Resilient SF

San Francisco, CA

Could a sustainable infrastructure investment at Golden Gate Park support San Francisco’s disaster preparedness, and the park’s regular use for major events?

CMG was invited by Public Architecture to participate in a design challenge to address earthquake preparedness in San Francisco. As the only landscape architects, we were interested in how the combination of sustainable infrastructure and building social capital in our neighborhood parks could achieve greater resilience. Working with Hyphae Design Laboratory, we developed a site-based strategy using the Golden Gate Park Polo Field as a case study. We chose this site because the infrastructure investment necessary to make it a refuge in the case of disaster could also more sustainably support its operations throughout the year as host to some of the city's largest festivals. It builds on the park's history of independent systems of windmills and reservoirs used to develop and irrigate the park, and its legacy as a place of refuge for displaced victims of the 1906 earthquake.

For design parameters, we established a baseline potential displaced population of 12,000 people, the same number displaced during the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, and comparable earthquake events. In addition, the SF Department of Emergency Management recommends that citizens prepare for 72 hours without the daily infrastructural “lifelines”: food, water, waste management, energy, and shelter – the same required for park festivals, many of which also last for three days. We then compared the infrastructure brought into the park for major events such as portable toilets, bottled water, and energy, to what we needed for Golden Gate Park’s “disaster test fit,” and identified solutions that served both.

Our proposal fortifies Golden Gate Park’s Polo Fields with four key layers of sustainable infrastructure: fresh water, greywater treatment wetlands, sanitation and fertilizer service, and energy provisions. Our waste management composting system replaces the dependence on petroleum-based artifical fertilizers for the entire park. An observation tower draws water from the park's groundwater system to filter and pressurize for potable use. Greywater is treated in adjacent constructed wetlands. Wind turbines and photo-voltaics provide energy for event and emergency sound systems and lighting.