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Beginning this Thursday, LinkNYC kiosks around the city will feature images from the Museum of the City of New York’s (MCNY) extensive photography archive. The aptly named campaign, Summer in the City, is a partnership between the Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications (DoITT), LinkNYC, the city’s free Wi-Fi kiosk system, and MCNY. Images will be displayed from the Museum’s current exhibition, Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs. Passerby on the street will be able to catch a glimpse of the old New York through the lens of the iconic film director. Kubrick’s photographs highlight his formative years as a photographer (before he became a film director) for Look magazine in New York City between 1945-1950. The photographs focus on and capture the pathos of everyday life of the city, from street scenes to sporting events. The LinkNYC kiosks can be found dotted all over the city. Since Mayor Bill de Blasio launched the program in 2016, more than 1,650 Links are active across all five boroughs and have replaced the old pay phones with sleek kiosks that feature free Wi-Fi, phone chargers, and digital displays for advertisements and in this case, art. It’s not the first time that LinkNYC has featured art on its kiosks from MCNY. Previous "exhibitions" on the kiosks include historic photos of women who influenced New York’s political history for Women’s History Month and "On This Day in NYC History" information. The MCNY and LinkNYC partnership is one of many programs that disseminate New York City’s history; others include the NYC Space/Time Directory from the New York Public Library, an app from Urban Archive that made more than 2,500 images of old New York available on-the-go, and a Civil Rights & Social Justice Map from the Greenwich Village Society.
San Francisco’s public toilets get a futuristic redesign
San Francisco is one step closer to finalizing the redesign of its public, self-cleaning toilets. On Monday, the city selected a futuristic design concept created by SmithGroupJJR from a trio proposals that included bids by Min Design and Branch Creative. The three finalists were unveiled in April, with SmithGroupJJR ultimately selected in an effort to boost the contemporary stylings of the city’s public facilities, according to the San Francisco Department of Public Works. Initially, 12 teams were in the running for the design competition. The public toilets will operated by bus stop advertising agency JCDecaux and will be funded via income generated from informational and retail kiosks that will be deployed in conjunction with the toilets. Bill Katz, design principal at SmithGroupJJR, told The San Francisco Chronicle, “The big idea is to combine sculpture and technology. We want an object that literally reflects the surroundings and the neighborhoods that it is in, but also will be forward-looking.” The changes come more than 20 years after San Francisco debuted an initial, Art Nouveaux-inspired public toilet concept in 1996 that has been loved and hated alike by the public. The forest green-colored, pill-shaped facilities are currently dispersed throughout San Francisco’s urban core and are also used in Los Angeles, among other localities. In all, the city aims to install or replace 28 public toilets and 114 kiosks in conjunction with the redesign. The proposed bathroom facilities will make use of recycled water and are wrapped in reflective metal panels. Current plans call for topping the structures with a rooftop garden. Renderings for the concept include an integrated bench assembly and a ground-level planter, as well. The new proposals, however, are not uniformly loved, either. Darcy Brown, executive director of the San Francisco Beautiful group, told The Chronicle, [It’s a] “pity we lean toward ‘modern,’ which has a shelf life, as opposed to classic, which is timeless.” San Francisco Beautiful opposed all three of the redesign concepts. Next, SmithGroupJJR’s proposal will next head to the San Francisco Arts Commission and the Historic Preservation Commission for joint approval. Approval is expected in the fall.
Valley Link Up
L.A. Metro unveils plans to link San Fernando Valley with Westwood and eventually LAX
The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has unveiled six potential alignments for a forthcoming transit project that could link L.A.’s San Fernando Valley with the city’s Westside neighborhoods and—eventually—with Los Angeles International airport (LAX). The concepts were unveiled last week and represent the latest efforts to span over the Sepulveda Pass with public transit, an effort that is complicated by the route’s steep terrain, the presence of the Santa Monica Mountains, and the presence of Interstate-405, the busiest and most congested freeway in the United States. Plans call for building the link in two phases, with an initial segment connecting the Westwood with the southernmost edge of the valley due to be completed by 2026. A southern extension to LAX could be completed by 2057 under the current timetable. For that initial segment, the six proposed alignments are as follows: Concept 1: Planners envision a 10-mile underground subway alignment that would link the future terminus of the regional Purple Line subway with the Orange Line busway in the valley neighborhood of Sherman Oaks, where the line could link with a forthcoming north-south transit route planned for Van Nuys Boulevard. To the south, the new heavy rail transit line (HRT) would also link with the east-west Expo Line that connects Downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica. Concept 2: A second potential HRT line would follow a similar tunneling route but would connect with the Orange Line station on Sepulveda Boulevard instead of Van Nuys. The potential alignment could contain as many as five miles’ worth of aerial alignments constructed to link separately with the forthcoming Van Nuys Line, as well. This route would run a total of 13 miles in length and could connect to the Expo similarly to Concept 1. Concept 3: This alignment would follow the same path as Concept 1 but would be built using light rail transit (LRT) technology, a cheaper option that would ultimately carry fewer passengers per train at slower speeds than the HRT proposal. The underground route would ultimately run about 10 miles in length. Concept 4: This route would run along the same alignment as Concept 3, but would feature a mile-long aerial spur that would link to the Orange Line. Plans are currently underway to convert the Orange Line from a bus rapid transit route (BRT) to a light rail line, meaning that, with this option, the two routes could potentially share trains in the future, creating the possibility of several different one-seat routes. Concept 5: Metro is also considering monorail and rubber tire trams for the Sepulveda Pass route, options that would blend below-ground, at-grade, and aerial alignments to cross through the mountain range. Concept 5 would follow the same route as Concept 1 but would result in a transit line that simply linked the two regions without offering the interlining capabilities of Concept 4 or the capacity and speed of Concepts 1 and 2. Concept 6: Concept 6 is proposed as an extension of the Purple Line route, an idea that would thread the primarily east-west line northward into the valley, where it could link with other forthcoming lines or even extend further in their stead. The potential alignment would be the death knell for the “Subway to the Sea” concept originally proposed for the Purple Line that would have extended the line to Santa Monica. That idea has been on the back burner for years as Metro has moved ahead with planned extensions that take the route only as far west as Westwood, where the line simple dead-ends. Metro will be gauging public opinion on the routes over coming weeks and will announce a consolidated list of route options at a later date. The route is listed as one of the 28 transit projects Metro would like to complete before L.A. hosts the 2028 Olympics, so the timeline for the project will likely be sped up over the coming years.
Plaza No More?
Another Halprin-designed plaza could be on the chopping block, this time in San Francisco
Depending on how things go, the Lawrence Halprin-designed United Nations Plaza and fountain in San Francisco could soon be demolished. The brick-lined open space is punctuated by a jagged, sunken fountain made of rough-shorn granite blocks and is installed in the city’s Civic Center district, an area that is undergoing redevelopment as the city seeks to beautify and enliven existing pedestrian areas. Though not designed as a commemorative work, when it opened in 1975, the fountain was dedicated to the signing of the U.N. charter, an event that took place in the Veterans War Memorial Building near the site of the future fountain in 1945. The opening marked the 30th anniversary of the signing and originally heralded the fountain as a civic work of global significance. The fountain was designed by Halprin, who worked in concert with architects Mario Ciampi and John Carl Warnecke as part of an urban redevelopment scheme for the area. At Halprin’s office, Don Carter worked as principal-in-charge for the project with Angela Danadjieva—lead designer for Halprin’s Freeway Park in Seattle—as landscape architect. The fountain was designed starting in 1962 during Halprin’s Modernist period; when the fountain debuted 13 years later, it contained a futuristic set of features, including computerized spray nozzles that could detect strong winds and dial-down in power in response, as to not spray passersby with water. Art and Architecture reports that the high-tech, Sierra-inspired fountain also came with an artful tidal pool installation inspired by San Francisco’s tides that cycled every hour. Greenery, including large trees, originally surrounded the fountain, as well. The fountain was designed according to a concept called “motation,” a method for scoring how one’s perception of the environment changes depending on the speed and motion of the observer, according to The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF). The fountain’s stacked blocks are carved with inscriptions and represent each of earth’s seven continents. The work, 165-feet long and articulated raucously as a set of stepped, interactive cascades, acts as a gateway connecting Market Street with the Asian Art Museum, the Orpheum Theater, a public library, and eventually, the Civic Center Plaza fronting City Hall. Today, the fountain is suffering from disrepair and neglect, with the tidal pools long-extinguished and most of the surrounding vegetation gone. The Civic Center BART and Muni station has recently come into the spotlight as open-air, intravenous drug use has become more prevalent within its corridors. Sandwiched between the city’s rapidly-gentrifying Tenderloin and South of Market districts, the areas above and within the station are often populated by people experiencing homelessness, a long-standing site condition that precedes even the 1975 renovations. The plaza spaces were “hardened” against this type of occupation in the early 2000s when all of the benches were removed and the fountain was briefly shut down. Starting in 2005, however, the plaza became home to a twice-weekly farmers market that continues to draw crowds. Plans are currently underway by CMG Landscape Architecture to redesign the plaza in tow with surrounding streets and open spaces as part of the Civic Center Public Realm Plan. The plan is managed by San Francisco’s planning department in conjunction with multiple local agencies and seeks to soften the area by promoting pedestrian use of the spaces surrounding San Francisco City Hall while repairing some of the planning mistakes of the past, like the lack of concessions and playgrounds in the area. The design team includes Gehl Studio, HR&A, InterEthnica, Kennerly Architecture + Planning, Lotus Water, Structus, M. Lee, JS Nolan, architecture + history, and HRA Engineering. CMG is currently soliciting public opinion on a trio of redevelopment proposals, only one of which retains the iconic fountain. The three proposals seek to redesign the space, with each presenting a different approach to shifting the overriding character of the three interlocking plaza spaces that make up the open space sequence between Market Street and City Hall. First, the “Culture Connector” plan aims to connect the three “flex” plazas with two runs of general-purpose open spaces lined with gridded street trees. The proposal would modify Halprin’s fountain in order to transform it into a kids’ bouldering playground. A pair of larger playgrounds would ring the Civic Center Plaza in the scheme, with collections of kiosks and pavilions scattering the site. The “Public Platform” plan aims to resignify the plazas’ function as space for protest and political gatherings by creating a more open plaza at the fore of City Hall that will be flanked by lawns. Here, fewer trees would be present while new concessions structures are to be consolidated in larger buildings at key entry points to the main square. In this scheme, the plaza fountain would be replaced with a new interactive waterwork. The “Civic Sanctuary” scheme proposes to reconfigure the plaza areas into lawns while garden rooms and a sculpture gardens ring other areas of the site. The scheme—geared toward preserving the historic elements of the plaza complex—would retain the water fountain, though plans call for removing some of the taller stone elements of the installation. The fast and loose proposals raise questions regarding the care—or lack thereof—being taken with the Halprin-designed fountain as plans are being made for the future of the UN Plaza and surrounding spaces. Charles Birnbaum, president and CEO of TCLF, described the fountain as having a “high degree of integrity” and as a “slam-dunk landscape architecture contribution for the National Register of Historic Places.” Birnbaum explained that planners are mistaken to casually call for the elimination of a piece of high civic art via a public opinion survey and that the work was among the most intact of Halprin’s surviving San Francisco works. The fountain is eligible for the National Register and is actually located in an existing historic district, but under a designation that does not include the 1970s-era changes to the area. As a result, efforts to hastily rework the Civic Center’s public spaces threaten to sacrifice one of San Francisco’s major civic art works in lieu of seemingly generic and temporary sculptures. Further, the salad bar approach presented in the schemes—individual elements of from each of the proposals are also up for consideration, allowing the schemes to be mixed and matched—leaves much to be desired for Birnbaum, who would rather see more thoughtful community engagement for the site. Halprin—the “father of public engagement” according to Birnbaum—was known for artful collaboration with clients and users in his efforts to find responsive approaches for his often-interactive works and landscapes. For now, San Francisco will continue to collect public input through the summer so that the design team can generate a singular proposal for formal consideration.
Save The Bay
BIG, James Corner, SCAPE and Bionic unveil final proposals for Bay Area resiliency challenge
The year-long Resilient By Design | Bay Area Challenge ideas competition has sought to utilize community-led ecological design to “develop innovative solutions that will strengthen [the Bay Area’s] resilience to sea level rise, severe storms, flooding, and earthquakes.” Last week, the nine teams working with local communities and organizations on the competition unveiled final proposals for a collection of sites scattered around the San Francisco Bay. The nine sites represent a collection of some of the most ecologically fragile areas in the region, places that may see dramatic change in coming decades as climate change takes hold. The initiative seeks to begin to reposition these areas—some are densely-populated while others host vital regional infrastructure—for a climate change-addled future. For the competition, design teams led by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), James Corner Field Operations (JCFO), Tom Leader Studio (TLS) and others pursue efforts to restore regional wetlands and riparian floodplains while reorienting infrastructural investments and development to suit these new landscapes. The proposals were developed with an eye toward being implementable strategies. Next, communities and designers will work together with regional, state, and federal agencies to fully implement their plans. All nine proposals are broken down below: The Grand Bayway The Common Ground team led by TLS Landscape Architecture proposes to extend Highway 37 across San Pablo Bay by designing an elevated scenic causeway that would allow riparian landscapes to flow beneath the new multi-modal artery. The team proposes to deploy the causeway with flair by breaking out various lanes of travel into whispy overpasses that thread through the landscape including a grand, “mobility loop” encircling rich recreational areas. The design team is made up of Exploratorium, Guy Nordenson & Assoc., Michael Maltzan Architecture, HR&A Advisors, Sitelab Urban Studio, Lotus Water, Rana Creek, Dr. John Oliver, Richard Hindle, UC Berkeley, and Fehr & Peers Transportation Consultants. ouR-HOME The ouR-HOME project proposes to deploy a package of land-use reforms to incentivize small lot housing, community land trusts, social impact bonds, and new community infrastructure to prepare the community of North Richmond for climate change. The proposal calls for the construction of a new “horizontal levee” around the city that will protect it from potentially toxic runoff that could emanate from a nearby gasoline refinery during a flood. The vision also calls for planting 20,000 new trees to help “bring the marsh to Main Street,” an effort that aims to preserve and build upon existing community wealth in the majority African American and Latino enclave. The team is led by San Francisco-based architecture firm Mithun and includes the Chinatown Community Development Center, ISEEED/Streetwyze, BioHabitats, Integral Group, HR&A Advisors, Moffat & Nichol, ALTA Planning, Urban Biofilter, and Resilient Design Institute. Estuary Commons The Estuary Commons plan creates a new network of ecologically-focused public spaces along areas surrounding the estuaries of San Leandro Bay in Alameda County. The proposal calls for investments in bicycle greenways, secondary housing units, and inclusionary zoning reforms in order to “build resiliency within the community.” The social and environmental justice-focused bid also calls for burying a stretch of Interstate-880 running through Downtown Oakland in order to remedy past planning errors. The All Bay Collective—made up of AECOM, CMG Landscape Architecture, University of California, Berkeley- College of Environmental Design, Berkeley Center for New Media, The Terner Center, California College of the Arts, IDEO, Silvestrum, SKEO, modem, and David Baker Architects— is behind the scheme. Public Sediment for Alameda Creek The Public Sediment for Alameda Creek plan calls for reconnecting sediment flows between Alameda Creek and the bay’s wetlands in order to create a natural and ecologically-rich defense against floodwaters. The scheme revisions the currently-static flood control channels that criss-cross the southwestern edge of the Bay into redesigned estuaries, sediment traps, and berms that facilitate the build up of sediment while still allowing for public use and natural habitats. The team is led by SCAPE Landscape Architecture and also includes Arcadis, Dredge Research Collaborative, TS Studio, UC Davis Department of Human Ecology and Design, UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, and Buoyant Ecologies Lab. South Bay Sponge The South Bay Sponge proposal aims to use a mix of cut-and-fill excavations and zoning swaps to build densely on high ground along the southern edge of the Bay in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. The plan would create networks of “sponge” landscapes that absorb tidal flows and run off, efforts that would involve reorganizing urban fabric in these areas into dense nodes of habitation surrounded by water-friendly landscapes. The design team behind the proposal includes JCFO, Moffatt & Nichol, Magnusson Klemencic Associates, SF BAY National Estuarine Research Reserve, Romberg-Tiburon Center, SFSF, Andrea Baker Consulting, James Lima Planning + Development, The Bay Institute, SeArc / ECOncrete, HT Harvey and Associates, Playhou.se, and Adventure Pictures. Resilient South City The Hassell+ team proposes to create additional public green space and a continuous public access route along South San Francisco’s Colma Creek that would double as storm surge-absorbing infrastructure. The plan aims to reduce the impacts of flooding by utilizing a network of greenways and municipal parks to restore native ecologies. These areas would manage runoff from existing neighborhoods, creating new public open spaces along the way. The plan would revamp the city’s urban waterfront and make restorative alterations to Orange Memorial Park. The project team includes Lotus Water, Civic Edge, HATCH, Brown & Caldwell, Idyllist, and Page & Turnbull. Islais Hyper Creek The BIG, ONE, and Sherwood have teamed up for the Islais Hyper Creek Vision, a plan that aims to restore native landscapes around the creek while creating new nodes of waterborne urbanism. The team envisions transforming vast swaths along the creek into natural habitats and parks, with new clustered technology and industrial hubs scattered around the city. The proposal is dubbed as “an opportunity to bring the existing industrial ecosystem into the next economy.” The design team also includes Moffat & Nichol, Nelson Nygaard, Strategic Economics, The Dutra Group, and Stanford University. Designing our Own Solutions The Permaculture and Social Equity Team is proposing to utilize social design as a way of building a vision for Marin City, a diverse working class enclave located just north of San Francisco. The team’s social design project involved extensive community engagement and is focused on equity, placemaking, and public ownership. The team is made up of Pandora Thomas, Antonio Roman-Alcala , the Urban Permaculture Institute, Ross Martin Design, Alexander J. Felson, and Yale School of Architecture. Elevate San Rafael The Elevate San Rafael plan put forth by the Bionic team that proposes to reorganize the small city of San Rafael, pulling in its edges from flood-prone shorelines while building up higher elevations with dense housing and public infrastructure. The proposal would repurpose underutilized lots into flood planes flanked with housing, add floating recreational islands within the bay, and build up artificial reefs along the bay floor. The plan proposes to pair “time-tested approaches to coastal adaptation with a moral, financial, and infrastructural agenda” as a way of adequately planning for the city’s future. The team is made up of landscape architects Bionic, WXY, PennDesign, Michael Yarne, Enterprise, Moffatt & Nichol, WRA, RMA, SF State, Baycat, Studio for Urban Projects, RAD Urban, and KMA. For more information on the proposals, see the Resilient By Design Bay Area Challenge website.
In The Navy
San Diego’s largest, costliest development in city history begins construction on the waterfront
A massive $1.5 billion plan to redevelop a string of formerly Navy-owned properties along the San Diego waterfront is finally entering into the construction phase following years of delays and decades’ worth of planning and environmental review. The so-called Manchester Pacific Gateway development developed by San Diego-based Manchester Financial Group will bring over 3 million square feet of mixed-use development and a 1.9-acre park to eight ocean-fronting city blocks in the San Diego’s downtown area. The multi-phase project will be anchored by a new Navy headquarters, to be housed in a new 17-story, 372,000-square-foot mixed-use tower located at the heart of the project. The tower complex will also include: a 1,100-room convention hotel, a 29-story, 524,000-square-foot office tower, an eight-story, 178,000-square-foot office building, a six-story, 153,000-square-foot office tower, 290,000 square feet of retail spaces, and a 260-key luxury hotel, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Renderings for the project depict a collection of traditionally-styled high-rises with arched storefront windows along the ground floors and repetitive spans of curtainwall glass interrupted by vertical and horizontal bands of masonry detailing on upper levels. One of the tower blocks will consist of a pair of linked towers that are connected via a skywalk while other structures in the complex will feature stepped-back facades and punched openings along certain exposures. The two largest building clusters feature four-story podium structures that anchor the towers located above, with both podium levels topped with terraces and garden amenities, including an elliptical swimming pool. A site-wide pedestrian spine will run across the length of the properties and will transform into an interior, retail-lined arcade when it bisects the largest structure in the complex. An architect has not been named for the project. Work on all phases of the Manchester Pacific Gateway project is to be undertaken simultaneously, with the new Navy headquarters and several of the office towers scheduled to be completed in late 2020. The remaining project components are slated for a mid-2021 debut. The project is among a long list of waterfront redvelopment efforts in San Diego, including another $1.5 billion development for the Port of San Diego aimed at tourists and a 41-story “super prime” luxury tower by Kohn Pedersen Fox.
Aerial Rapid Transit Technologies, LLC has announced plans to construct a gondola system that would take passengers from the Los Angeles Union Station to Dodger Stadium. The $150 million plan was submitted to L.A.’s transit agency—Metro—as an unsolicited bid proposal, in line with Metro’s innovation-driven procurement efforts, The Source reports. The plan would link Los Angeles’s central transit node with the city’s baseball stadium located just two miles away in the hills above Echo Park. This gondola route is envisioned as an additional transit route meant to augment existing rapid bus service to the stadium and would ferry between 30 and 40 passengers per pod, shipping up to 5,000 passengers per hour during peak frequency. The proposal comes from former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and other private investors—McCourt sold his stake in the team in 2015 but continues to own a stake in the sea of parking lots that wrap the stadium. The gondola line would presumably serve to augment parking revenues, perhaps freeing up some of that land for other types of development. The Los Angeles Times reports that while ticket prices have not been pinned down for the gondola, it is expected that fares would fall below the cost of parking at the stadium, which currently stands at roughly $20. Regarding the unsolicited bid, Metro’s chief innovation officer Joshua Schank said, “We set up the unsolicited proposal process to encourage outside-the-box thinking when it comes to mobility and building new transportation infrastructure,” adding, “The Dodgers’s proposal is intriguing and we’re looking forward to reviewing the details.” The propsal is the latest urban gondola scheme proposed for an American city in recent months and the second such project envisioned for the hills surrounding Los Angeles. Earlier this year, officials in the city began weighing weather to construct a gondola system to reach L.A.’s Hollywood sign. Project backers are looking to Metro to help prepare environmental reviews for the project with the hope that a final route will be decided by 2019 or 2020. Ultimately, the gondola team is hoping to have the line running by opening day of the 2022 Major League Baseball season.
Just in time for spring, the venerable New York nonprofit Municipal Art Society (MAS) is hosting its annual Jane's Walk NYC, an on-foot (but by no means pedestrian) celebration of the city's architecture urbanism. This year, over 200 New Yorkers have volunteered to show others interesting buildings and sites around their neighborhoods. The walks, all of which are free, are named for beloved urbanist Jane Jacobs and are held annually on May 4 through 6 all over the world in her honor. Below, The Architect's Newspaper (AN) rounded up 13 of the most interesting strolls for architecture aficionados, from the Orphan Asylum and bird (mural) walks in Manhattan, to midcentury modern in Queens, and terra-cotta in Tottenville. All event descriptions are from MAS; head on over to mas.org/janes-walk-nyc for more details on the weekend's programs. Monumental Fire
Electric scooter companies receive cease-and-desist letter from City of San Francisco
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has filed a cease-and-desist order targeting the privately-operated dockless scooters that have seemingly taken over downtown San Francisco streets in recent weeks. In a letter sent to the three dockless scooter companies currently operating in the city, Herrera decried the upstarts for “continu(ing) to operate an unpermitted motorized scooter rental program in the City and County of San Francisco, creating a public nuisance on the city’s streets and sidewalks, and endangering public health and safety,” SFGate reports. The three companies—Bird, Spin, and LimeBike—have been operating throughout pockets of the city for at least the last three weeks, offering motorized scooter services for roughly a dollar per ride plus a per-minute fee. The Bird service was founded by Travis VanderZanden, a former Uber employee, while LimeBike started off as a dockless bikeshare company that has recently branched out to provide e-scooter services via its “Lime-S” scooters in San Diego, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Austin, and San Francisco, The Austin Statesman reports. Spin was founded in 2016 in San Francisco by Y Combinator, Uber, and Lyft alumni and offers both dockless bikeshare and dockless e-scooter services. The move comes as the San Francisco Board of Supervisors moves to consider initial regulations for the nascent industry, which has drawn complains from San Francisco residents for cluttering driveways and sidewalks with unused or broken scooters. Residents have also complained of e-scooters being used on sidewalks to the detriment of pedestrians, including disabled residents. The use of motorized vehicles on sidewalks is currently illegal in California. Via an open letter published on its website from Bird CEO VanderZanden, the company maintains a “save our sidewalks” policy that aims to return one dollar for each scooter in operation to the city while also pledging to maintain “responsible growth” and promote responsible scooter etiquette among its users. Dockless bikeshare and e-scooter industries have sprung up across the country in recent years as traditional bikeshare programs have flourished unevenly across American cities, often leaving behind communities of color and ignoring areas outside the city core. The new services often bill themselves are more convenient alternatives because the “smart” vehicles can be left and picked up seemingly anywhere due to their app-based location services and do not require expensive docking stations. But because municipal regulations largely do not exist for e-scooters and dockless bicycle systems have not typically undergone stringent environmental reviews, these services have created controversy wherever they have sprung up. The San Francisco Boards of Supervisors is set to take up e-scooter regulations later today.
Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti has announced his intention to declare a so-called “shelter crisis” in the city, announcing $20 million in new funding for emergency shelter services like tents, trailers, and temporary shelters. The new program—called “A Bridge Home”—will pave the way for the municipality to speed up the approval of new emergency shelter and transitional housing projects, as well, The Los Angeles Times reports. The announcement, made during Garcetti’s annual “State of the City” address, comes amid ever-increasing rates of homelessness among the city’s residents. According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, there were at least 34,189 Angelenos experiencing homelessness in 2017, up 20 percent from the previous year. In Los Angeles County, the number was much higher, with 57,794 county residents living in unsheltered conditions. With millions of Angelenos overly burdened by their rents and a state-wide housing affordability crisis that has no end in site, the extent of the city’s homelessness crisis is likely to continue to grow. That is, unless new efforts undertaken by city leaders can prove to be effective. Garcetti’s declaration comes on the heels of a series of new initiatives following the passage of Proposition HHH and Measure H in 2016 and 2017, respectively. The two homelessness alleviation measures aim, respectively, to utilize a $1.2 billion bond to build 10,000 new supportive housing units but while also directing resources toward preventing rent-burdened and recently-rehoused households from falling back into homelessness. While those 10,000 units make their way through the planning, design, and construction process, Measure H initiatives will work toward addressing the causes of homelessness on the ground today. The measure consists of 21 interconnected strategies aimed at tackling affordability issues and includes rental subsidies, job training programs, and funding for case management services while also promoting County-wide coordination between agencies on where new transitional and supportive housing developments can be located. Last week, the Los Angeles City Council moved to untangle regulatory approval for new shelters from conventional community review processes, a move that will convert these developments into by-right projects that do not require the types of tedious reviews that have slowed down their development across the city. The City Council also moved to pass a new ordinance allowing for existing motel properties across the city to be converted to rapid-rehousing sites. Los Angeles County is working to facilitate the rental of Accessory Dwelling Units to individuals and families who were formerly experiencing homelessness by allowing homeowners with ADUs on their properties to accept housing vouchers, as well. The pilot project is currently underway. All told, Garcetti aims to earmark nearly $430 million toward homelessness alleviation measures next year, including more than $238 million in funds generated from the Measure HHH funds.
Proof of Concept
Elon Musk to bypass environmental review for test tunnel in L.A.
Billionaire Elon Musk and his Boring Company are moving forward with plans to build an underground network of personal vehicle tunnels below the streets of Los Angeles. After drilling a preliminary tunnel below the Tesla and SpaceX company headquarters in nearby Hawthorne, California, the company is now moving forward with an additional 2.7-mile “proof-of-concept” tunnel for a “zero-emissions, high-speed, underground, alternative means of transit for personal vehicles and/or single-rider use” that will run under Sepulveda Boulevard on L.A.’s Westside. The test tunnel will begin at 2352-2356 South Sepulveda Boulevard, a property owned by The Boring Company, Urbanize.LA reports. From there, it will run roughly 30-70 feet below ground to an area below the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Sepulveda Boulevard in Culver City. The tunnel will not daylight at this point, according to initial documentation. The tunneling depth will allow the engineers to avoid underground utilities and other potential obstructions and is subject to change as conditions closer to the surface permit. Though the route has been vetted for the potential existence of archeological and paleontological materials, plans for independent monitors will be put in place should any sensitive resources be discovered over the course of work on the tunnel. In order to build the tunnel, The Boring Company has received a preliminary reprieve from California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) restrictions at the behest of the Los Angeles City Council, which will also take up the final approval for the concept on behalf of the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering if the test tunnels are successful. Further sections beyond the test tunnel will be subject to a variety of environmental and community reviews. The test tunnels will not be available for public use and will be used solely for testing of a proposed “skate” technology that could eventually be used to ferry automobiles and passengers throughout the system. The test tunnel is expected to be completed in nine months; a final timeline for approval and construction of a usable tunnel has not yet been released.
Fix it, pass it, build it
Controversial California housing bill is amended for both pro-housing and tenant advocates
California State Senator Scott Weiner has unveiled a slate of new amendments aimed at shoring up support behind his controversial housing bill—SB-827—that could potentially spell the beginning of a detente between pro-housing and social justice-focused advocacy groups in the state. In a Medium post published Monday night, Weiner laid the groundwork for this potential reconciliation by addressing some of the thorniest aspects of the bill critics have lamented thus far, while also proposing the addition of key new elements. Additions to SB-827 include mandatory affordable housing requirements, strengthening demolition controls outlined specifically by the bill, and doing away with the most significant height increases allowed by SB-827. Weiner’s bill has been heavily criticized from multiple angles since it was introduced earlier this year. On one side, NIMBY groups have decried the intended effects of the measure—densification along transit stops and an erosion of parking and height limits associated with development in these areas—while groups that represent low-income residents and communities of color have targeted the bill as yet another instance of top-down exploitation. In response to the latter set of critiques, Weiner added a bevy of pro-tenant fixes to the legislation several weeks ago, proposing a so-called “right to remain” that would require developers to offer new units to existing tenants for projects that benefit from the bill’s new development standards, among other fixes. The most recent crop of changes aims to further soften the edges of the bill, while making explicit elements that were only hinted at before. The biggest change comes from the addition of an affordable housing requirement for all but the smallest projects. The bill will now require between 10 and 20 percent of new units constructed to be set aside as deed-restricted affordable housing, with specific allotments made for “low income” and “very low income” households within these new guidelines. The highest inclusionary requirements are triggered for mixed-use projects consisting of 25 percent or more office space, according to the post, with projects made up of nine or fewer units exempt from inclusionary rules. While the proposed bill did not initially propose to strip away local control over building demolitions, the updated language would penalize developers who utilize California’s controversial Ellis Act provision to evict tenants from rent-controlled units. In a significant win for rent-stabilized households, the bill will halt the issuance of a demolition permit on properties that have recorded an Ellis Act eviction within the last five years, meaning that landlords will not be allowed to evict rent-controlled tenants in order to demolish an existing structure to make way for market-rate or luxury development. Going one step further, the bill will also aim for a so-called “no net loss” strategy that will force developers to replace any demolished rent controlled units lost in the process of redevelopment. These protections will apply in addition to the right-to-remain and inclusionary requirements, so if, for example, an existing 10-unit, rent-controlled structure is demolished, the new development must include 10 new rent-controlled units, add roughly one new deed-restricted affordable unit, and allow all ten existing tenants to take up their old leases at similar rents as before, with however many remaining new units set aside as market-rate homes. The new compromises represent a victory for social justice groups and low-income tenants and could potentially smooth out opposition to the bill in some of these communities, though that is yet to be seen. Another key change is that the bill would no longer totally eliminate parking requirements for transit-adjacent areas, but allows up to 0.5 parking stalls per unit for developments located along high-frequency bus routes and for developments located more than a quarter-mile from a rail stop or a ferry terminal. The bill will also require developers to issue monthly transit passes to building tenants. The new bill would also scrap a previous 85-foot height limit imposed on transit-adjacent properties in order to “focus the bill on 45- to 55-foot wood frame buildings,” which Weiner contends are more affordable to build than the steel structure buildings that would be required at the higher limit. The additional height limits will also no longer apply to rapid bus-adjacent sites, though those parcels will still benefit from lower parking and higher density restrictions. The bill is making its way toward formal hearings on the California State Senate floor. For more information on the changes, see Weiner’s post.