The Home Team Supports Resilience of North Richmond

Date Posted: 01.24.2018

The Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge is a year-long collaborative design effort bringing together local residents, public officials and experts to develop 10 innovative community-based solutions that will strengthen the region’s resilience to climate change. The Home Team, led by Mithun, will be working with the North Richmond community for the Challenge’s design phase to address local impacts of sea level rise, storm surge and tidal flooding, aging infrastructure, displacement and lack of housing.

“We’re thrilled and humbled to be selected to continue the Resilient by Design process in North Richmond,” said Tim Mollette-Parks, an associate principal at Mithun and design leader of the Home Team. “The community has strong leaders and demonstrated social strength and resilience. We look forward to working with the community to explore new ecological systems and economic strategies that can both reduce flooding and explore ways to dismantle the systems of racial inequity that have burdened people there for decades.”

Rather than wait for a natural disaster, the San Francisco Bay Area is proactively reimagining a better future by creating a blueprint for resilience that harnesses Bay Area innovation and serves as a model for communities around the world. Six months ago, community members representing all nine Bay Area counties and 10 design teams made up of local and international architects, engineers, ecologists and other experts, embarked on a yearlong challenge to address the looming threat of climate change in the Bay Area. Now, after a three-month Collaborative Research Phase and community-led tours around the Bay Area, from Alviso to Suisun City, 10 locations around the region have been selected in communities facing immediate needs and threatened by the impacts of climate change around the Bay.

The Mithun Home Team is working towards a stronger, safer Bay Area by designing innovative solutions that tackle the impacts of climate change in North Richmond. The team’s design process will rely heavily on local North Richmond voices to inspire real transformation. Together with community members, the Home Team will utilize the next design phase to listen and learn from the insights of local residents, help imagine and design approaches that take on climate risk, and ensure the solutions proposed in May 2018 reflect community needs.

The history of North Richmond is complex. African American families that arrived to the Bay Area for the WWII shipbuilding effort were forced to settle into low-lying areas cut off from other communities by railroads, refineries and other infrastructure. Today, communities of color in North Richmond still fight a legacy of structural inequity and environmental injustice.

As sea levels rise, the antiquated, inadequate drainage systems currently in place in Atchison Village, Liberty Village and adjacent Iron Triangle neighborhoods leave significant numbers of people vulnerable to losing their homes to flooding. A comprehensive approach will help with preserving housing and increasing access to open space and industry jobs. Additionally, housing insecurity is a vulnerability in North Richmond. Atchison Village, Liberty Village and the surrounding Iron Triangle are intensely impacted by an acute lower-income housing shortage.

The Home Team’s research and design approach frames all planning efforts in the context of racial history. By acknowledging and discussing what structural equity might look like, this design process will work to protect and enhance existing units and neighborhoods from gentrification and displacement.

The Home Team sees North Richmond as an opportunity to leverage design solutions that focus on the integration of housing and ecological infrastructure and ensure that new wealth-building opportunities are for existing residents and increase structural equity. The team’s skills are uniquely suited to meet the complex requirements of mitigating sea level rise and climate change impacts while linking investments to building shared prosperity for existing residents.

The Home Team was assembled to explore affordability as a driver of deep transformation, and to leverage multiple benefits that can emerge when a design approach is co-created through the lens of home. The physical design team is led by Mithun, a San Francisco- and Seattle-based interdisciplinary design firm. Collaborating team members include Biohabitats, Integral Group, Moffatt & Nichol, HR&A Advisors, Alta Planning + Design, Urban Biofilter and the Resilient Design Institute. Bringing a deeper multi-layered understanding of issues of social resilience, the Home Team includes Bay Area-based community development corporation Chinatown Community Development Center, as well as the social justice-focused organization, I-SEEED/Streetwyze.

During the Collaborative Research Phase, the Home Team hosted a group of 80 students from Kennedy High School involved in Y-PLAN’s Resilient by Design Youth Challenge to hear about the issues that they feel would be most important to include in a future resilience plan for North Richmond. Students shared visions of healthy food, floating homes, rooftop gardens and multi-modal transportation. The students will continue to be part of the Collaborative Design Phase during spring 2018.

Initial meetings with local residents and community groups are being held in January and February, and students will be sharing their parallel work at an open house January 30th. To learn more about the Home Team, Bay Area Challenge and opportunities to get involved, visit