Climate Resilience in San José and the Bay Area

Bay Area residents don’t have to look far beyond their doorsteps to see the impacts of climate change. Hazy skies caused by extended wildfire seasons, prolonged drought, and record-high heat waves are now normal occurrences, and don’t show signs of letting up. Soon, an increase in flooding due to sea level rise and storms will add to the ever-growing list of climate impacts.

While climate change affects all of us, the burden of these impacts will be felt disproportionately by vulnerable communities, especially those that are lower-income, Black, Brown, and Asian. These communities have been historically underserved, leaving them more susceptible to the dangers of climate change due to a sheer lack of resources to build climate adaptation.

Many cities in the region have shown good leadership in reducing negative contributions to the climate, but need to go even further. With climate impacts already being felt, cities must ensure they are taking steps to provide climate adaptation in addition to mitigation. This must encompass strategies that are equitable and ambitious, empowering the most vulnerable communities to be resilient against climate impacts.

We know that nature-based solutions like urban greening are highly effective and necessary climate adaptation strategies that make communities resilient. Cities must deploy these solutions now to be prepared for what’s to come.

Urban greening mitigates the impacts of flooding and urban heat by providing natural buffers, all while filtering pollutants from the air and waterways. Through city planning, green infrastructure can be incorporated into community streets and urban centers. This provides numerous health benefits for residents by simultaneously offering public green spaces that promote biking and walking.

San José serves as a perfect example of a city that has taken extremely promising measures to tackle the climate problem, but must do more to prepare its communities for resilience. San José is a huge city that is low-lying and shore-adjacent. Increased precipitation and sea level rise will lead to more frequent flooding events. Rising temperatures will continue to threaten residents with scorching urban heat island effects. Much of San José, especially East San José, is covered by pavement and concrete that retain heat and raise city temperatures beyond healthy levels. Map showing surface temperature in San José by census tract. Darker red indicated hotter temperatures. Source: NPR

For these reasons, Save The Bay has worked closely with San José city staff and community leaders over the past two years to ensure climate resilience and equity is incorporated into every level of policy and planning practices. Specifically, Save The Bay advocates for the equitable incorporation of urban green infrastructure in the city’s communities, especially East San José.

Urban green infrastructure is a highly effective, multi-benefit solution that will mitigate climate impacts and provide physical and mental health benefits, all while keeping pollution out of the Bay.

Save The Bay’s conversations with community organizations like Latinos United for a New America (LUNA), Tropicana-Lanai Neighborhood Association, and Veggielution have shown strong support for urban greening projects. Community residents have detailed the negative health risks posed by a lack of tree canopy and expressed their desires for access to green spaces. These conversations demonstrate the importance in enacting climate policy that is equitable, and has helped steer Save The Bay’s conversations with city staff and decision makers.

Our team is actively engaged in conversations with the Mayor’s office, City Council, and other planning departments to find the best ways to incorporate climate resilience policies in city processes. San José is but one of the many cities in the Bay Area faced with the same climate problems. Vulnerable communities deserve to be resilient against flooding, urban heat, and other climate hazards. San José and every other city in the Bay Area must ensure a climate-resilient future by prioritizing investment in equitable urban greening. Save The Bay is dedicated to helping this future become actualized, and urges any concerned resident to let your decision makers know that such a future is non-negotiable.

Learn more about Save The Bay’s efforts to bring equitable urban greening to San José

If you live and San José and want to see more urban green spaces in your city, let your city council member know by signing our petition.