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SF Seeks Feminine Touch for Public Work
City's four picks for contract work have something in common
A golden opportunity for female-led firms in San Francisco.
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Every three years, the city of San Francisco sends out an RFQ to architecture firms for its “as-needed work” list, following a rigorous point system to winnow down applicants. Typically, the work consists of tenant improvements and accessibility upgrades.

For the first time, all the preselected firms have female principals. This in spite of the fact that California Proposition 209 forbids San Francisco to give preference to minority- or women-owned firms. But all four studios were beneficiaries of the preferences given to small firms, which is legal.

“The city’s Human Rights Commission was put in place to level the playing field for disadvantaged firms,” said Gary Hoy, city architect and manager of the city’s Bureau of Architecture. Of the four, two are independent firms—Paulett Taggart Architects, Hamilton + Aitken—and two are joint ventures with small firms—Tom Elliot Fisch with Knapp Architects, and Mark Cavagnero Associates with Cary Bernstein Architect.

While these outside contracts are not specifically part of a “design for excellence” program, as the program in New York is, observers are hopeful that the city is heading in that direction. “With the slate of architects this time, it looks like they are looking more for good design rather than tons of experience in the public sector,” said Paulett Taggart, who made the list for the second time in a row. The city plans to contract out $4 million in projects, divided among the four firms.

Lydia Lee