Vancouver’s Sea2City Design Challenge finds ways to build climate resilience by adapting to sea level rise and coastal flooding

In late 2021, the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada launched the Sea2City Design Challenge, a design competition that explores ideas for building resilience by adapting to sea level rise and coastal flooding in the False Creek area of the city, where much of the most valuable real estate is located.

False Creek is a bustling, urban, mixed-use waterfront area that is one of Vancouver’s major destinations for residents and visitors alike.

Historically one of Vancouver’s major industrial centers, the last few decades have seen False Creek transition into a social and recreational heart of Vancouver, featuring a variety of:

  • Higher density multi-family residences;
  • Commercial areas; and
  • Parks that are used by many for recreational and marine activities.

Sea level rise warning sign in the Olympic Village area. Photo courtesy of the City of Vancouver.

False Creek encompasses numerous, diverse neighborhoods. False Creek North includes portions of Northeast False Creek, Yaletown, and Chinatown. False Creek South passes through Fairview, South East False Creek, Olympic Village and False Creek Flats along the south shore.

Granville Island is one of North America’s most spectacular urban revitalization successes, and is usually my first stop whenever I (Storm Cunningham) am in town. Granville Island is one of the most flood-vulnerable areas in False Creek. It’s managed by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Granville Island’s 300+ businesses, including a public market and lively arts, culture, and culinary scene make it one of Vancouver’s most popular destinations. It’s also the site of a community center, commercial and office spaces, float homes, and a marina.

A first-of-its-kind in Canada, the Sea2City Design Challenge (Sea2City) brings together two multidisciplinary teams over a 12-month period to:

  • Explore solutions to guide urban development and ecological revitalization in the False Creek floodplain;
  • Inform the next phase of the Climate Adaptation Plan and Vancouver Plan.

Sea level rise is an unprecedented challenge for a coastal city like Vancouver,” said Mayor Kennedy Stewart. “It requires bold and creative thinking and the City is looking forward to welcoming new perspectives and ideas to address climate change and sea level rise in False Creek.

Guided by community values and design principles identified through earlier engagement with residents, business owners, and others who work and play in and around False Creek, the Sea2City design teams will work cooperatively with the city and project partners to:

  • Explore coastal adaptation approaches that respond to the social equity, economic, and ecological challenges posed by sea level rise and coastal flooding;
  • Investigate coastal adaptation approaches for sea level rise beyond one meter;
  • Expand the City’s toolbox of coastal flood management approaches; and
  • Increase public awareness of climate change and sea level rise.

Sea2City will include three rounds of activities, including:

  • Public learning and design events;
  • Advisory group sessions; and
  • Decolonization and Indigenous perspective workshops.

Photo of False Creek in Vancouver is by Storm Cunningham.

Learn more here.

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