SPIRE Faculty Sponsorship: Sustainable Urban Systems, Fall 2018

SPIRE was proud to support an intensive project-based, service-learning course organized by the Sustainable Urban Systems Initiative, the Department of Geophysics, the Bill Lane Center for the American West, and the Stanford Urban Resilience Initiative in Winter 2018 to Spring 2019.

An account of the project is below:


Sustainable Urban Systems Projects: Resilient Bay Area

Over thirty undergraduate and graduate students in Winter 2018 and Spring 2019 engaged with the County of San Mateo Office of Sustainability and local jurisdiction officials to estimate the direct and indirect risks of flooding exacerbated by sea level rise over the next few decades. The students ultimately contributed to the development of the Stanford Urban Risk Framework, a risk assessment tool which has guided further adaptation planning efforts and research projects.

The Sustainable Urban Systems (SUS) Project course CEE 224Z, part of a three-quarter sequence and taught by Professor Len Ortolano, Professor Jenny Suckale and Lecturer Derek Ouyang, has helped students apply their technical and policy analysis skills to address critical urban challenges in our region. A common mission in SUS Projects is to look for solutions that are equitable and inclusive for those who are most vulnerable in the community. Throughout the year, twenty undergraduate and graduate students from across the university have engaged with an array of local partners through site visits and council meetings, where students delivered presentations of their work progress, received feedback from community partners, and engaged in active discussion about urban sustainability needs, potential for contribution, and future goals.

In North Fair Oaks, an unincorporated area of San Mateo County, students teamed up with community leaders to submit an affordable housing development plan to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Low Income Housing Challenge. In response to the housing crisis and current shortage of teacher housing, the proposal seeks to build affordable and teacher housing on the site of a closing elementary school. The team finished a very close second to Berkeley, but received many praises from the jury for an innovative yet realistic vision for affordable housing and affordable teacher housing in the Peninsula. Students have also been analyzing vulnerabilities to flooding and other risks in partnership with local non-profit organizations working to improve public awareness and preparedness for climate change risks in North Fair Oaks and East Palo Alto. In Redwood City, the student resilience team has been working with the Housing and Human Concerns Committee to evaluate incentives for developers to build affordable housing on public and nonprofit-owned land. And in Stockton, students have been working with Mayor Michael Tubbs’ office to develop a tool to help prospective investors identify business opportunities that align with community priorities and the Opportunity Zones tax incentive program for low income areas.

Local partners include the San Mateo County Office of Sustainability, El Concilio, North Fair Oaks Community Council, One Concern, BayCAN, Redwood City Council Committee on Housing and Human Concerns, Housing Endowment and Regional Trust of San Mateo County, San Mateo County Department of Housing, MidPen Housing, EPA CAN DO, City of Stockton, Third City Coalition, San Joaquin Council of Governments, and Reinvent South Stockton Coalition. While 224Z offered students the opportunity to meet members of all these organizations and reflect on the complexity of community development in the 21st century, it also called on students to dedicate their work to promote justice and long term sustainability for all.