We hear a lot about “smart growth” in the press, in blogs, and at planning commissions these days. There are folks who support smart growth projects, and folks who don’t. But of course, no one ever couches their opposition to a smart growth project in terms of favoring “dumb growth,” although that’s what they may really be saying, if they thought about it. [Read more…] about What Makes Smart Growth “Smart”
Vancouver B.C. Metropolitan Core is famous among urbanists for what is now called the “Vancouver Style,” neighborhoods of point towers of 40 stories or more, with a planned tower separation to preserve public views and maximize privacy. The towers have small floor plates set on top of a street wall podium lined with three-story townhouses, or retail storefronts with offices above. There is landscaping on top of the podium and parking underground. Vancouverites have embraced density and walkability in the urban core, the envy of many of us from stateside. [Read more…] about How Metropolitan Vancouver Is Reorganizing Suburban Growth Around Transit
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?