Posts tagged with "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.
Salesforce Tower’s nine-story steel topper is set to light up San Francisco permanently starting tomorrow night, as video artist Jim Campbell’s enormous animations will start broadcasting from the top. The tower’s 130-foot-tall, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects-designed crown is hollow and has been clad in perforated aluminum panels–ostensibly to lessen the bullet-shaped building’s impact on the skyline. Using imagery from cameras scattered around the city (and 11,000 LEDs inside of the crown), Campbell will translate traffic, the sky, and each night’s sunsets into a public art piece visible for 20 miles in every direction. The fleeting, ephemeral images are an ode to the city’s vibrancy and energy.
During a test run last Wednesday, giant ballerinas could be seen dancing across a beige background over 1,000 feet in the air. The tower’s signature piece, Day for Night, will start by showing the colors of that night’s sunset, followed by constellations against the night sky until the sun rises again. While the top nine floors of the Salesforce Tower are unoccupied and were used to push the building into “tallest in San Francisco” territory, only the upper six floors will be used to stage Campbell’s installation. The remaining three will hold the required equipment and will be bathed in a strong light to form a base for the animation above. While the punctured panels could theoretically show any images, Campbell swears that his work won’t be used for advertisements or to mark holidays. San Francisco Chronicle. The developers, designers, and engineers behind Salesforce Tower will be presenting on their work at the next Facades+ conference in San Francisco, taking place on June 7.
Salesforce Tower light show. Is this new? pic.twitter.com/ClsCBcLOBH— Steve Mnich (@SteveMnich) May 16, 2018
California College of the Arts (CCA) has named Keith Krumwiede as its new dean of architecture. Krumwiede comes to CCA from the American Academy in Rome, where he is currently a Rome Prize Fellow in Architecture. Krumwiede is an award-winning educator who has explored the relationship between architecture and its cultural, social, and political contexts in his prior work, including most recently in a book titled Atlas of Another America: An Architectural Fiction. The 2016 book is written as a satirical assessment of the American Dream that takes place in a “fictional, but uncannily familiar, suburban utopia,” according to a press release. In 2017, the book received an Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture Faculty Design Award. Keith Krumwiede’s appointment as dean of architecture follows the appointments of Allison Smith as dean of CCA’s fine arts department and of Tina Takemoto as the new dean of humanities and sciences earlier this spring. The appointments come amid a major expansion of the CCA campus in San Francisco by Chicago-based Studio Gang that aims to consolidate the school’s disparate campuses into a unified whole. Recently-revealed renderings for the expansion highlight a collection of open structures surrounding an elevated terrace as well as new multi-functional courtyards that will connect the old and new structures. The school also recently completed a new student apartment building by Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects that will work toward CCA’s goal of adding up to 1,000 additional beds to the campus’s residential accommodations by 2025.
The Architectural League of New York has announced the winners of its 37th annual Architectural League Prize for Young Architects + Designers, meant to highlight and foster up-and-coming architectural and design talent. This year’s theme, Objective, asked entrants to examine the role of objectivity in today’s society when the notion is simultaneously elevated as well as undermined by technology, science, and politics. If we truly do live in a post-truth world, what does objectivity mean for architecture? The 2018 winners, decided through a portfolio competition, are as follows: Anya Sirota of Akoaki, Detroit Akoaki was cofounded by Sirota and Jean Louis Farges in 2008. The Detroit-based architecture and design studio explores reviving urban spaces in their home city through the use of eye-catching temporary installations that encourage public participation. Some of their more otherworldly designs include a frost generator and a trompe l’oeil “red carpet” in Los Angeles. Sirota is an assistant professor of architecture at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Bryony Roberts of Bryony Roberts Studio, New York Bryony Roberts is a New York-based research and design firm founded in 2011 that actively combines, art, architecture, and preservation. Bryony Roberts actively works to reinvigorate historical places with new life, and the firm has worked on everything from a series of marble tile studies to choreographing dancers in Rome. Roberts herself is an adjunct professor of architecture and preservation at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. Gabriel Cuéllar and Athar Mufreh of Cadaster, Brooklyn The Brooklyn-based Cadaster, founded in 2016 by Cuéllar and Mufreh, is an architecture studio whose work explores the cross-section between architecture and territory. Their most recent work includes the research project Subversive Real Estate: The Landholding Patterns of American Black Churches, and Upstate Ecologies: Regional Vision for the New York Canal System, the firm’s entry into the international planning competition for the future of New York State’s canal systems. Coryn Kempster of Julia Jamrozik and Coryn Kempster, Buffalo Julia Jamrozik and Coryn Kempster, cofounded by Kempster and Julia Jamrozik in 2014, focuses on the roles that experience and memory play in architecture. The Buffalo-based firm has built abstract play fields and super-efficient single family homes, but the same attention to detail and user interaction is found throughout their portfolio. Kempster is an adjunct assistant professor of architecture at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Alison Von Glinow and Lap Chi Kwong of Kwong Von Glinow, Chicago Kwong Von Glinow was founded in 2017 by Von Glinow and Kwong and operates out of Chicago. While still young, the architecture studio has already won plenty of recognition for its radical reinterpretation of forms, including its plans for a modular apartment tower in New York and community-centered apartment high-rises in Hong Kong. Kwong teaches as an adjunct professor of architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and Von Glinow is a part-time professor of architecture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Dan Spiegel of SAW // Spiegel Aihara Workshop, San Francisco SAW // Spiegel Aihara Workshop, co-founded in 2011 by Spiegel and Megumi Aihara, works at the intersection between architecture and urban design. Their portfolio spans everything from the front desk of the Casper office to a try-on truck for lingerie startup True & Co. SAW was also recently recognized with an AN 2017 Best of Design Awards for Young Architects. Spiegel currently teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, and California College of the Arts. The jury for this year’s prize was composed of 2018 Young Architects + Designers Committee, as well as Tatiana Bilbao, Jorge Otero-Pailos, Georgeen Theodore, and Claire Weisz. From June 21 through August 4, an exhibition featuring an installation from each of the winners will be installed at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at the Parsons School of Design / The New School, Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries, 66 Fifth Avenue. On June 21 at 7:00 PM, Gabriel Cuéllar and Athar Mufreh, Coryn Kempster, and Bryony Roberts will be giving lectures in the exhibition space. On June 22 at 7:00 PM, Alison Von Glinow and Lap Chi Kwong, Anya Sirota, and Dan Spiegel will be giving their lectures in the same location. The Architectural League has also announced the publication of Young Architects 18: (im)permanence, a collection of projects from the 2016 League Prize Winners.
Studio Gang and California College of the Arts (CCA) have unveiled new renderings for a planned three-year expansion of the school’s San Francisco campus. The renderings offer the first glimpse into how the Chicago-based architects will rework the arts college as CCA moves to consolidate its San Francisco and East Bay campuses by taking over a parking lot adjacent to the original school site in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood. Renderings depict four rectangular buildings set on an elevated plinth behind the existing school, with a pair of sunken courtyards and lawn spaces populating the areas between the buildings. The concrete-wrapped podium steps down to meet the existing school, leaving a third, block-long courtyard space in between the two structures. The new buildings, according to the renderings, are designed with perimeter circulation wrapping enclosed classroom spaces and feature what looks like heavy timber construction. The buildings are shown with large-scale super truss elements along exterior walls and are topped by solar arrays. CCA’s expansion will also include a residential component by additional architects including Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects that seeks to add up to 1,000 additional beds to the campus’s residential accommodations by 2025. The campus expansion is being designed to house the college’s 2,000 students, 600 faculty members, 250 staff members, and 34 academic programs all one site, as outlined by the school’s “Framing the Future” visioning plan, a scheme developed in 2015 by Gensler and MKthink to guide the school’s next 85 years. Studio Gang beat out Michael Maltzan Architects and Allied Works for the commission in 2016 and the firm is expected to release more information on the expansion later this summer. The full campus is slated to open for the 2020–2021 academic year.
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.
Almost every architect has horror stories about the Client from Hell, the unpleasant entity whose capriciousness or bad taste leaves the designer fuming. Arguably, though, the hardest client to design for is yourself. San Francisco’s NICOLEHOLLIS studio took on the tough task of designing an office for itself, in an old loft in the city’s South of Market (SoMa) neighborhood. Whereas it formerly ran its business in an old machine shop, the studio now operates out of a 5,000-square-foot single-floor office in a building that could command a corner in SoHo or Tribeca. The build-out, led by Hollis, takes advantage of “terrific” natural light and gorgeous views across the city to offer its designers (and visiting clients) an elegant, high-contrast office that’s both a lab for deep focus and a collaborative, social workspace. The office is a study in black, white, and light. Working with Inna Baranova, the studio director for interior architecture, and Adele Cunningham, the studio director for residential projects, Hollis crafted custom white central workstations with built-in standing desks that are both naturally lit and illuminated with FontanaArte’s Avico pendants. Although it’s often tough for light to reach the center of the floor plate in converted 19th-century factory buildings, NICOLEHOLLIS had the opposite problem—windows on all four sides. Hollis said she and her team used window treatments and UV filters on all the window panes. Conference rooms occupy prime window real estate, because clients like to soak up the views, she added. NICOLEHOLLIS carefully considered employee areas, too. Office kitchens are often drab afterthought spaces, decorated only with break-room signage and passive-aggressive Post-it notes. Hollis designed an island that encourages her staff to socialize, and there’s a large table for family style lunches. Back at work, the materials library is divided by boards charred using shou sugi ban, a Japanese technique that burns wood to preserve it. Throughout, the office is sandwiched by gray poured-concrete floors and a white concrete ceiling. “The white allows us to clear our heads and take a fresh look at our work,” Hollis said in an email. “Black is grounding and adds depth and shadow in contrast to bright light.” Hollis’s custom piece near the entrance exemplifies the NICOLEHOLLIS approach. “The reception desk is my ode to Donald Judd,” she said. “I take a lot of my cues from fine art. I love Judd’s work—its spatiality and relationship to context. The desk is also mirror polished brass and makes a strong statement about the studio’s ties to materiality and craftsmanship.” The studio works mostly in California, on residential and commercial projects, including plenty of offices. Hollis said the firm recently completed a Silicon Valley office, and it designed an office for HALL Wines, in the Napa Valley. But there’s another office project closer to home. NICOLEHOLLIS now boasts more than 50 employees, so Hollis and her team are looking to expand the space they’re in now with individual work spaces, as well as more conference rooms, materials libraries, and dining areas.
The Designing Material Innovation exhibition—co-presented by the California College of the Arts (CCA) and the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the CCA campus in San Francisco—aims to utilize contemporary architectural research in an effort to envision potential futures for the school’s backlot. The exhibition consists of five experimental architectural pavilions built to test new conceptual approaches in the realms of materiality, fabrication, and design. The pavilions, crafted with industry and academic partners, also attempt to articulate new ways of working outdoors in an effort to help guide designs for a forthcoming campus expansion by Studio Gang. Designs for the expansion are still in the works, but the scheme is expected to rely on a network of socially-driven outdoor workspaces and venues—Designing Material Innovation will act as a pop-up of sorts, testing the limits of what is possible outdoors at the CCA. The exhibition was curated by Jonathan Massey—the current dean at Taubman College and recent dean of architecture at CCA—who brought together APTUM Architecture, MATSYS, the CCA Digital Craft Lab, T+E+A+M, and Matter Design for the show. Exhibition design for the showcase came from Oakland, California–based Endemic Architecture, who created a “confetti urbanism” installation for the site that whimsically reworks existing furnishings into a playscape that hosts the experimental pavilions, as well as give students a place to fabricate their projects. “Designing Material Innovation shows how designers and industry leaders partner to achieve great things, whether that is making concrete structures light and delicate, promoting ecological diversity, or repurposing waste,” Massey said. APTUM Architecture collaborated with Mexican building materials company CEMEX to devise new methods of testing fiber-reinforced methods to pursue extremely thin concrete shell structures. The ten-foot-by-ten-foot pavilion is made of interlocking concrete arches that are only one-third of an inch thick. A second vaulted pavilion was made by Oakland-based MATSYS with help from the CCA Digital Craft Lab. The complexly curved shell structure was robotically milled from foam waste and is coated in synthetic resin. The Buoyant Ecologies Float Lab by the CCA Digital Craft Lab and Kreysler & Associates comprises a “floating composite shell structure” according to the exhibition website, and was fabricated using fiber-reinforced polymers. T+E+A+M and University of Michigan came together to generate a “new architectural order” made from “plasticglomerate,” an amalgamation of rocks and plastic waste cast into a grouped cluster of columns. The final team—Matter Design and Massachusetts Institute of Technology—fabricated a 16-foot-tall, 2,000-pound glass fiber reinforced concrete sculpture that pivots and moves freely despite its hefty appearance. Taken together, the installations offer not just a glimpse into the future of material experimentation, but pique interest in Studio Gang’s forthcoming additions, as well.
Dutch architects MVRDV have teamed up with Australian architecture firm Hassell to craft a scheme for Resilient by Design’s Bay Area Challenge competition that focuses on a taking a kit-of-parts approach to create an interconnected network of urban zones and landscapes that can potentially mitigate some of the effects of climate change for the city of South San Francisco. The proposal—dubbed “Connect and Collect”—envisions deploying a taxonomic set of structures developed by the firms in order to create a type of “do-it-yourself urbanism” that would supercede existing development, according to a promotional video issued with the design proposal. Taken together, the structures fulfill the basic functions of urban life at various scales, creating places to gather, receive services, live, and work, while also offering the flexibility to change in use after natural disasters. The proposal divides inhabited areas into two distinct but interwoven zones that are then populated with “collector” sites residents can make use of. So-called “shoreline collectors”—art venues, floating farms, emergency shelters, ferry terminals, and other objects—will dot the water’s edge and its surrounding tidal zones, according to the scheme. These areas are meant to connect with so-called “uphill collectors”—grocery stores, hospitals, emergency castles, car and bike-sharing facilities and the like—further inland via a set of urban-focused streets and nature-focused creeks that change as they drop to meet the water’s edge. The collectors are to be organized in grouped configurations, adjacent to regionally-scaled infrastructural elements like schools and transit. These nodes will then aggregate with one another via multi-modal connections to create a distributed network of soft-edge urban areas that not only function on a day-to-day level, but also adapt to natural disasters and periodic flooding with greater ease than existing development models. Renderings and diagrams for the proposal depict colorful groupings of the collector structures organized in porous, quasi-urban configurations with the spaces in between the collector sites populated by nature trails, bicycle paths, and transit lines. The plan proposes a slew of new public recreational areas to help create these hydrophilic zones, including a new shoreline park at Colma Creek. In a statement announcing the proposal, Nathalie de Vries, MVRDV's co-founder, said, "Climate change is real; by the end of the century there will be a sea level rise of two meters," adding, "Bay Area communities [must] respond to this challenge in a multi-disciplinary approach to upgrade their general resilience." The so-called HASSELL+ team’s proposal is among ten visions articulated for Bay Area communities being developed as part of Resilient by Design’s Bay Area Challenge. Competing groups include teams helmed by BIG, James Corner Field Operations, and Scape, among others. A recently-revealed proposal by BIG and One Architecture+Urbanism proposes a series of floating islands for the south San Francisco Bay. Other members of the HASSELL+ design team include: Deltares, Lotus Water, frog design, Originate, Civic Edge Consulting, Goudappel, and Page & Turnbull architects. The designers will continue to work through this spring and will present their final proposals in May 2018 at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco.
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.
In recent years, the West Coast’s booming cities have seen significant population growth, resulting in an ongoing and worsening housing-affordability crisis. Though there are many overlapping causes for this crisis, the phenomenon is partially a product of too much success and not enough planning—cities like Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have added tens of thousands of new jobs over the years, but have built comparatively few homes to serve those workers. The result is a dizzying increase in the number of people experiencing burdensome rents and homelessness coupled with an expanded reliance on automobile transit as people are forced to live farther away from their jobs in order to afford housing. This regime is straining urban and civic life as more and more people—including college students, school teachers, and even police officers and firefighters— face increasing difficulties in terms of housing affordability. But just as the overlapping crises of climate change, housing unaffordability, and gridlock threaten to overwhelm these cities, potential solutions may be afoot. Across the region, major cities are beginning to cooperate at the regional level with peripheral municipalities in an effort to rein in carbon emissions, increase affordability and equity, and decrease automobile reliance. By relying on envisioned networks of transit-connected villages to grow up rather than out, entire metropolitan regions have the potential to be remade in the image of multi-nodal urbanism. In the Los Angeles area, the Southern California Association of Governments represents 18 million residents across a six-county region with the aim of helping to reduce sprawl. To the north, the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association aims to unite the region’s 101 municipalities toward measured growth. Of the three major West Coast cities, however, Seattle—nearly 30 years into its own regional planning experiment following the passage of the Washington State Growth Management Act in 1990—is the furthest along in its efforts to articulate a new form of dense regional urbanism centered on regional transit and dispersed density. As it should, the path toward this brave new world begins with high-capacity transit. Though only established in 1993, the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) is in the midst of a massive, multibillion-dollar expansion plan that will see the transit agency extend a slew of new light rail and bus rapid transit (BRT) lines across the Puget Sound region. Sound Transit has been undergoing vigorous growth since 1996, when the agency published its initial “Sound Move” plan, which has been amended, expanded, and reapproved by regional voters first in 2008 and again in 2016. The most recent version— Sound Transit 3 (ST3)—consists of a 25-year vision aimed at adding an additional 62 new miles of light rail throughout the region with the goal of ultimately creating 116 miles of light rail augmented by expanded commuter rail and new BRT services. Crucially, the expanded system includes increased street bus service, shorter headways between buses and trains, and increased transit capacity via longer train cars and articulated buses. When fully built out, the system will span north to Everett, south to Tacoma, east to Redmond and west to Ballard and serve a projected population of five million. Aside from being a transit plan, ST3 is also part of a dogged, municipally led vision aimed at supplementing Seattle’s downtown core by investing in and redeveloping existing cities and towns across the Puget Sound. The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), a cooperative agency tasked with envisioning equitable growth strategies for the region, leads the effort on the planning side. The organization helps to study and deploy land-use reforms like up-zoning, works to preserve the location and size of existing industrial lands, and pursues transportation and urbanization planning initiatives with the aim of keeping the rural areas, farmland, and forests around metropolitan regions “healthy and thriving,” according to the organization’s website. The council’s Vision 2040 plan—a growth management– focused environmental, economic, and transportation vision for Puget Sound crafted in 2007—aims to provide a blueprint for this transformation. PSRC’s vision seeks to direct urban growth so that it coincides with Sound Transit’s projected transit map for the future, overlaying progressive planning principles atop new transit corridors before the new lines are ever built. The effect is that land can be bought sooner and at cheaper prices, allowing, for example, nonprofit housing providers to maximize their investments long before surrounding real estate appreciates. Vision 2040 aims to create a set of interconnected “regional centers” that concentrate a density of housing, jobs, and civic and entertainment uses along these new transit corridors. According to PSRC, Washington state’s job growth will be three times higher than the national average over the next five years, a phenomenon the group hopes will reshape the Puget Sound region as a whole. The council is currently working to update its regional-centers plan, and it seeks to cluster groups of complementary industries across the region synergistically with housing and other services. Producing this “housing-jobs balance,” Josh Brown, executive director of PSRC said, is a central mission of the organization. Brown explained, “Our plan calls for larger existing cities to accommodate growth so we can achieve a better housing-jobs balance across the region.” Using this so-called Centers Framework, the organization has been able to create a plan for concentrating urban growth in existing urban centers and projects that, by 2040, the region will be served by over one hundred high-capacity transit stations surrounded by a density of mixed uses. PSRC administers and supports various programs to fulfill these goals, including helping to launch the so-called Regional Equitable Development Initiative (REDI) Fund, which helps to capture low land prices in future-growth areas with the intention of developing mixed-use projects that contain full-throated affordable housing components. The REDI Fund was launched by Enterprise Community Partners and regional partners like PSRC in December 2016 and recently closed on its first deal, a project developed with the Tacoma Housing Authority to create 300 to 500 new homes in the city’s West End neighborhood. For the project, at least 150 of the units will be priced for low- and moderate-income households in a bid to provide affordable housing for community college students in danger of falling into homelessness. The project is planned for a site across the street from Tacoma Community College and will eventually sit at the southern terminus of a forthcoming light rail line. The development will help PSRC achieve its interlocking goals of promoting density in existing corridors while also supporting the region’s burgeoning cohort of future workers. James Madden, senior program director with Enterprise Community Partners, said, “Our goal is to get private land into the hands of mission-oriented nonprofits in order to create mixed-income, multifamily housing.” The initiative comes as the region begins to embrace the coming changes. In the city of Lynwood, north of Seattle, for example, a 250-acre site surrounding a forthcoming light rail station is being redeveloped into a district called City Center that will contain mixed-use development and include a convention center and pedestrian- oriented street design. The plan will help Lynnwood grow in population by over 50 percent in coming decades. The eastern city of Redmond—where Microsoft’s headquarters are located—is also pushing forward on new transit-oriented projects, including the city’s Overlake Village, a 170-acre district that will contain 40,000 residents in the future. The first phase of the redevelopment is a 1,400-unit complex called Esterra Park that will also contain 1.2 million square feet of offices, 25,000 square feet of retail uses, a hotel, and a conference center. Taken together, the multifaceted growth plans in place across the Puget Sound region can serve as an example of a potential future for West Coast cities, a vision that is particularly focused on equity, pedestrianism, and dense urban redevelopment.
The 1,070-foot-tall, 61-story Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects-designed Salesforce Tower in San Francisco (formerly the Transbay Tower) has officially opened, capping a design process that stretches back to 2007. Much has been made of the tower’s impact on the skyline, as it came to gradually eclipse the 853-foot-tall Transamerica Pyramid as the tallest building in the city, and is now visible from neighboring Oakland. At 1.4 million square feet, the Salesforce Tower has always been divisive, especially among those who feel the headquarters is wholly out of scale for San Francisco, or that the tower represents the tech industry imposing its will on the city.
The bullet-shaped office tower, a centerpiece of Salesforce’s campus-like headquarters, opened its doors to employees on January 8th. Clad in glass and horizontal bands of metal accents that serve as solar shades, the building curves at the corners and tapers to a point as it rises. Pelli Clarke Pelli describes the design as aping the “simple, timeless form of the obelisk”. The tower has been LEED-Platinum Certified, and Salesforce claims that they’ve implemented an “innovative water recycling system” throughout. The façade continues past the top floor to create an ethereal crown, using perforated aluminum panels, that somewhat lessens the topper’s impact. A nine-story vertical facet has been slotted inside of the building’s topper, and the empty space within will be used to potentially project lights, patterns and photos across the tower’s crown; artist Jim Campbell has proposed using LED lights to display ever-changing pieces of art. Connected at the base of the tower is the Salesforce Transit Center, a new transit hub that will hold 11 transit systems when it’s complete later this year, also designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli. The Transit Center takes a markedly different approach from its neighbor, making use of a billowing wall of perforated aluminum panels to gently wrap the station’s upper floors. Supported by V-shaped columns, the station is centered around a massive “Light Column,” a sculptural skylight that grows all the way from the train platforms below to the transit center’s roof. The Light Column also serves to open up the main hall of the hub by creating a 118-foot-tall roof. A 5.4-acre rooftop park will top off the transit center, complete with running tracks, cafes, a 1,000-seat amphitheater, children’s playground, and fully accessible grasslands. Pelli Clarke Pelli claims that the ecology of the park will mirror the surrounding Bay Area, and feature everything from oak trees to a wetland marsh. AN will have an in-depth review of Salesforce Tower in the coming months, but in the meantime, Salesforce has posted a preview of the building’s interiors here.