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Fighting environmental injustice, housing inequity & preserving water resources with strategic plan

City of San Francisco

San Francisco Bay Area, CA

With a population of over 7.7 million, the Bay Area is home to almost 20% of California's residents. Unfortunately, many communities are disproportionately exposed to pollution, housing inequity, and environmental injustice. Save the Bay created a planning framework for a more sustainable and equitable future.

Topics Covered

Stormwater Management
Economic Inequality
Mobility & Access


Initial: Zero Upfront Cost


Philanthropic grants

Project Status

Operational since 2018

Gov Champion

Chief Sustainability Officer

Problem Addressed

Some San Francisco residents are disproportionately exposed to pollution and vulnerable to flooding among other climate change impacts.

The unparalleled natural beauty, iconic infrastructure, and diversity of the San Francisco Bay Area make the region one of the most attractive in the country. However, while many residents are thriving, others are disproportionately exposed to air and water pollution, contaminated land, and environmental injustices. Many of these same communities are particularly vulnerable to flooding, sea-level rise, and other impacts of climate change. Layered on top of these environmental hazards are drastic regional inequalities in housing affordability. Failure to take a community-focused approach to major development and infrastructure projects will threaten the ecological, economic, and recreational value of the Bay to the region and its residents.

Now more than ever, there is a need for a strong coalition of interests to ensure that smart and equitable development policies are being enacted and implemented; that agencies and funders are coordinating and collaborating; that climate adaptation plans emphasize natural infrastructure to reduce negative impacts on the environment; and that infrastructure improvements address climate change impacts and benefit the most vulnerable and underserved residents.

Solutions Used

San Francisco developed a strategic plan outlining green infrastructure that fights housing inequity and environmental injustice.

Save the Bay, the largest organization working to protect and restore San Francisco Bay for people in wildlife, collaborated with Nutter Consulting to create The Bay Smart Communities: For a Sustainable Future strategic plan to guide future planning and development initiatives in the bay area. As the lead consultant, Nutter Consulting played an integral role, creating the advisory group, conducting stakeholder interviews, developing the Bay Smart Communities strategy, and producing the final whitepaper.

Community and stakeholder outreach was a critical part of building the framework to ensure that the recommendations were grounded in local experiences and diverse voices. Nutter Consulting convened an advisory board with representatives from local government, utilities, environmental organizations, environmental advocacy groups, academia, and the private sector. After conducting interviews with advisory board members, the Bay Smart Communities plan was formed, focused on four objectives: protecting waterways, investing in green public transit, preventing displacement, and promoting environmental justice in infrastructure planning. The plan provides concrete examples on how local governments can develop Bay Smart Communities including green infrastructure, steps to create walkable, bikeable communities, and affordable housing development.

This plan provides local government officials and community organizers with a framework on how to best support planning and development policies that help create Bay Smart Communities where sustainable growth enhances the Bay, advances environmental justice, and promotes equity.



Guidelines on how utilizing community partnership agreements during urban planning can create a just, equitable, and inclusive space


Recommendations on how a focus on funding can meet the region's need for 13,000 new affordable homes per year


Suggestions that call on both local government and residents to encourage legislation and vote accordingly to create a more walkable, bikeable city


Ideas to adopt green stormwater infrastructure into roadway construction including new funding, and water catchment systems

Lessons Learned


Engaging diverse community stakeholders and local governments helped Save the Bay get a holistic view of the problems they were facing and opportunities for future success.

Who Should Consider

Communities or regions looking to implement greener, more equitable infrastructure for their constituents.

Last Updated

Mar 21st, 2022

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