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Case study: Stakeholder Engagement for the Concrete Building Safety Program with SF ORCP

Co-creating equitable recommendations for seismic safety with stakeholders in San Francisco

San Francisco is developing an earthquake retrofit program to identify and strengthen vulnerable concrete buildings. Partnering with SF’s Office of Resilience and Capital Planning (ORCP), CivicMakers led an equity-centered engagement process with a working group of stakeholders across a diverse set of organizations and perspectives to co-create elements of a Concrete Building Safety Program (CBSP).


In collaboration with the City team, we identified key stakeholders whose participation in working group meetings would provide broad geographic, population and subject matter representation to inform program development through an equity lens. A ‘stakeholder’ was defined as anyone who might be affected, directly or indirectly, by a retrofit program of concrete buildings in San Francisco.

We conducted 34 virtual interviews between April 14 and July 20, 2022 with 31 different organizations to learn the unique needs of each group. We then designed and facilitated eight working group meetings over 11 months, one concrete building walking tour, and three topic-specific focus groups. Each convening was intended to inform policy and programmatic decisions with the San Francisco residents who would be most impacted by those decisions in mind.


We applied a human-centered methodology to the design and facilitation of the engagement process and activities. We learned the considerations, challenges and nuances for the program’s potential impacts from residential building owners and managers; commercial and industrial building owners and managers; tenants rights advocates; business advocates; builders and developers; labor unions; and technical experts.

The working group met eight times between October 2022 and September 2023 to identify challenges and opportunities for how to implement the program. To develop recommendations included in the final report, the working group identified four topic areas to provide input to the City:

  • Financing: understanding the true cost of retrofits and how to pay for them
  • Communications: to tenants, business owners, property owners and the broader community
  • Temporary Tenant Relocation: minimizing negative impacts to tenants, especially our most vulnerable
  • Process Streamlining: making City processes easier to navigate during program development and implementation

Some of the most important and compelling insights came from nonprofit housing developers and community organizations with regard to the delicate balance of keeping tenants and communities together during relocation; the tradeoffs for business owners; and the importance of communication and coordination across City departments in its implementation. Above all, we learned that diverse community members representing a myriad of unique issues are willing to come to a consensus around the need for a program that fundamentally seeks to preserve life safety in San Francisco.


The two-year engagement effort culminated in the release of the CBSP Stakeholder Engagement Report, which represents the first step in the creation of a new seismic safety program to address concrete buildings that are known to be vulnerable in large earthquakes. The report represents a distillation of insights gained from the one-on-one interviews and through eight working group meetings the team designed and facilitated over an 11-month period. This project was particularly compelling to the team, as it represented a critical equity component, given a significant portion of residential older concrete buildings in San Francisco contain rent controlled or affordable housing.

“The CivicMakers team helped us find creative ways to get real engagement and collect input on the topics that felt most important to stakeholders. They were a valuable partner for a focus on equity, making sure we didn’t lose sight of that throughout the entire process.”

Brian Strong Chief Resilience Officer/ Director, San Francisco Office of Resilience and Capital Planning