There is a unique joy in walking through a building and experiencing what it was, understanding what it is now, and contemplating what it can be in the future.Continue Reading Oh the Stories They Could Tell… “Is That a Beluga Whale?”
“Downtown is for people” wrote legendary urban planner Jane Jacobs in 1958, in response to building-centric redevelopment that was a byproduct of politics and economics seeking to rebuild cities across America. During her lifetime, she advocated for citizens to decide what end results they wanted, pioneering concepts like “social capital,” and advocating for planners to steer the rebuilding machinery to serve the community.
Yet, even today, downtown San Diego is being built as a collection of projects, with an approval process that consistently favors developers. Continue Reading California lawmakers seek local oversight of downtown planning
There is a building boom across California, but many communities have been historically left behind. Property tax increment has served as a planning and investment tool to provide public benefits such as affordable housing, good jobs and neighborhood amenities. However, with the end of redevelopment, cash-poor cities across California are exploring innovative strategies to fund public benefits. One such strategy is to partner with developers for community benefits in exchange for planning and development rights.Continue Reading How Communities can Benefit from Private Development in California
Last time (part 2), we visited a Chicago rooftop during the summer of 2007, where buckwheat sways in the breeze, collard greens with leaves as broad as a chair seat flourish, and tomatoes and peppers ripen, all in view of a passing elevated train. This time, we visit a state-of-the-art Chicago high school where the windows of a special needs classroom once looked out onto a barren, uninspiring landscape.
Last time (part 1), we were introduced to Urban Habitat Chicago, took off our shoes, and stretched our feet on an edible lawn. This time, we visit a Chicago rooftop during the summer of 2007, where buckwheat sways in the breeze, collard greens with leaves as broad as a chair seat flourish, and tomatoes and peppers ripen, all in view of a passing elevated train.
In the fall of 1862, crops were disappearing, mysteriously, from the fields around the tranquil Shaker community at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky.
A watch was ordered over several nights to see what was happening when the incident was brought to the attention of the governing Elders and Eldresses. The Battle of Perryville, Kentucky on October 8, 1862, brought the Civil War within seventeen miles of the close-knit, pacifist community’s doorstep. Soldiers from both Union and Confederate armies, it was revealed, were stealing the crops from the fields at night.Continue Reading Urban Habitat Chicago Redux: 10 years of productive urban landscapes (part 1 of 3)
Nobody likes uncertainty. Certainly not the developers of a billion dollar mixed-use project that encounters community opposition due to traffic impacts. Nor the public transportation agency that runs into fairy shrimp on the future route of a trolley line. Nor the city planners for multifamily housing around a transit station that face a revolt from their single-family neighbors.Continue Reading In Defense of Uncertainty
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.Continue Reading Completing San Francisco’s Northern Waterfront
For the last half century, cities have attempted to repair the damage to their urban cores from migration to suburbs and exurbs. Redevelopment has evolved into smart growth, transit oriented development, and complete streets. In the last 15 years or so, the urban renewal efforts have had a receptive audience as people, tired of the car oriented lifestyle of the suburbs, are returning to urban cores and older urban neighborhoods. However, while cities get the big picture, too often in my 25 years as a land use attorney, I have seen the same mistakes repeated.Continue Reading 6 Common Mistakes Made By Cities and Towns in Urban Renewal.
With the demise of redevelopment in California, some cities are looking for creative ways to stay solvent. One idea is to leverage New Market Tax Credits (NMTC) to buy properties and become landlords. This acquisition fund concept was recently adopted by Civic San Diego (CivicSD), a nonprofit corporation that is a consultant to the city of San Diego on the wind-down of redevelopment.Continue Reading Beware of Wall Street Schemes on Redevelopment