In the wake of the 2011 demise of California’s 400 redevelopment agencies, cities, developers, and institutions are all struggling to find new ways to fund the construction and maintenance of essential infrastructure and other public buildings and facilities. A San Francisco official recently complained to me that there are 40,000 dwelling units entitled in the city that aren’t being built. He noted a variety of reasons, but a chief one for large developments is the need for massive unfunded up-front investments in infrastructure. This includes projects like Treasure Island, Park Merced, Pier 70, and Hunters Point/Candlestick. [Read more…] about Show me the Money: Financing Public Facilities in the Age of Scarcity
I recently had a client ask me to look at a local park disfigured by freeway construction bifurcating the neighborhood and cutting residents off from this very expensive and valuable amenity. Environmental problems. Social problems. Economic problems. Could anything be done? What are best practices today? [Read more…] about Don’t listen to Mark Twain – freeway caps gaining traction
I recently returned from Asia, where I noticed, as always, numerous people wearing face masks on the street. In Mainland China, I have always assumed this was because of the rampant air pollution in major cities. But I also observed masks in other cities such as Hong Kong and Taipei, where industrial and automotive pollution appears, at least to the unscientific observer, to be much less. And we Californians are also used to seeing some of our Asian neighbors wearing masks in American cities. I have wondered, is this a holdover from life in Beijing or Shenzhen or other cities in Mainland China, where the color of air can be as dull as a grey goose? (And I’m not thinking of vodka.) Or is it something else? [Read more…] about Why we had Urban Renewal
Like many westerners, I left a rust belt eastern city decades ago, in the belief that the region, and certainly those old east coast cities were goners. So it was with surprise and pleasure that I recently read in Landmarks, the journal of The Landmark Society of Western New York, that residents with choices are moving back into the old downtown, and even more surprising, that nationally, corporate headquarters are also moving back to urban centers from the suburbs at an accelerating rate. [Read more…] about Take me back to tomorrow – Some surprising indicators of change in U.S. cities
This article is adapted from an illustrated talk given by Jim Chappell at the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s June 4, 2015 “Context Vol. 2: What’s the Big Idea?” Forum on the Upper East Village, aka I.D.E.A. District and Makers Quarter.
The world is filled with good ideas. San Diego has a lot of great architects and urban thinkers. For several years, a group of these dedicated urbanists have been developing and enriching a plan for the Upper East Village. I.D.E.A. = Innovation Design Education Arts. As the next step in the process to implement the District, the Foundation held “What’s the Big Idea?” to explore next steps. [Read more…] about Setting the I.D.E.A. District Apart
John King just keeps getting better and better. In his second Cityscapes volume, published by local treasure Heyday Books, he classifies fifty notable San Francisco buildings and spaces under the sobriquets of Towers, Connection, Clues and Waterfront. This builds on Volume 1’s Icons, Styles and Masters, Landscape, and Change (Cityscapes , San Francisco and Its Buildings, 2011). Another couple of volumes and we will have the complete ‘how to read a city.’ [Read more…] about Cityscapes 2: Reading the Architecture of San Francisco
Spoiler Alert. Despite being one of the worst tales of NIMBYism I have been involved in, it all turned out as it should. The project proponent, the official project opponent, and the Planning Commission all ended up doing the right thing. 420 desperately needed housing units are being built according to the City General Plan, the Neighborhood Plan, and the existing zoning, at one of the most underutilized transit accessible locations west of Chicago. [Read more…] about SPOILER ALERT: 420 Housing Units Under Construction
The common wisdom is that all the new development, or at least all the interesting development in San Francisco, is South of Market. This of course makes news because it represents a sea change from the prior 100+ years when “south of the slot” was the industrial, working class (or worse) sector of the city. [Read more…] about Where grows San Francisco?
Ever since the removal of the double-decker Embarcadero Freeway after the Loma Prieta earthquake and its replacement with a graceful boulevard, high quality development has been replacing empty piers and parking lots along San Francisco’s northern waterfront.
Think the Ferry Building, Pier 1, Piers 1½, 3 and 5 (Coqueta, La Mar Cebicheria, Hard Water), the Exploratorium, and the new Cruise Terminal to mention a few. Fisherman’s Wharf has a going Community Benefits District, a brilliant streetscape plan, and some quality new buildings housing such uses as the flagship Boudin bakery/restaurant and a new Madame Tussauds.
For years, it has all fallen apart when one hits Van Ness. But a brilliant new plan for the non-profit Fort Mason Center is about to change all that. [Read more…] about Completing San Francisco’s Northern Waterfront
Many of us, at least architects and urbanists in the Bay Area, are familiar with Here Today: San Francisco’s Architectural Heritage, the venerable 1968 compendium of San Francisco buildings built before 1920.
The roster of fine books on historic architecture has recently been joined by a new volume, Here Tomorrow: preserving Architecture, Culture, and California’s Golden Dreams, by veteran San Francisco Business Times columnist J. K. Dineen. [Read more…] about Here Tomorrow… telling our stories