance, we’ll maximize the City’s ability to receive and retain federal funding. This will include the creation of a comprehensive Disaster Cost Recovery Strategic Plan and staff training for the City to ensure that its plans and policies are fully-compliant with Federal regulations before the next catastrophe. Overall, these steps are expected to form the foundation of Berkeley’s recovery and save the City hundreds of millions of dollars.
Building on Berkeley’s existing fire readiness and response efforts, the City will develop a robust wildfire evacuation traffic control plan for the Berkeley Hills.
The City has made progress over the years – reducing its wildfire vulnerability through improved building codes, aggressive vegetation management, and fire training and response partnerships with area fire departments – and the plan will further focus on the area’s unique geography and transportation challenges, establishing evacuation zones, routes, and necessary staffing and communication protocols.
Finally, we’ll also continue to improve the seismic safety of Berkeley’s most vulnerable apartment buildings, which will help protect thousands of residents, including many low income residents in our community. Using a combination of technical assistance, requirements, as well as financial incentives in the form of tax rebates to encourage owners to retrofit houses, the City will further remove barriers to seismic upgrades in vulnerable buildings.
Robust training and preparedness throughout the community are at the core of Berkeley’s strategy. Here, Berkeley CERT volunteers assemble for a training.
We will increase energy assurance and green the energy we consume.
Major disasters have the ability to disrupt the power grid, which cause loss of power and inadequate access to backup power and lead to a cascading set of impacts that impede delivery of essential services for people in need, disrupt the economy, and hamper disaster recovery.
The energy grid is also at the nexus of climate change and air pollution. Energy consumption in buildings accounts for nearly half of Berkeley’s community-wide greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions are affected by both the amount and the sources of the energy we consume. Berkeley is uniquely capable of taking action that can both advance energy reliability and reduce emissions while also keeping more dollars in the local economy and creating local jobs in the clean energy and energy services sectors.
To better prepare the city in the event of a future disaster, we will develop a clean energy micro-grid network. Micro-grids enable a facility or group of facilities to operate autonomously when the main grid is disrupted. They can be powered by clean energy sources, such as solar and backup batteries, can be used to reduce facilities’ electricity consumption during periods of peak demand, and can enhance the stability of the local grid. And unlike a diesel generator, which is only used when the grid is disrupted, a clean energy micro-grid can provide environmental and economic benefits every day, year-round.
We will establish a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), allowing the city to form a not-for-profit local power agency that bundles the buying power of residents and business in Berkeley. The local power agency can build or fund local clean energy projects, buy renewable energy on the market, offer energy-efficiency services and incentives to customers and set electricity rates, which will increase investment in local clean energy projects and increase local control over the energy mix used to produce electricity.
To reduce local greenhouse gas emissions, stimulate investment in the local economy, and increase energy reliability, the City is launching the development of a Solar Action Plan, which aims to meet 50 percent of Berkeley’s power demand through solar by 2030. This plan will build on many of Berkeley’s existing efforts to remove barriers to solar adoption, including tools such as Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing, expedited solar permitting, and the free solar technical assistance available through the local Smart Solar program.
Electric Vehicles (EVs) emit 70 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional vehicle within the current PG&E electricity portfolio. As the City’s energy becomes cleaner, we can further reduce greenhouse gases by advancing EV adoption in the community by providing technical assistance and streamlined permitting for charging stations and by including EV charging readiness as a condition of use permits.
Promoting EVs as a solution for clean transportation for City and private vehicles are also an example of a multi-benefit solution. EV batteries, in combination with solar, can store and provide backup energy storage in the event of grid disruption. The City will also encourage fuel switching to consume cleaner energy in all buildings. Transitioning more of our electricity grid from natural gas to electricity is critical for combatting climate change and will also stimulate investment in the local economy.
While Berkeley has made significant strides in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions (by approximately 9 percent since 2000), we must advance existing and planned initiatives and identify new strategies at the State, regional, and local levels in order to meet our ambitious Climate Action Plan goals. To identify new ideas and innovations and to foster public/private partnerships, the City is developing an “Ideas Competition,” which will engage experts, entrepreneurs, and other interested stakeholders to help the City to develop additional, viable multi-benefit emissions-reduction strategies.
Clean energy sources, such as solar, will power micro-grids, help reduce local greenhouse gas emissions, and stimulate investment in the local economy.
We will prepare and adapt to the impacts of climate change with innovative, multi-benefit solutions.
Berkeley and the Bay Area are already experiencing the impacts of climate change.
San Francisco Bay water levels are rising and are forecast to continue to do so at an accelerating rate throughout the 21st century. In combination with increasingly unpredictable and extreme rain events, sea level rise is exacerbating the limits of Berkeley’s aging stormwater system. The result is more frequent and severe flooding, especially in West Berkeley.
Also driven by climate change, periods of drought are expected to grow longer and more severe throughout California, as well as cascading impacts on our community, including stressed urban forests and ecosystems, higher food prices, and increased risk of wildfire.The consequences of flooding, drought, extreme heat, and other climate impacts are not only physical, but also social and economic. Many in the Berkeley community, based on factors such as income and the neighborhood in which they live or work, are disproportionately vulnerable.
Green infrastructure (GI) is one of the best examples of resilience in practice. Unlike conventional stormwater infrastructure, GI can create multiple benefits beyond flood mitigation, including protecting ecosystems by removing pollutants, beautifying a neighborhood, and, potentially, enabling the capture and use of stormwater for other purposes. Examples of GI include rain gardens, permeable pavement, and cisterns. GI projects are being implemented more and more often across Berkeley thanks to both private and public funding.
This first-ever Berkeley Resilience Strategy was developed during one of the most severe, multiyear droughts on record in California. Prolonged drought may in fact be the new normal for our state and region. Transitioning to this new normal and continuing to flourish in a drier climate require that our community continue to conserve water and treat it as the valuable, scarce resource that it is and innovate and diversify Berkeley’s water supply.
We must create the landscape of the future. In response to severe drought, the City reduced water consumption in municipal operations by over 40 percent between 2013 and 2015, saving approximately 35 million gallons of water and $200,000 in utility costs per year. The City achieved these results mainly by reducing irrigation and fixing leaks and continuing these trends requires a long-term transition to new and evolving approaches to landscape and irrigation design that not only contribute to Berkeley’s beauty and livability, but also minimize water consumption.
We will integrate consideration of climate impacts into capital and land use planning. Capital and land use planning efforts can no longer be based on the climate of the past. Instead, urban design and development must be informed by the latest climate science to determine how to best protect and modify existing public and private infrastructure and assets and how to design new infrastructure and assets.
To adapt to changing climate conditions, the City is considering innovative approaches to landscape and irrigation design.
We will proactively identify and eliminate institutional barriers to racial equity.
Racial equity will be achieved when race can no longer be used to predict life outcomes.
The City of Berkeley and all local governments have a responsibility to identify and eliminate institutional barriers to racial equity. Although the City alone cannot eliminate racial inequity, proactive City leadership has the potential to support significant change.
The City and several other Bay Area cities and counties, including Oakland and San Francisco, are partnering with the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), a national network of local and regional governments working to achieve racial equity, to develop city-specific Racial Equity Action Plans. Working with key stakeholders, the City will develop, implement, and sustain plans to operationalize equity within the City government and influence structural change community-wide. These include efforts to advance workforce diversity by providing and optimizing training for staff at all levels of City government, improving City outreach and community engagement, and integrating a racial equity lens into the City’s budget and procurement process.
We will create a City “Advancing Racial Equity Team,” a multi-departmental team of staff to oversee and implement Berkeley’s Racial Equity Action Plan. The team will reflect the diversity of the City and guide the ongoing work of operationalizing racial equity at all levels of the City government.
Finally, the City will continue to partner with organizations and institutions in the community to advance community-wide racial equity. Berkeley will build on existing efforts, such as the 2020 Vision, a partnership formed in 2008 with the aim of ending racial predictability of academic achievement in Berkeley Public Schools.
We will create new structures and partnerships to help promote a collective racial equity agenda in the community, including priorities such as expanding services for families with children 0 to 3 years old to better prepare children for kindergarten and developing improved college and career readiness strategies for high-school-aged youth.
Annual events like the Berkeley Kite Festival bring our community together, helping our City be more resilient in times of distress.
We will provide vision and effective leadership, break down silos, and better integrate.
Although the City of Berkeley government (City) is certainly not the only entity in the community that has a role in addressing these big challenges, it must provide vision and effective leadership.
The City must continue to break down traditional governmental “silos” and integrate the expertise and knowledge within City departments and divisions to implement solutions that engage and create multiple benefits for many people.
We will engage the community in the development of a Berkeley Strategic Plan to better articulate the long-term goals that the City will work to achieve in service to the community. Every community member and City staff person will have an opportunity to participate in the strategic planning process through web-based surveys, public workshops, and other events.
We will implement opportunities for multi-departmental input on major City plans and projects. The City is evaluating a range of mechanisms designed to increase “cross-silo” coordination within the City government, including triggers for ensuring that major plans and projects, such as large capital improvement projects, benefit from the expertise and guidance of staff in all City departments.
We will improve major City information technology systems to improve access to services and information for community members and create more efficient financial and information management processes for City staff.
Each city stands to benefit when the region as a whole becomes more resilient.
Each of the Bay Area cities has qualities that make it unique, including its culture, food, topography, and politics. But Bay Area cities also share many qualities in common, not least of which are the physical, social, and economic challenges that Berkeley’s Resilience Strategy is designed to address.
Identifying solutions that match the scale of the challenges we face requires regional coordination. Regional coordination has the potential to increase the reach of good ideas and increase the influence of cities’ concerns and needs. Because cities are interdependent and frequently share resources, each city stands to benefit when the region as a whole becomes more resilient.
We will develop and launch a regional Resilience by Design Challenge. The Challenge which will unite multi-disciplinary teams of architecture, landscape, urban design, ecology, and finance experts with community members and local and regional government leaders to identify innovative, actionable urban design solutions that help prepare the region for the impacts of climate change.
As Berkeley and other Bay Area communities take steps to improve their water conservation efforts and diversify their water supply, we will launch a regional Sustainable Water Summit to accelerate, align, and increase the scale of existing efforts.
We will establish a Regional Lifelines Council to support the energy, water, transportation, and communications systems that are part of the fabric of our communities. These systems are essential for daily life and disaster response and recovery, but they are also vulnerable to disruption from earthquake, wildfire, and other shocks.
The City, like many cities, is faced with the challenge of how to identify the tens of millions of dollars necessary to upgrade and maintain aging, degrading public infrastructure. Working with ABAG, the Cities of Oakland and San Francisco, and other Bay Area local governments and organizations, we will catalyze investment in the region’s public infrastructure.
Mayor Tom Bates of Berkeley, Mayor Ed Lee of San Francisco, and former Mayor Jean Quan of Oakland join The Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin and 100RC President Michael Berkowitz at the launch event for 100RC in the Bay Area.
Our Resilience Team
Chief Resilience Officer
Katie Van Dyke
Deputy Chief Resilience Officer