With the design phase complete, the focus turns to finding funding for Resilient by Design projects.

Finding Funding for Resilient by Design

Welcome to Part 2 of our series on the Bay Area Resilient by Design Challenge, where we’re tracking the nine innovative design proposals to address sea level rise that the design teams created. In this post, we discuss the next big step for their (not-so-cheap) design proposals: finding funding for Resilient by Design.

What is the Resilient by Design Challenge?

As we described in our first post in this series, The Bay Area: Resilient by Design Challenge (RBD) began in April of 2017 with the goal of preparing Bay Area communities for the threat of sea level rise and other impacts of climate change. The Rockefeller Foundation kicked off the challenge with a $4.6 million grant, which was divvied up between nine teams of designers, architects, and ecologists.

These teams each created a visionary yet realistic design solution to combat ongoing and future issues facing our region. Each project is tailored to a particular Bay Area location and designed to raise awareness about sea level rise in that area. They also seek to help residents and local governments prepare for challenges such as worsening storms, flooding, and droughts. Now, teams are working alongside community members and local governments to ensure that the projects they designed are implemented in a way that best benefits the people and areas involved.

You can review all nine design proposals at the Resilient by Design website.

Funding for Resilient by Design Solutions to Sea Level Rise

Now that all nine teams have completed the designs of their projects, they are progressing into the financing and implementation stage. On Thursday, July 19th, the RBD staff and San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) hosted a workshop at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) called “Financing the Future of Resilient by Design.”

The workshop was a great way to explore potential avenues to fund the teams’ design proposals. Team members connected with various experts in a round-robin World Cafe style setting, where experts on various sources of local, state, federal, and private dollars explained their grant and funding opportunities.

The nine tables focused on the following categories of available funds:

  1. California State Coastal Conservancy (Measure AA, Proposition 68, Proposition 1)
  2. California State Funding Sources (Cap and Trade, Proposition 68)
  3. Public/Private Partnerships (P3)
  4. Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) (regional transportation funding, SB1, RM3)
  5. Community-Based Organization Funding
  6. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers processes
  7. Caltrans District 4 (SB1 and other sources)
  8. Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts
  9. Voter Approved Tax and Debt Measures

Financing the Future: Resilience + Innovation Projects

At the beginning of the workshop, team members heard an illuminating presentation from Shalini Vajjhala, founder and CEO of re:focus partners. re:focus is a design and finance firm dedicated to developing integrated resilience solutions and innovative public-private partnerships for vulnerable communities around the world.

According to Vajhala, funding resilience projects is difficult because there aren’t necessarily funded projects that you can look to as successful examples. Vajjhala said “everyone knows we should [fund projects that address climate change],” but they are rarely given priority over more pressing asks (i.e. school lunches). To overcome this challenge, Vajjhala suggests the following:

  • Identify “Biggest Losers”

    Who stands to lose money if the project doesn’t happen? Find savings that will bring new stakeholders, and their resources, to the table. Linking future benefits to immediate value helps to motivate action. In other words, help them see avoiding a loss as a measure of success.

  • Bust Through Silos for Cross-Sector Values

    Design teams must figure out cross-benefits to clearly illustrate the value of their projects. By tying their design vision to community needs, they can gain access to departmental and agency budgets.

  • Foster Flexibility

    “Hitch your wagon to a bigger horse” by linking revenue and non-revenue projects together. Look for incremental wins to add resilience benefits to ongoing revenue-generating projects, such as transportation and transit projects, real estate development, and utility system upgrades.

  • Link Physical and Financial Protection

    Think of infrastructure as financial risk reduction for the public sector. Resilience projects can make public sector assets and services safer, which lowers the risk of needing an insurance payout.

  • Tailor your message

    Generally, people are most likely to vote for improvements to childrens’ education, police and public safety, and transit. Knowing that people are passionate about investing in their kids’ future well-being, we must consider how to get people to view sustainability with the same long-term benefit mindset.

Specific Funding Sources

Below are several specific pots of available money that were discussed at the workshop. Greenbelt Alliance has worked on ensuring the passage of several of the following sources of funding, most recently by endorsing and campaigning for Prop 68 and RM3.

CA Proposition 68: Prop 68, which came about as result of the passage of the Clean Water and Safe Parks Act (SB5), passed in June of this year. It provides a total of $4.1 billion dollars in funds that will benefit the Bay Area and other parts of California. Funds will go to prepare communities for drought and wildfires, provide clean drinking water to communities in need, fund parks in neighborhoods that lack them, enhance habitat restoration, and support other improvements.

Outside of the aforementioned items, another $2 billion will be available to those who win competitive grants in the following categories, most of which could apply to funding for Resilient by Design projects:

  • Drought preparedness
  • Climate resilience
  • Coastal forest and wildlife linkages conservation

Regional Measure 3: Regional Measure 3 (RM3) also passed during our June primary in California. This Measure will instate toll revenue increases on state-owned bridges in the Bay Area, which will be used to finance $4.45 billion worth of transportation improvements.

Major initial projects will include:

    • BART and Caltrain expansions in both rail lines and the number of cars
    • Adding more vehicles to the Muni fleet
    • Expanding carpool lanes
    • Extending the SMART train to Windsor

The Bay Area Toll Authority has to go through the official steps of raising bridge tolls before any projects can be started, which could take months. RM3 could provide funding for Resilient by Design projects like the Grand Bayway proposal, which proposes a transformative vision for the State Route 37 improvements.

CA Senate Bill 1: Titled the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, SB1 invests $54 billion over the next decade to fix roads, freeways, and bridges, and to improve transit and safety. Half goes to cities and counties, and the other half is dedicated for the state highway system. This action has a few major focus points:

      • Road rehabilitation
      • Congestion relief
      • Trade corridor improvements
      • Improved transit and rail travel

Rebuilding CA has an interactive map on their website that depicts all ongoing and future projects around California.

MTC Horizon Transformative Projects: The Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Horizon initiative is a large, comprehensive Bay Area planning effort. It will address not only basic transportation and housing issues, but also the economic development, resilience, and technological effects that come along with them. The projects they are looking for must be affordable for all residents, connected well with the Bay Area, diverse in the people it serves, healthy for the environment and the communities, and vibrant in the inclusivity of job opportunities.

MTC is also highly interested in projects that make existing transportation infrastructure more resilient to rising sea levels or seismic hazards. Anyone can submit a Transformative Project, and 5-10 ideas from people and organizations outside of the main Bay Area transportation sphere will be picked for a full evaluation by MTC and ABAG (Association of Bay Area Governments). Large-scale transit and roadway projects whose lifecycle costs would exceed $1 billion can apply for larger grants. Smaller-scale projects that have more focused regional functions can apply for smaller grants that do not have a minimum project budget requirement.

The San Francisco Foundation: The SFF is a Bay Area philanthropic organization, one of the largest community organizations in the country. It is supported by community-based funding and gives out millions of dollars every year through different grants and awards. Currently, their two largest applicable grant opportunities are:

  • The Equity Grants Program: This program is dedicated to projects that support people of color and low-income residents by connecting them to resources or providing programmatic opportunities to increase economic mobility.
  • The Rapid Response Fund for Movement Building: These small grants—ranging from $3,000-$15,000—are designated for projects that tackle racial and economic inequality in Bay Area communities.

Since RBD project teams are actively engaging with community members—many in low-income communities or communities of color—to make their designs as relevant, effective and community-driven as possible. Both of these grants—though relatively small—could provide funding for Resilient by Design projects.

What’s Next?

An internal finance team has prepared an extensive guide for design teams to use as they seek funding for Resilient by Design projects, which can be found here.

For many of the Resilient by Design team members, the “Financing the Future of Resilient by Design” workshop was their first exposure to a discussion on how to fund innovative resilience projects. It’s certainly a new and cutting-edge field in the world of public funding and philanthropy.  While the workshop provided a wide array of funding opportunities, one of our greatest takeaways is the need for the design teams to be just as creative and innovative as they work to fund their projects as they were in designing them.

Here at Greenbelt Alliance, we will continue to track how the teams are doing in seeking funding for their proposals. While the grant application process is a long and arduous one, we hope to see several of these projects off the ground within the next several years. For more information on Resilient by Design, contact us.

Image: Courtesy Resilient by Design

Co-written with Agnes Lo

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