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State in Action

A wave of affordable and market-rate housing could soon wash ashore in California
In recent months, legislators in California have begun a concerted effort to use state law to address the state’s ongoing housing crisis. The moves come amid worsening regional inequality that has pushed housing affordability outside the reach of many populations. Facing mounting pressure from a growing cohort of pro-housing YIMBY activists and increasingly grim economic and social impacts—including a sharp increase in the number of rent-burdened households and the number of individuals and families experiencing homelessness—state-level legislators have begun to take action where municipal leaders have thus far stopped short. Late last year, the California State Legislature approved a bundle of housing-focused bills in what amounted to the first key win for state-led housing reform efforts. The legislature passed a total of seven bills aimed at streamlining permitting, enforcing regional housing production benchmarks, and preventing municipalities from down-zoning parcels or rejecting by-right projects. Several of the bills also aimed to stimulate new housing spending for affordable units, including a measure that will allow for a low-income housing–focused $3 billion bond to go onto the November 2018 statewide ballot and a measure that institutes a modest levy on certain real estate transactions in the state in order to raise up to $250 million each year for low income housing construction. The two combined measures could make over $8 billion in new funding available for affordable housing production over the next decade. These bills followed the adoption in late 2016 of a streamlined Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) ordinance that legalizes backyard homes across the state while also providing minimum zoning standards for ADUs that homeowners and developers can follow when local rules do not exist. The shift has led to a surge in ADU applications across California’s big and small cities alike, as homeowners move to build new ADUs while also legalizing existing bootlegged units. In a blow to NIMBY activists, the move also essentially doubled the residential density of the state’s single-family zoned lots overnight, with the added benefit that ADUs developed in certain areas—historic districts, ½-mile from transit—could be built without added parking. A recent report from the University of California, Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation concluded that “ADUs are poised to play a significant role in alleviating California’s housing crisis and state, regional, and local leaders should continue to examine ways in which barriers to this type of development can be removed.” The report cited an explosion in building permits for ADUs following their legalization, with 1,980 units pending in Los Angeles for 2017 compared with just 90 the year prior. Efforts are currently underway to continue to streamline ADU development at the state level. Hopes of using state law to right California’s housing market were boosted further this year by the introduction of SB 827, a transformative new state law that would, among other things, override local planning code to raise height limits and boost density while abolishing parking requirements for lots located near mass transit. The bill is authored by State Senator Scott Wiener—one of the authors of several of the 2017 housing bills—and has the backing of many of the state’s increasingly influential pro-housing activists. Specifically, for properties located within ¼ mile of a transit corridor or one block from a major transit stop, the bill would disallow height limits lower than 85 feet, except for when a particular parcel fronts a street 45 feet or less in width, in which case the minimum height limit would drop to 55 feet. The bill would also forbid height limits below 55 feet for all areas ½ mile from transit routes. The law, if passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, would also forbid the imposition of minimum parking requirements for parcels within a ½-mile radius of a transit stop or within a ¼-mile radius from a transit corridor. One of the bill’s strengths is that these provisions lump high-performing bus routes in with light and heavy rail infrastructure, making their potential effects across the state quite vast, as many of its major cities have extensive bus networks. Wiener’s bill is seen widely as a potentially earth-shattering piece of legislation that would upend decades’ worth of ever-tightening local control—often at the expense of density and new construction. The abolition of parking minimums in particular would represent a sea-change in car-loving California, where parking takes up a lot of space and significantly adds to the cost of building new housing. Policy Club, a collective of digitally-savvy professionals who aim to utilize data to help politicians craft “smarter public policies that will move the needle on some of California’s most pressing challenges” has generated a visualization that postulates what some of the changes in density, parking, and maximum height might look like for the City of Los Angeles. Hunter Owens, a Policy Club contributor, explained that, at least in L.A., parking reductions associated with the bill will do the most to change the way the city builds in response to the bill. Owens said, "We were surprised to find that it's the parking requirements that are keeping building heights and density down," adding that many potentially affected areas in L.A. already benefit from lenient height limits. Doing away with parking requirements would allow housing developers to build more of the units they are entitled to build and make for a more efficient use of land, the maps show. The group is currently working to digitize city planning codes from across the state in an effort to create more visualizations. Another potential benefit from the bill would be the dramatic increase in the number of new sites where deed-restricted affordable housing units could potentially be built if SB 827 and the affordable housing bond pass later this year, according to Brian Hanlon of California YIMBY. SB 827 would permit nonprofit developers to build affordable housing in many so-called "high-opportunity" areas throughout the state that currently prohibit dense development. The bill would also dramatically expand the production of deed-restricted affordable housing in cities with inclusionary zoning policies, since building market-rate homes also requires providing homes for low-income Californians, Hanlon explained. These changes could make deed-restricted affordable housing an additional major force in resolving the crisis by incentivizing—rather than requiring—inclusionary development along transit routes. That component as well as the other provisions of the law could generate “millions” of potential new units, according to Hanlon’s early projections. Though official estimates are still pending, the prospect for lots of new housing construction are good if SB 827 passes later this year.
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Design Gaols

City taps Perkins Eastman to research alternatives to Rikers
New York City has tapped Perkins Eastman to study the design and location of new city jails to replace Rikers Island, the detention facility that's slated for shutdown over the next decade. The ten-month, almost $7.6 million contract asks the New York firm to study three existing jails in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan. The architects will look at sites for new detention facilities, especially in the Bronx, where the borough's main facility is "the Boat," a jail on the barge in the East River. Perkins Eastman selected 17 subcontractors to assist with the project, including Atelier TenWSP (formerly WSP | Parsons Brinkerhoff), W Architecture & Landscape Architecture, and RicciGreene Associates, a New York firm that specializes in jails. Community engagement consultants Fitzgerald & Halliday and the Osborne Association, a nonprofit that serves justice-involved individuals, are the only non-engineering, architecture, real estate development, or planning firms on the list. Along with these collaborators and the city, Perkins Eastman will reach out to neighborhood groups, study the environmental impact of the jails, and ideate on designs. This will be the firm's first detention facilities project. "The physical expressions of what jails look like, where they’re located, and what happens inside of them will determine what kind of system we’ll have, and it’s critical that we’re thinking about jails not as places that are far away on islands and hard to get to, but as part of the ebb and flow of a neighborhood," said Elizabeth Glazer, director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, in a prepared statement. The borough-based facilities will be integrated with their neighborhoods, in contrast to Rikers, and they will be designed to accommodate education, vocational, health, and re-entry services to inmates. At the end of the study, which is officially the pre-schematic design services for a forthcoming citywide jail services master plan, the team is expected to produce three conceptual designs, complete with plans, sections, elevations, and renderings, along with cost estimates. Last November, the city issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the study, and Perkins Eastman was selected from four eligible respondents. Although the Department of Correction (DOC) is the lead agency on this study, the RFP was initiated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ), the Department of Design and Construction (DDC), and the DOC. The news comes as the Rikers shutdown, announced last year, begins in earnest. In early January the city announced it will be closing the first of ten jails on the island this summer. Right now, there are about 8,700 people in jails citywide, but the city says it needs less than 5,000 inmates to close Rikers for good. Perkins Eastman Spokesperson Amber Zilemba confirmed that work should begin shortly. [H/T The Wall Street Journal]
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Adjudicated Housing

One of California's largest developments wins key legal battle
A judge has ruled that CityPlace, a long-stalled mixed-use development slated for a former municipal landfill site adjacent to the new Levi’s football stadium in Santa Clara, California, can finally head toward construction, despite vocal opposition from the neighboring city of San Jose. The $5.6-billion project is being developed by Related Companies and is designed by RTKL and Elkus Manfredi Architects as a mixed-use transit-oriented development populated with offices, storefronts, housing, and green spaces. However, the project has been caught up in a lawsuit for months over objections from San Jose officials regarding the relatively small amount of housing available in the plans for the development, Mercury News reports. The 240-acre complex is expected to bring 5.4 million square feet of offices, 1.1 million square feet of retail, a 700-key hotel, 250,000 square feet of “food and beverage,” and 190,000 square feet of entertainment uses to the area. The project is also estimated to generate over 25,000 jobs, but will only provide 1,680 residential units to house those potential workers, and the arrangement has San Jose officials worried that their housing-strapped city will be left housing the remaining workforce. As is consistently the case in California due to Proposition 13—a 1970s-era initiative that caps property taxes on homes—smaller municipalities like Santa Clara are disincentivized from producing and approving housing-heavy developments in lieu of more lucrative commercial and office projects. The end result—as is evident across Silicon Valley—is that many projects are designed with little to no housing, an arrangement that, aside from limiting more environmentally-benign mixed-use development, has fueled the state’s ongoing housing crisis. With CityPlace, San Jose city officials are worried the new jobs-heavy development will tax existing schools, streets, and other public infrastructure with new residents, while simultaneously adding to the pool of people who work in the area but cannot find a place live nearby. The Environmental Impact Report for the 9.2 million-square-foot project, however, looked into these concerns and was approved by the Santa Clara City Council in 2016 nonetheless, after completion of a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review by state regulators. The judge’s ruling cited these approvals as reason for the project to continue to move forward. The project is among the largest new developments on the west coast and is among several densification projects slated for the region surrounding San Francisco. If built according to the current timeline, the first phase of the project will begin construction in 2019 and finish around 2022. Later phases would be built over the following five- to 10-years, depending on market conditions.
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Double Feature

Could L.A. get a second Hollywood sign?
A newly-released report aimed at finding ways to increase public access to Los Angeles’s Hollywood sign without impacting surrounding residential neighborhoods has made a few surprising recommendations, including the potential of erecting a duplicate sign on the opposite slope of the Hollywood Hills favoring the San Fernando Valley. The report, released earlier this week, was drafted by consultants Dixon Resources Unlimited at the behest of Los Angeles City Council District 4, amid complaints from local residents who would like to see public access to the site restricted. Homeowners in the areas surrounding the sign have complained of higher rates of traffic over recent years, as the sign’s popularity has boomed in the fitness-crazed Instagram age. The sign itself is not formally recognized as a public space, but many people access the grounds via a network of public hiking trails throughout Griffith Park. The sign—visible from across the region and perhaps best seen in sequence, coming in and out of view from twisty Mulholland Drive—is widely photographed from within surrounding neighborhoods, creating traffic and endangering pedestrians. In 2017, the city closed the popular Beachwood Canyon trailhead that leads to the sign, due to neighborhood outcry. Although vehicular access has been maintained to the trailhead, hikers and sign watchers traveling on foot are now instructed to use alternative entrances to the park. Still, however, demand to reach the site is ever-increasing and the City is searching for potential solutions that benefit both sides. The report recommends 29 potential fixes. Many of the proposed solutions involve instituting common sense improvements like additional wayfinding and pedestrian-friendly designs. Other potential solutions, like increasing parking fines and blocking views of the sign from residential streets using new plantings, are directly aimed at making it more difficult to see or access the sign at all. Several suggestions, however, stand out as more highly visible initiatives that would represent substantial investments in public infrastructure while also re-tooling the Hollywood sign’s significance in the city’s urban imaginary as a physical place rather than simply something to observe from afar. Among the larger-scale potential solutions in the report, perhaps most radical is the notion of creating a second Hollywood sign along the northern slope of the Hollywood Hills overlooking the San Fernando Valley. The duplicate sign, the report contends, could “spread out the impact of photo-seekers to both sides of the park.” The report also suggests the potential of adding more than one replica, as well as several ideas for creating a visitor center, viewing platform, transportation terminal, and even a network of gondolas to reach the sign. For now, the recommendations will be taken under consideration; a timeline for the final selection of actionable concepts and their implementation has not been released.
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BIG Bay

BIG proposes floating villages for San Francisco Bay
Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has unveiled a speculative design proposal that aims—among many aspects—to populate the San Francisco Bay with floating villages as part of an effort to buttress the region against climate change–induced flooding. The proposal is undertaken with One Architecture + Urbanism (ONE) and Sherwood Design Engineers and is among a slate of ten newly-announced schemes generated for the Resilient By Design Bay Area Challenge, a regional competition aimed toward generating ideas for how to best protect the Bay Area from rising sea levels. Projections for the region call for a minimum of four feet in sea level rise under moderate warming conditions by 2100. The changes would bring flooding to the area much more frequently than is currently the case, a development that would devastate coastal communities. Many of those communities are built atop landfills over former marsh areas and tidal zones. BIG’s proposal takes two routes in its effort to achieve its ambitious goals. First, the plan calls for restoring Islais Creek—a stubby inlet on the San Francisco side of the Bay sandwiched between the Dogpatch and Hunters Point neighborhoods—as part a larger plan for retrofitting the entire San Francisco Bay’s edge. BIG’s conceptual masterplan for the San Francisco Bay envisions restoring the wetlands along the water’s edge lost to development while redistributing new population centers into the bay to create an urban archipelago connected by public ferries. The plan also proposes relocating and expanding the existing network of industrial, port, and warehouse activities into more compact configurations surrounded by trails, marshes, and parkland. The scheme also calls for modernizing a stretch of Interstate-101 as a “machine for autonomous collective transit,” as explained by BIG founder Bjarke Ingels in a presentation video. The plan would create a Bus Rapid Transit loop in the south Bay that will anchor and connect new density nodes. The plan would extend to the southern edges of the Bay, as well, where existing salt palm and tidal marsh areas will be revisioned into experimental urban agriculture zones. The proposal is joined by schemes from James Corner Field Operations and Hassell+, among other multidisciplinary groups, and follows a year-long research period that brought together designers, landscape architects, planners, politicians, and community activists from across the region. For more information, see the Resilient by Design: Bay area Challenge website.
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Tower Up

Kengo Kuma, Natoma Architects join SOM and JCFO to revitalize Pereira complex in L.A.
Kengo Kuma and Associates and Natoma Architects have been added to the project team for the recently-revealed 1111 Sunset Boulevard development slated for the former Metropolitan Water District (MWD) headquarters on the edge of Downtown Los Angeles. The announcement of the expanded team—which also includes SOM and James Corner Field Operations (JCFO)—came this week along with a fresh set of renderings for the 5.5-acre project. With the project, Los Angeles–based developer Palisades is looking to transform a derelict section of William Pereira’s MWD headquarters into a 778-unit mixed-use enclave containing retail, public open spaces, and a boutique hotel designed by Kuma. The development consists of three high-rise towers that sit atop a continuous and permeable podium spanning the sloped site. According to the renderings, the complex will contain a cluster of low-rise apartments at one corner surrounding underground parking for a pair of housing towers. As those apartments terrace up the hill, they will give way to a shared plaza at the base of the high-rise towers. Project renderings depict a pair of 30- to 40-story tall towers along this section of the site. Each of the towers rises from the podium on a gigantic pod containing a solid, monolithic core. Roughly five stories up, the tower’s typical floor plates begin to cantilever over the plaza, leaving an open viewshed several stories high from the plaza. The move is an attempt by the designers to minimize the heft of the project along its lower levels and an effort, as well, to preserve certain views for existing hillside residences located directly behind the development. The renderings also depict certain portions of the Pereira structure reused as ground floor amenity spaces. JCFO is developing the project’s more than two acres of landscaped areas. In terms of plantings, renderings depict clusters of palm trees, jacaranda trees along the street, and succulent-bordered lawn areas overlooking Downtown Los Angeles. The project will share the site with Linear City’s Elysian tower development, a portion of the existing Pereira-designed complex that David Lawrence Gray Architects repurposed in 2014. 111 Sunset is among several high-rise, high-density projects slated for the area. An official timeline for the project has not been released. See the project website for more information.
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ICYMI

NYC inaugural 'cultural impact' grants partner arts nonprofits with city agencies

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl have announced seven partnerships for the inaugural Mayor’s Grant for Cultural Impact (MGCI). The selected initiatives are meant to equitably enhance existing services or public assets while addressing issues like urban planning, literacy, public heath, and criminal justice.

"Our CreateNYC cultural plan called for thoughtful, innovative ways to integrate our [city]'s creative energy into public service. Today, we continue to put that into action," said Mayor Bill de Blasio, in prepared remarks. "When [city] government works hand in hand with community anchors, we can deliver the cultural access and equity which all New Yorkers deserve." MGCI grows out of CreateNYC, the city's cultural blueprint. That initiative found "major potential" for these types of government-nonprofit collaborations across the arts. The participating organizations were selected through an application process and an open call. Each collaboration garners $50,000 in cash from the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) and $25,000 in matching funds or in-kind services from the partnering group. Taken together, the collaborations are worth over a half a million dollars. In East New York, Brooklyn, neighborhood nonprofit ARTs East NY is teaming up with the Department of City Planning (DCP) for CivLab, a project to activate an underused public space in Success Garden, a slice of green on Williams Avenue between the Livonia L and Pennsylvania Ave 2/3 trains. While building off of the city's rezoning of the neighborhood for higher density and more affordable housing, the project will try to integrate the arts into civic life.

"We are excited to take part in this extension of the CreateNYC Cultural Plan. This initiative will allow us to deepen our work with community members in revitalizing vacant spaces in the East New York community, replacing them with reflective beauty and pride," said Catherine Green, founder and executive director of ARTs East New York.

Like the six other teams, ARTs East NY and DCP have until June 30—the end of the fiscal year—to carry out their program.

Other partnerships include the Bronx Documentary Center's collaboration with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, and a joint Carnegie Hall–Department of Probation initiative. A full list and project descriptions can be found here.

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Parks over Parking

Santa Monica looks to cap Interstate 10 in new downtown plan
Local planning politics on Los Angeles's Westside is in a sad state of affairs. There, a municipally-led push to complete city streets by adding bicycle infrastructure and other pedestrian improvements has been met with fierce opposition from local drivers. Recent efforts in L.A’s Mar Vista neighborhood, for example, grew so toxic that community members launched a now-stalled recall bid to remove Mike Bonin—the local council person who champions the so-called “road diets” as well as the city’s Vision Zero plan those diets support—from office. The embarrassing spectacle has thrown into question the commitment L.A. residents have not only toward prioritizing the City’s plan for eliminating all traffic deaths by 2025, but also their reluctance to take personal responsibility for reducing transportation-related carbon emissions across the region. Nevertheless, there might be hope yet. That hope comes in the form of a new downtown plan taking root just a few blocks from Mar Vista, in the City of Santa Monica. The beachside municipality recently approved its new Downtown Community Plan (DCP), a document that looks to convert downtown Santa Monica into a “complete community” offering dense urban housing, multi-modal transportation options, and a healthy sprinkling of public open and green spaces. The city’s planning agency has taken a variety of steps to promote this vision by increasing maximum Floor-Area-Ratios for sites that include housing development in certain zones, eliminating parking minimums for some types of new construction, and pushing to reconfigure downtown streets in the image of universal transport. Through this new plan, the municipality is working to expand the functionality of its sidewalks and streets by increasing their capacity to support bicycle infrastructure, demarcating specific loading zones for buses and ride sharing services, and recognizing key “signature sidewalk” areas that will strategically enhance street life. The plan indicates that Santa Monica city officials are keenly aware that the future of the L.A. region will depend just as much on what happens in the spaces between buildings as it will on the buildings themselves. Critically, the plan also calls for capping the western terminus of Interstate 10 with a new park, a move that would fully transform the southern edge of the city into a civic and commercial node while also providing the city with an opportunity to rework surface streets to better accommodate the new focus on multi-modal transport. The section of I-10 in question sits in a 20-feet-below-grade channel spanning roughly 7,000 feet across what was once the city’s civic core; the stretch of highway is bounded on one side by Santa Monica City Hall and Ken Genser Square and on the other by the James Corner Field Operations–designed Tongva Park. Santa Monica Lookout reports that the DCP’s Gateway Master Plan element—the document spelling out just how the highway-adjacent areas are to be redesigned—will go up for consideration by the city’s Department of Planning and Community Development sometime this spring. The department recently issued a report that includes support for the freeway cap as part of several long-term changes for the city. The report describes the freeway park’s ability to offer a “unique opportunity for strengthening connections” within the city as a principal reason for its construction. Aside from proposing a specific, multi-modal plan for reconnecting the city’s street grid, the Gateway Master Plan will envision a method for reworking and connecting several key sites surrounding the future park, including an adjacent Sears department store complex, the Santa Monica Civic Center, and nearby Expo Line and Big Blue Bus stations. Although calls for the freeway cap park in Santa Monica date back to the 1980s, recent years have seen a bevy of proposals for similar installations across the Los Angeles region, including over Interstate 110 in Downtown Los Angeles and over U.S. Route 101 in Hollywood. Another proposal is still in the works to cap another portion of U.S. Route 101 with an overpass that would allow local mountain lions and other fauna to traverse the highway safely. Though Santa Monica’s freeway cap is still in the early stages of approval, the municipality expects to implement the initial phases of the Gateway Master Plan by 2021. An official timeline for the freeway cap park has not been released.
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Greening the Bay

Brooklyn's Jamaica Bay waterfront slated for huge state park

Like the generous soul in the "Twelve Days of Christmas," Governor Andrew Cuomo likes to bestow gifts—usually big-ticket public projects—on the people of New York right before his annual State of the State address. In his speech this week, the governor dropped news that a new 400-acre state park is coming to Jamaica Bay, Brooklyn. Today (the Twelfth Night!), the governor's office, in conjunction with federal and local agencies, released more details on the forthcoming waterside green space, which, after Freshkills, will be New York City's second huge park on a former garbage dump.

The planned park will sit atop the former Pennsylvania Avenue and Fountain Avenue landfills, which ceased operation in 1983. The sites, separated from each other by Hendrix Creek and from the rest of the neighborhood by the Shore and Belt parkways, is just a short jaunt from the Gateway Mall in East New York. Eleven years after the dumps closed, the land was given to the National Park Service as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, an archipelago of open spaces in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and New Jersey. In 2009, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection completed a $235 million site remediation effort that prepared the land for other, non-garbage uses. Now, the newly-planted grasses and woodlands undergird coastal ecosystems and ease erosion along three and a half miles of shoreline. Plus, there are gorgeous views of New York Harbor and Jamaica Bay.

"This new state park will be a treasure in the heart of Brooklyn, offering hundreds of acres of beautiful parkland on the shores of Jamaica Bay," Governor Cuomo said, in a statement. "We are committed to ensuring every New Yorker can access the recreational, health and community benefits of open space, and this park will open new doors to wellness for New Yorkers who need it most."

New York State has inked preliminary deals with the National Park Service to plan the park's financial future and maintenance operations. Under the agreement, New York State Parks will develop and run the park in collaboration with the Department of the Interior, the National Park Service and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. Phase one of the project is funded by $15 million in state money, part of which will go towards building biking and hiking trails, fishing spots, and kayaking infrastructure, as well as park vitals like restrooms, shading, and food stands. The first phase, open next year, will also include coastal highlands planted with native species. At 407 acres, the green space will be a little less than half the size of Central Park. The landfill park is in East New York, one of the target areas of Vital Brooklyn, Cuomo's $1.4 billion revitalization initiative focused on the central Brooklyn neighborhoods of BrownsvilleFlatbush, Crown Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant and East New York.
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Parking Patterns

2017 Best of Design Awards for Infrastructure
2017 Best of Design Awards for Infrastructure: 10th and Wyandotte Parking Garage Architect: BNIM Location: Kansas City, Missouri A collaboration between an architecture firm and a ceramics artist provides much-needed parking in the urban core of Kansas City, integrating green space and artful possibilities. The artist's process for crafting the ceramic inserts was a thoughtful effort to make the garage beautiful from a distance and to the touch. A palette of eight colors makes the tiles visible from far away and contrasts with the precast concrete. Up close, there is a subtle pattern on the tile surfaces. The team made the conscious decision for the ceramics to be the only rounded shape in the design, softening the hard, orthogonal lines of the structure. Working within code and building requirements, and collaborating with the engineers, the artist created more than 2,000 dimorphic, stretched-out oval tiles. "It is always good to see the parking garage go from eyesore to moment of respite in the city. The collaboration of the BNIM and Brayman has produced a beautiful and unexpected facade." – Matt Shaw, senior editor, The Architect's Newspaper (juror) Artist: Andy Brayman / The Matter Factory Developer: MC Realty Group Structural Engineer: Bob D. Campbell MEP Engineer: Custom Engineering Civil Engineer: Taliaferro & Browne
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Fast Tracked

L.A. mayor to announce 28 transit projects for completion before 2028 Olympics
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is preparing to announce a final slate of projects for his "28 by 28" initiative before the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (Metro) board of directors this week. Garcetti’s effort aims to complete 28 regional transit projects before Los Angeles hosts the summer Olympics in 2028. The proposal includes a collection of projects already planned under a recently passed transportation funding ballot initiative called Measure M, urbanize.LA reports. Measure M is slated to bring $860 million per year to regional transit projects that Metro will utilize to diversify regional transportation options. According to a plan posted to the Metro website, Garcetti’s initiative includes 16 projects planned under Measure M and a previous transit measure. These projects include light rail and bus rapid transit (BRT) expansions across the region, as well as several highway improvement and widening efforts. The plan calls for expanding six light rail lines, which includes the completion of new light rail lines to Crenshaw in South Los Angeles, Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley, and Santa Ana in the southeast. Also included are a slew of regional BRT projects in the northern San Fernando Valley along Vermont Avenue and through Glendale. The collected projects have the potential to reshape the region’s urban geography, as evidenced by the explosion of transit-oriented development proposed along the recently extended Expo light rail line in West Los Angeles. The areas around the first phase of the Purple Line subway extension are already booming with high-density, mixed-use developments. Further information on the 28 by 28 plan is forthcoming. See the Metro website for the official Measure M transit expansion roll-out schedule. 
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440-Feet

Oakland's tallest tower is on the way
A new project under development by Oakland, California–based Lowney Architecture and developer Pinnacle RED aims to bring the East Bay its newest—and tallest—mixed-use tower. The forthcoming 36-story tower will be located at 1261 Harrison Street and will bring 185 apartment units, 120,000 square feet of Class A office space, and 12,000 square feet of commercial uses to downtown Oakland, potentially transforming that city’s downtown Chinatown neighborhood. The 440-foot tower is billed as the city’s only mixed-use tower under development that combines commercial functions with affordable and market-rate housing under one roof. The arrangement is a by-product of the development’s utilization of a density bonus, which allows the developer to build taller and more densely in exchange for providing affordable housing units on-site.  The complex will be anchored on the ground floor by a market hall–style food court with a “locavore” focus. The tower is designed along the street to match the massing and “neighborhood rhythm” of surrounding commercial storefronts, according to Ken Lowney, principal at Lowney Architecture. The 11 floors above street level will be occupied by office spaces with the uppermost levels containing condominiums and maisonettes. Lowney told The Architect’s Newspaper that the lower level will house community-serving establishments that could potentially include current retail tenants occupying an existing commercial structure on the site that will give way to the development. Under the potential plan, a local bicycle shop will return to manage the building’s 185-stall bicycle parking facilities, for example. The project provides an automated 185-stall underground garage, though parking is not required for the site. The gridded glass tower complex grows from its contextual base in a canted fashion, splitting into two alternating masses as it rises up. The tower’s bifurcated facades are wrapped in a gridded frame that extends the depth of the building’s curtain walls out from each facade. The non-structural application of these gridded frames is a leftover from earlier design iterations that called for an externally-structured tower. Instead, the building is held up by internal beams and columns, a shear core, and moment frames. The glass panels that infill these frames are decorated with multicolored metal panels that are designed to reference surrounding conditions, with warmer, brick-like tones coloring lower levels and clear-blue panels populating the uppermost sections of the tower. In a statement, Mark Donahue of Lowney Architecture said,“We strove for a distinctive design by breaking up the building’s mass so that it appears as two towers, but is really one structure,” adding that the tower was designed to “match the façades of nearby, character-rich buildings.” The development is currently undergoing planning approval. 1261 Harrison Street is expected to take roughly two years to complete once plans are approved.