Planning for Climate Change: A Workshop for San Francisco Bay Area Planners

Rachel M. Gregg
Posted on: 4/10/2010 - Updated on: 11/17/2021

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Rachel Gregg

Project Summary

In September 2009, two workshops were held in the Bay Area to educate and train local planners on climate change impacts and adaptation strategies. These workshops were based on the National Estuarine Research Reserve System’s Planning for Climate Change workshop, originally developed and piloted in Washington State by the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.


The San Francisco Bay Reserve is located over 3,710 acres of tidal wetland at China Camp State Park in San Rafael and Rush Ranch in Suisun City. Approximately 97% of historic tidal marshes have been destroyed and/or altered in the Bay Area from development and other human activities. Marshes provide habitat for wildlife and protect shorelines from flooding and erosion. The Planning for Climate Change workshop was developed for use by the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, but is also available for use by others. This model was adapted for use in the Bay Area, and two workshops were held in September 2009 in Sunnyvale and Oakland. The Bay Area model was designed for city and county planners, planning consultants, and public works staff in order to provide information on climate impacts, regulations, tools, resources, strategies, and local case studies to help planners identify local and regional vulnerabilities and address them through adaptation in projects and programs.


This project was funded by the Reserve’s Coastal Training Program and NOAA’s Coastal Services Center (now the Office for Coastal Management). Other partners included the Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments. Project leads developed an agenda to satisfy participant needs. Workshop sessions were led by NOAA staff and Bay Area guest speakers and included:

  • Climate Change Science and Impacts in the San Francisco Bay Area. This included specific examples of projected regional and local impacts to coastal resources.
  • Fundamental Concepts in Planning for Climate Change. Strategies for and principles of adaptation planning were explained.
  • Addressing Barriers to Adaptation Planning. Strategies for engaging the public and elected officials and overcoming barriers were provided.
  • Community Engagement and Planning for Climate Change Impacts. This included identifying methods for engaging stakeholders in adaptation planning efforts.
  • Tools and Resources: Introduction to Vulnerability Assessment. Participants were directed to sources of information, tools, and data on climate change and given a “how-to” on conducting vulnerability assessments.
  • Identifying Vulnerabilities in Your Community. During this exercise, attendees were asked to identify where their community’s vulnerabilities to climate change in the following sectors: natural resources, built infrastructure, public services, cultural resources, and local economy. In addition, the participants were asked to identify steps to reduce vulnerability, the time frame needed for implementation, who would be involved, and how to monitor and measure effectiveness.
  • Summary of California’s State Adaptation Strategy and Regional Adaptation Program and Implications for Local Planning Efforts. Attendees were given details on existing and planned regulations to address climate change in Washington.
  • Brief World Tour of Climate Adaptation Projects. Case studies were provided on what organizations are doing to address climate change.
  • Bay Area Example. At each workshop, a local case study was provided to give participants some context: Hayward Area (Oakland) and the City of Sunnyvale.

Outcomes and Conclusions

The workshops were successful in initiating conversations about climate change science and adaptation. The Reserve continues to host climate-related workshops for the San Francisco Bay area through the Coastal Training Program. These workshops cover topics ranging from the development of climate action plans and incorporating climate change into project design to communicating climate impacts to diverse audiences. Presentations and relevant publications are available on the Reserve’s website.


Gregg, R. M. (2021). Planning for Climate Change: A Workshop for San Francisco Bay Area Planners [Case study on a project of the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve]. Version 2.0. Product of EcoAdapt’s State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: (Last updated September 2021)

Affiliated Organizations

The National Estuarine Research Reserve System Science Collaborative supports science for estuarine and coastal decision-makers. Managed by the University of Michigan Water Center, through a cooperative agreement with NOAA, the Science Collaborative coordinates regular funding opportunities and supports user-driven collaborative research, assessment, and transfer activities that address critical coastal management needs identified by the reserves.

The Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) is dedicated to the protection and enhancement of San Francisco Bay and to the encouragement of the Bay's responsible use. When BCDC was established, only four miles of the Bay shoreline were open to public access. By drawing attention to the Bay, the Commission has played a major role in making the Bay and its shoreline a national recreational treasure. The Golden Gate National Recreational Area and numerous local, regional, and state parks and recreation areas have been established around the Bay since the Commission was established.

The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) is the regional planning agency for the nine counties and 101 cities and towns of the San Francisco Bay region. ABAG is committed to lead the region through advocacy, collaboration, and excellence in planning, research, housing, and member services to advance the quality of life in the San Francisco Bay Area. ABAG’s planning and service programs work to address regional economic, social, and environmental challenges.

This organization was established in 2014 when NOAA combined two offices: the Coastal Services Center and the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. The basic missions of the two programs remain intact, but the new organizational structure is bringing value-added services to taxpayers.

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