100 Resilient Cities

San Francisco

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In San Francisco we are working to understand the interdependencies of the hazards we face—and how to ensure our response to them are similarly interdependent.

We are looking to the future of San Francisco, the threats we face—earthquakes, infrastructure challenges, climate change, social inequity, sea level rise, homelessness, and housing unaffordability—and asking how to maintain our values and, perhaps, make them even stronger.

The city of San Francisco is projected to grow to 1 million residents by 2040. This idea – SF@1M – appears throughout our planning and our strategy, reminding us that we need to consider adding additional capacity when need and to look for more opportunities to take an integrated approach. The strategy is also about lasting action, establish a new Office of Resilience and Recovery and outlining actions that will be the foundation for the work necessary to secure a better future for all San Franciscans.

Resilient SF seeks to tap into our city’s trademark tenacity by laying out our most pressing challenges and demanding that City government partner with the community to make bold and lasting progress on these challenges. We also seek to grow regional resilience with our neighbors, as one of three cities in the Bay Area collaborating on resilience challenges that cross city boundaries. When we think about San Francisco, we think of a city of unwavering strength, a city that is prepared to not only respond but to recover, and a San Francisco of strong and unified neighborhoods, ready to continue reimagining, and striving for the strong and resilient San Francisco of tomorrow.

01 Plan and Prepare for Tomorrow Planning and preparedness to build capacity to handle today's challenges and tomorrow's disasters.

02 Retrofit, Mitigate and Adapt Confront imminent earthquake threats, a changing climate, and rising seas to build a stronger city.

03 Ensure Housing Today and After a Disaster Secure housing for all San Franciscans before & after disaster, addressing affordability & homelessness.

04 Empower Neighborhoods Through Improved Connections Steward resilient, healthy, and cohesive neighborhoods based in trust, equity, and partnership.

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Planning and preparedness to build capacity to handle today's challenges and tomorrow's disasters.

For San Francisco, challenges are opportunities. Each improvement we plan, and each one we make, from earthquakes to our housing stock and urban form, and to our infrastructure and transportation, transforms San Francisco into a more flexible and dynamic city.

With an uncertain global future, marked by a changing climate, growing unaffordability and inequality, and the virtual certainty of a powerful earthquake in the near future, San Francisco is ready to take decisive and bold actions to maintain our most important values, while building a stronger, more equitable, and prepared San Francisco.

The Association of Bay Area Governments projects that the population of San Francisco will grow to 1 million, and the Bay Area will grow to 7.2 million residents by 2040.

We must continue to improve services. We must foster a culture within government that considers the interaction between long-range planning, recovery planning, and the day-to-day work in neighborhoods. We must ready ourselves for earthquakes by planning for response, mitigation and recovery. And finally, we must build a more sustainable and livable city.

We plan to complete a long-term disaster recovery governance plan by 2018 and train 2,000 Neighborhood Emergency Response Team members by 2018. With these and other key indicators in mind, we’ll build and develop a more robust preparedness culture focus on training all levels of city management—not just emergency managers—on response protocols and actions.

Integration is vital to the work of resilience—searching cooperatively for co-benefits whenever and wherever possible, thinking strategically about short- and long-term problem solving, and always considering multiple hazards. To that end, the Office of Resilience and Recovery hopes to help build strategic dialogue among city leaders.

Furthermore, we will focus our actions on: preparing for San Francisco’s recovery; advancing innovations in earthquake preparedness, and invest in infrastructure and transportation for our growing city.

The Central Subway Project will construct a modern, efficient light-rail line that will improve public transportation in San Francisco. This new 1.7-mile extension of Muni’s T Third Line will provide direct connections to major retail, sporting and cultural venues, while efficiently transporting people to jobs, educational opportunities and other amenities throughout the city.

Photo: Getty Images


Confront imminent earthquake threats, a changing climate, and rising seas to build a stronger city.

We must address our City’s vulnerabilities today. From retrofitting seismically vulnerable buildings to mitigating the emission of greenhouse gases, to adapting to the reality of rising seas and a changing climate, there is much we must do to achieve the goal of a sustainable future.

San Francisco has dramatically reduced its greenhouse gas emissions. The City’s carbon footprint is now 14.5 percent below 1990 levels, even though our economy and population have grown considerably.

We have to figure out how we can build a better and more prepared San Francisco, and help our City handle the challenges of today and, at the same time, prepare for the challenges of tomorrow with a population of one million.

To do this, this, our actions will focus on retrofit our remaining seismically dangerous buildings, including homes of 180,000 San Franciscans by 2015. The program will feature a mandatory soft story retrofit program; retrofit and rebuild seismically hazardous infrastructure; mitigate climate change locally; and adapt San Francisco to climate change. Our city is already working toward some of these initiatives, having released a Sea Level Rise Action Plan early in 2016, estimating the cost of inaction and defining key objectives for sea level rise planning in San Francisco.

Overall, the program aims to achieve our greenhouse gas reduction goals by 2015, through zero wasted, 50 percent of all trips on sustainable transportation and 100 percent renewable sources of energy, and complete a disaster-resilient waterfront by 2040.

Three-dimensional view of
downtown with 108-inch inundation, which shows sea level rise expected by 2100, combined with a 100-year storm.

Photo: Risk Management Solutions (RMS)


Secure housing for all San Franciscans before & after disaster, addressing affordability & homelessness.

Eighty-five thousand residential units could be permanently lost in an earthquake. After a disaster, we will need to scale up the existing processes we use to house our residents in need. This impact can be reduced if we position the resources we need to improve these systems today. The 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed more than 28,000 buildings and left 225,000 people homeless. Disasters complicate existing challenges in a way that can hinder long-term recovery.

As we plan for SF@1M, a population of one million, we need to think about access to housing that is both affordable and can withstand a major disaster. That’s why the City is focused on protecting housing for all San Franciscans now—to help us be stronger and more prepared for the uncertainties of the future. Our actions will focus on: build a strong housing recovery starting today; enhance systems to rapidly house San Franciscans; and strengthen housing now to better
prepare us for tomorrow.

Together, we aim to create the capacity to house 95 percent of our residents in the City after a disaster, improve new and existing system to house 8,000 homeless San Franciscans by 2020, and produce 30,000 new housing units by 2020, of which 30 percent will be permanently affordable and 50 percent will be middle-income housing.

Photo: Dave Rauenbuehler


Steward resilient, healthy, and cohesive neighborhoods based in trust, equity, and partnership.

San Francisco is a city of neighborhoods—each with its own distinct character, culture and challenges. This is key to the City’s identity and strength; protecting and enabling our neighborhoods is essential to ensuring the City’s resilience. San Francisco will empower neighborhoods by connecting them to new resources, improving their access to and trust in City services, and creating meaningful connections with each other.

Our actions will: build strong, healthy and connected neighborhoods; improve access to San Francisco government; and establish the Office of Resilience and Recovery. These actions capture what it means for residents and businesses to better connect to their City government and to each other. We need to replace inefficient systems with innovative solutions that empower San Franciscans. We’ll aim to implement a modern user interface for all government services, with the goal of 90 percent of permitting done online by 2025, launch community-level asset mapping in 29 San Francisco neighborhoods within 12 months.

Better connectivity between the community and San Francisco government will allow us to strengthen existing bonds and forge new ones, with our goal to reach 40,000 San Franciscans within 12 months through coordinated outreach. These trusted relationships are essential to building strong neighborhoods. The Office of Resilience and Recovery will lead a Citywide effort to help strengthen our neighborhoods, prepare them for future disruptions, and enable them to connect better to each other and the services they need today.

Photo: Noah Berger

Read San Francisco's Resilience Strategy