Posts tagged with "California":

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California scrambles to protect its homeless population amidst coronavirus outbreak

With a pandemic sweeping across many of America’s largest population centers, phrases like “shelter-in-place,” “self-quarantine,”  “stay at home” “social distancing,” and “hand sanitizer shortage”  have become fundamental parts of our shared daily language. Yet for thousands of Americans, particularly in cities experiencing high levels of homelessness, these phrases are largely meaningless. For those living on the streets and in shelters, taking refuge from a deadly and highly contagious virus that requires the population to practice vigilance by isolating themselves indoors is, simply, impossible. As reported by Reuters, California Governor Gavin Newsom has warned that up to 60,000 homeless Californians could fall ill with the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the coming weeks. A sharp influx of unsheltered people infected with the virus could put further strain on California’s hospitals as medical workers grapple to care for other vulnerable segments of the population including the elderly and those with preexisting conditions. “Over the next eight-week period, we have modeled that of the 108,000 unsheltered Californians that are out on the streets, if you had an attack rate of about 56 percent, you’re looking at 60-plus thousand individuals that may have COVID-19,” said Newsom in a Facebook-streamed statement. “That creates a deep point of anxiety for the existing population but moreover for our healthcare delivery system, our capacity to move people in and out of the shelters safely without contacting other people and putting them at risk as well.” While much attention has been placed on the Seattle and greater Puget Sound region, where the virus first appeared stateside and where the fatality rate remains the highest, and on ultra-dense, hospital bed-strapped New York City, California has also been heavily affected by COVID-19. As of this writing, there are 906 confirmed cases in the state and 18 deaths. (Nationwide, there are 10,755 confirmed cases and 154 deaths.) As health and emergency officials scramble to curb the spread of the virus and care for those already sickened by it, there are growing local efforts to specifically shield the unsheltered population. In Los Angeles, Reuters reports that Mayor Eric Garcetti has launched a sweeping effort to identify the most vulnerable—this includes the elderly and those with underlying health problems— of the city’s unhoused population and provide shelter to over 6,000 of them in 42 makeshift shelters set up in recreational centers spread across the city. Those who test positive for the virus would be isolated in emergency trailers. Per LAist, the move was activated through the Disaster Service Worker Program, which enables Garcetti to redeploy city employees to “combat a crisis, including to house the homeless.” LAist also reported that the initiative, which will be paid for through a mix of state and federal funds, is being rolled out in phases, with over 1,300 beds expected to be set-up in 13 rec centers by the top of the week. The Red Cross is providing the beds and the city’s Homeless Services Authority will do the work in locating those in greatest need. A rule that previously stipulated that homeless people must dissemble their tents during the daylight hours has been scrapped to promote social distancing and slow the spread of the virus. Yahoo News reported that city officials are also mulling converting vacant motels and hotels to house homeless individuals as the outbreak spreads. “This is an immense undertaking logistically and it’s never been done this quickly in a city, anywhere,” said Garcetti in a statement. “If we don’t get folks off the street, they will become the main spreaders or among the main spreaders of COVID-19 and a threat to themselves.” To date, no unsheltered person in Los Angeles has tested positive for the coronavirus. Outside of Los Angeles, a homeless man in the Santa Clara Valley died earlier this week from COVID-19 in the first known instance of an unsheltered individual succumbing to the virus. There are, as of March 17, 138 cases in ultra-wealthy Santa Clara County and 297 across the greater San Francisco Bay Area. San Jose, California’s third most populous city, has installed hand-washing stations, portable toilets, and showers near established homeless encampments to promote improved hygiene, as reported by Bay Area CBS affiliate KPIX. In the wake of the reported death, however, homeless advocates are urging officials to enact greater, more urgent measures a la Los Angeles. “We’re accelerating efforts to identify motels and other locations where we can move folks as soon as the testing indicates we need to get them out and away from others,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo in a statement. In San Francisco, plans to provide emergency shelters to its homeless population are also coming together. Trent Rhorer, head of the city’s Human Services Agency, is currently in the process of securing large facilities that could accommodate, in the words of the San Francisco Chronicle, “at least 3,500 people who are either unsheltered or who live in congregant settings where they have to share bathrooms and kitchens and cannot self-quarantine.” Shuttered college campuses and churches are being considered by Rhorer and other city officials as are vacant hotels and motels. As the Chronicle reports, Rhorer has already secured 500 hotel rooms for the express purpose of housing the homeless. Across the Bay in Oakland, the state government has also secured two hotels with nearly 400 rooms between them in a bid to shield the unhoused from the virus. However, one not-so-insignificant issue remains: how does the city staff these temporary facilities with case managers, drug counselors, and other workers that would normally be on-hand at a non-ephemeral homeless shelter? Rhorer is confident that it can happen. “It’s not like just setting up an emergency shelter in an earthquake,” he told the Chronicle. “But we can do this. We don’t have a cash flow issue in this city, so we can move fast. You brace for the worst and hope for the best.”
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Space Saloon, Designers on Holiday will host design festival addressing California’s water scarcity

The organizers of camp residency programs Space Saloon and Designers on Holiday have announced the launch of DeSaturated, an eight-day design-build festival in California’s Cuyama Valley, a two-hour drive north of Los Angeles. With the rugged high desert landscape as its backdrop, the “community-in-residence” program will draw attention to the state's water scarcity. “Water shapes life," its website states, “yet access to this resource is neither equitable nor just. Wildfires, droughts and severe floods have strained the state of California in the last decade, pointing out the limitations of territorial development that impose market logics on scarce and fragile resources.” With participation from designers, artists, and researchers across the globe, DeSaturated will become a temporary think tank to investigate the state’s precarious relationship with water through site-specific building projects and hands-on educational workshops led by firms including Folly Feast Lab, Lauren MacDonald, Definitely Not Architecture, and NNASA. An office ca-led workshop titled Building Without Water, for example, will invite participants to experiment with bioplastics designed for low-cost 3D printing as alternatives to water-intensive building materials, while another led by Daniele Frazier, The Sound of Rain, will recall the history of the rain stick as a musical instrument used during droughts to produce an audio/visual meditation on the desaturated land. The projects that result from the festival will collectively articulate the impact and cultural significance of California’s water scarcity crisis “in all its shades and forms.” Previous iterations of the two organizers’ respective festivals have taken on a wide variety of educational themes, including scientific field research, materiality, and the nature of hands-on education itself. Participants will stay on the campus of Blue Sky Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting creative initiatives that will improve the creative and economic resources of the Cuyama Valley. DeSaturated will take place from May 23 to 31.
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San Jose debuts tiny house community for the homeless

Over three years in the making, a San Jose, California, pilot community composed of 40 ultra-tiny houses that will provide temporary shelter to Californians transitioning out of homelessness. Dubbed the Mabury Bridge Housing Project, the village is located on a vacant parcel of land owned by the Valley Transit Authority and is one of two tiny house clusters planned for California’s third most populous city. The second community, located on Caltrans-owned land, is slated to open to residents later this year. Like the rest of California, San Jose, the county seat of wildly affluent Santa Clara County and the de facto capital of Silicon Valley, is in the midst of a homelessness epidemic. As of January 2019, the number of people sleeping in their cars, on the streets, and in shelters within San Jose city limits had increased by 42 percent to 6,172 when compared to 2017 when the last Department of Housing and Urban Development-mandated homelessness census was taken. The current number is likely higher. Built by a small army of Habitat for Humanity volunteers at a cost of $6,500 each, the micro-homes—or “emergency sleeping cabins,” as San Jose officials have dubbed them—measure a mere 80-square-feet, and two are slightly larger to accommodate residents with disabilities. Each single-occupancy living space is equipped with air conditioning/heating units, a twin bed, desk, and shelving. Laundry, shower, and storage facilities are located on-site along with a shared kitchen and ample communal space for socializing and stretching out. A community garden and resource center equipped with computers and job boards are also available to residents. The compound, which includes on-site parking, staff offices, and around-the-clock security, is fenced-in to “control foot traffic in and out of the site,” according to the pilot website. HomeFirst, a San Jose-based nonprofit dedicated to lifting people out of homelessness, is the community’s operator and provides residents with resources beyond temporary housing including healthcare assistance and career training. Residents at Mabury Bridge Housing Project are limited to 60-day stays as they continue down the path to self-sufficiency with the ultimate goal of securing permanent housing. As the Mercury News explained, the “unconventional” community located off of Mabury Road in the shadow of the Bayshore Freeway and opposite the yet-to-open Berryessa BART station to the northeast of downtown San Jose, “offers a mix of stability and compassion for those trying to stay afloat in spite of the region’s chronic shortage of affordable housing.” The Mercury News explained that officials aim to house roughly 120 permanent housing-seeking residents each year, rotating 40 people out—and into permanent housing—every four months. San Jose Inside also noted that two residents have already moved on to permanent housing since the community first opened. Yet at the grand opening ceremony in late February, an event attended by California Governor Gavin Newsom and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, only eight of the community’s 40 cabins were occupied due to restrictions, including background checks, placed on eligible residents, who must be part of Santa Clara County’s rapid rehousing voucher program and actively be seeking permanent housing. Although the community has only been open for a little over a month, there’s been an early struggle in finding qualified people in need to populate the community. “People get lost in the system,” Jacky Morales-Ferrand, housing director for the City of San Jose, told the Mercury News. “And, that’s actually one of the benefits of creating these interim sites, because as we create housing opportunities for people to move in, we know that we can connect them very quickly.” In total, the pilot program on Mabury Road cost roughly $2 million, a sum that includes the 40 volunteer-built cabins, site development, and building out the community’s various support structures. “It's a question of scale. It's a question of capacity. It’s a question of resolve, and so I just want you to know that we are resolved to scale programs like this,” said Newsom at the grand opening of the community. “The state vision to solve this crisis will be realized at the local level, project by project.”
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LEVER Architecture’s Thomas Robinson discusses the impact California could have on the timber industry

We are witnessing a revolution in how we build with engineered timber in the United States.

In January 2019, the International Code Council (ICC) approved changes that would allow high-rise wood buildings in the 2021 International Building Code (IBC). Oregon and Washington were early adopters of these code changes, and Denver, Colorado, recently followed suit. Other states and municipalities are expected to adopt the 2021 IBC timber provisions early, but it is anyone’s guess what California will do. Will the state decide to adopt now, or will it wait till the code becomes part of the new issuance of the 2021 IBC? This is an important question not just for California, and by extension the City of Los Angeles, but also for the future of mass timber in the U.S. and beyond. California standards and codes transform markets, and a mass timber movement in the U.S. without the state that is also the world’s fifth-largest economy is not going to move the needle fast enough. The opportunity to scale a low-carbon, renewable supply chain to address catastrophic climate change is closing quickly, and it is time for California to step up and demonstrate the progressiveness and leadership that have been key to its prosperity.

What does early adoption mean in practice? Today, an architect in Oregon or Washington who follows the provisions of the new IBC can stamp drawings to build a timber building up to 270 feet in height as of right. This is a significant change. Just over four years ago, my firm’s design for a wood high-rise called Framework was selected as one of two winners of the first U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition. At that time, there was no code path in the U.S. for wood buildings over 75 feet. To receive a permit, our team of designers and engineers worked with the State of Oregon on a performance-based design process. Partly funded by the competition prize, this process included 40 tests on full-scale timber building assemblies to demonstrate their fire, seismic, structural, and acoustic performance relative to high-rise life-safety requirements. It was a fascinating, exhausting, and exhilarating experience, and we are proud that this work and research impacted the timber code changes. Thanks to the new code provisions, it is unlikely that another design team will ever have to go through this process in quite the same way again.

Early adoption of the timber code provisions isn’t just about tall buildings, though—it is a critical opportunity to encourage wider investment and innovation in sustainable mass timber development of all scales. Why should California (or any place else) care about mass timber construction? Building with engineered timber products addresses our most pressing global challenges. It has the potential to decrease carbon emissions relative to construction, spur rural economic development, encourage forest practices that prevent fires, and increase the speed at which we can deliver projects, including much-needed affordable housing. The promise of a major market like California supporting mass timber construction will be an incentive for manufacturers to invest in a more advanced supply chain, back new research, and encourage more sustainable forest management. California’s early advocacy of renewables and electric vehicles moved the market (see Tesla), and I believe it could have a similar impact on the development of mass timber.

We are currently in the permit process for one of the first multistory office buildings in Los Angeles with a cross-laminated timber (CLT) floor system. The building is essentially a hybrid, with CLT floors and steel columns and beams. It meets the current code and does not use the provisions of the 2021 IBC because the highest occupied floor is not over 75 feet. That said, it is still a 125,000-square-foot building—not a small undertaking. We have been working closely with Los Angeles authorities and our engineer to clarify and explain how the CLT performs structurally in the project and how it fits within the current code. We have made incremental steps that will allow for subsequent projects to better navigate permitting this type of building, as well as open up options for multiple CLT suppliers to serve the Los Angeles market. I believe these small steps are significant, but I know that my team could have gone further faster if California had already adopted the new timber provisions. Building officials in California are justifiably cautious. The optics of approving tall wood construction as the state faces devastating wildfires is difficult. However, moving in this direction creates a market that will advance the sustainable forest management that prevents these fires in the first place. If we are serious about addressing the major environmental issues of our time, we need California to adopt the 2021 IBC now. We are simply running out of time.

Of course, there is more to do. I believe as architects we must rethink design as a wider ecosystem of environmental and regional economic choices. Where our materials come from and how they are produced should drive and inspire our designs. This is not a limitation but an invitation to innovate with regional, renewable materials to create more compelling architecture that truly addresses both local and global issues.

Thomas Robinson is the founder and principal of LEVER Architecture.

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California fails to pass contentious S.B. 50 housing bill

For the third year in a row, a controversial bill to increase home building in California has failed to win approval in the state Senate, according to the Los Angeles Times. Senate Bill 50 was intended to help curb the housing shortage and cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars while boosting density in developed areas near transit hubs. But vocal opposition over gentrification, affordable housing, and of course, up-zoning changes in wealthier neighborhoods, trumped all of those benefits.  Only three votes stood in the way of the measure passing in the state Senate last week. That same number of votes was missing last year when Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who authored the bill back in 2018, reintroduced it on the senator floor. With support from California’s Governor Gavin Newsom in his ongoing promise to fix the state’s housing crisis, it seemed like this year would Wiener’s winning attempt. But S.B. 50 failed again. The measure couldn’t pass all these years, according to the senate opponents, because S.B. 50 failed to adequately address the state’s growing need for affordable housing. The bill would have allowed developers to build more mid-rise apartments near mass transit and job centers in the state’s most populous cities. But community advocates for low-income areas worried that the idea would eventually out-price people from those neighborhoods, while activists in suburban areas argued against densification. Each year that Weiner introduced the bill back into the conversation, he revamped it with changes intended to address the concerns raised in previous attempts. Despite efforts to appease all sides and a move to allow local governments the chance to develop their own sets of standards similar to Senate Bill 50, the proposal failed for the final time. The L.A. Times reported a major divide in votes between lawmakers in metropolitan Los Angeles and the rest of the state. Nine local senators voted no or abstained from the vote while only one voted yes.  Similar to the split in the senate, ordinary Californians appear conflicted over the bill too. Senator president pro tem Toni Atkins wrote on Twitter that although the bill failed, she will work towards producing another piece of legislation that will pass this year. 
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Owners of Richard Neutra's Lovell House are seeking a preservation-minded buyer

The Lovell House, designed and built by Austrian architect Richard Neutra, was a leading example of the International Style when it was completed in the hills of Los Feliz, California, in 1929. Generally regarded as the first steel-frame home built in the United States, the home elegantly demonstrated the use of industrial methods of production for domestic design and remained in pristine condition for several decades. In its current state, however, the house suffers from significant cosmetic and structural disrepair and the owners are reportedly looking to offload the building. The home, often referred to as the Lovell Health House, was originally commissioned by naturopathic doctor Philip Lovell to include spaces for medical demonstrations and experiments, such as an outdoor gym, porches for nude sunbathing, and a kitchen specifically designed for vegetarian cooking. The property was later acquired by Betty and Morton Topper in 1960 for $60,000. Morton died 11 years later in 1971, leaving the home to Betty and their five children. After Betty's death in August of last year, their children have been opening up the residence to the public for private tours and events while seeking a preservation-minded buyer (the most recent event, held on January 26, was a highly-attended screening of Elissa Brown's documentary on Neutra, Windshield: A Vanished Vision, followed by a discussion between Brown, film composter Chad Fischer, and Lovell House owner Ken Topper, one of the five Topper siblings). Although now neglected, Neutra's touches are still evident throughout the building, especially in the large, multistory window sections for letting in natural light. Neutra was no stranger to working across California, but his homes have become increasingly threatened in recent years. The recent sale of the Ennis House, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home set a mere 1,600 feet away from the Lovell House for $18 million, suggests the residence will enter the market with a high asking price when listed (although the Lovell House doesn't have the same cultural cachet as the former).
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Oana Stănescu, Kiki Van Eijk, and more will design installations for Coachella 2020

Nine artists and architects have been selected to create large-scale art installations for this year's Coachella Arts and Music Festival. This year's selection of creative talent has several veterans of the program, including the U.K.-based art and design studio NEWSUBSTANCE, Los Angeles-based creative team Do LaB, New York-based artist Robert Bose, and Raices Cultura, a 501C(3) nonprofit based in Coachella, California. Each of them presented memorable installations in previous years, such as NEWSUBSTANCE's 2018 Spectra, a multicolored ramp tower that later won AN's 2018 Best of Design Award for Lighting—Outdoor, and a chain of balloons hovering over the festival grounds by Robert Bose.
 
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The majority of those presenting in this year's festival, however, are newcomers that will likely bring fresh ideas to the site. Included on the roster is Oana Stănescu, a New York-based architect and cofounder of Family, whose most notable experience includes stage designs for Kanye West and retail spaces for Virgil Abloh's clothing brand Off-White. Dutch designer Kiki Van Eijk and multidisciplinary artist Cristopher Cichocki will both bring their trademark interests in natural forms to their installations. Buenos Aires-based architecture firm Estudio Normal will likely adapt their materially-sensitive practice to the grounds, while New York- and Rome-based firm Architensions will likely create an experiential space unique to their practice’s research on social behaviors. The art installations have been an integral part of the three-day music event since 2010, when festival owner Goldenvoice Productions decided to commission art after increasing their arts budget. A wide range of artists and architects have been given the opportunity to design installations in previous years, including architects Bureau Spectacular, Francis Kéré, and Office Kovacs, as well as artists including Olalekan Jeyifous, Dedo Vabo, and Sofia Enriquez. “Building on our art program with designers, architects and visual artists from around the world and from the Coachella Valley allows festivalgoers to explore shared global interests and perspectives through the experience of ambitious and one of a kind, large-scale installations”, said Paul Clemente, art director of Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, in a press release. “The artists and designers invited this year are all active and respected voices in their communities at the nexus of today’s cultural conversation. Their works have rigor–challenging urgent issues and ideas while balancing the requirements of scale and function with playfulness and wonder.” All of the installations will be on display and in use during both weekends, from April 10 to 12 and April 17 to 19.
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Governor Gavin Newsom proposes billion-dollar plan to alleviate California's homeless crisis

On January 7, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced his statewide initiative to resolve the homeless crisis. The plan calls for a $1.45 billion budget, $750 million of which is from taxpayer money that will be designated for supportive housing, while the remaining $700 million will go towards health-related expenses. “We have an unprecedented amount of investment, and with that, we want transparency and accountability,” Newsom later told KCRA in a televised interview. “We want to see a reduction in street population, we want more people rapidly rehoused, and we want [to provide] more access to behavioral health.” Newsom began a statewide tour on January 13 to speak with California's dispersed homeless population and local nonprofits to learn how best to spend the budget. “Californians have lots of compassion for those among us who are living without shelter,” said Newsom in a statement. “But we also know what compassion isn’t. Compassion isn’t allowing a person suffering a severe psychotic break or from a lethal substance abuse addiction to literally drift towards death on our streets and sidewalks.” The Governor also recently signed an executive order to invest in the search for vacant properties across California to develop them into affordable housing, with an emphasis on those next to highways, state roads, and other commonly-underdeveloped sites—although a recent raid on the nonprofit Moms4Housing in Oakland over squatting, complete with tanks, is seemingly at odds with this strategy. Though many of Newsom's plans for solving the homeless crisis were unsuccessful when serving as San Francisco's mayor from 2004-2011, the recent announcement is an opportunity for Newsom to focus his attention on a statewide level with a significantly increased budget. The plan comes shortly after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated that 151,000 homeless people, nearly one-quarter of the nation's homeless population, live in the state. While the amount of homelessness has decreased in other parts of the country, the report explains, the population has increased by 16 percent in California. Homelessness has been a significant issue in California given the skyrocketing cost of housing, mixed with a staggering shortage of affordable housing, making the issue a priority among California voters.
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Hacker Architects marries contextualism with material efficiency

The origins and guiding principles of Portland-based Hacker Architects stem from the six years founder Thomas Hacker spent working for Louis Kahn, an architect who knew how to match dramatic siting with phenomenal material palettes. Hacker has since retired, but the firm has expanded to a staff of over 60 people and continues to treat each project as an opportunity to mix contextualism with the latest in efficiency and sustainability. The firm is known for its innovative uses of cross-laminated timber, a favorite because of the material’s quick renewability and capacity to function as a carbon sink; the firm also employs a wide range of locally sourced materials to reduce waste and incorporates passive heating and cooling methods whenever possible.

Hacker Architects’ leaders feel they are in service to the public and have become specialists in the design of libraries, museums, and other cultural institutions. The handful of private buildings they’ve designed, however, are no less representative of the firm’s dual interests in siting and materiality. Inspired by local history, natural scenery, and the imperative to reduce our carbon footprint, Hacker Architects sets examples for the industry with every project.

Lakeside at Black Butte Ranch

Surrounded by the scenic Cascade mountain range and the Deschutes National Forest in Central Oregon, Lakeside adds a sprawling recreational and dining complex to the rustic-modernist resort atmosphere of Black Butte Ranch. The project used a $11.5 million budget to replace an aging pool facility with a 15,000-square-foot design that heightens the experience of transitioning from the rugged outdoor landscape to the calming resort.

Douglas fir is the primary structural component for the project, while the interior and exterior are almost entirely clad in locally sourced cedar, a material in common use in the Pacific Northwest because of how it gracefully weathers. The firm envisioned the building as an “aperture for the site,” framing views that might strengthen connections between the ranch and the vast landscape beyond.

Bayview/Linda Brooks- Burton Library

Replacing a branch library dating from 1969 in the historically underserved neighborhood of Bayview in the southeastern portion of San Francisco, the Bayview/Linda Brooks-Burton Library was completed in 2013 and designed to be an open and inviting space for the community it serves. Many of the library’s design gestures are a nod to the neighborhood’s African and African American past, including the street-level window walls adorned with illustrations of the area’s history, the kente cloth–inspired exterior paneling, and the space allotted throughout the library for works by local artist Ron Moultrie Saunders.

The firm designed the library to look inward, with a courtyard at the center large enough to host events; thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows that surround it, the courtyard provides generous natural light and views throughout the interior spaces. The library contains several environmentally efficient features that helped it achieve LEED Gold status, including passive ventilation and air-filtration systems in the exterior walls, embedded photovoltaic arrays, and a green rooftop that filters stormwater runoff using native grasses and perennials.

Berwick Hall

When tasked with creating a permanent home for the Oregon Bach Festival, an annual event in Eugene, Oregon, that celebrates the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, Hacker Architects combined an office space with a double-height rehearsal room acoustically designed to function like the musical instruments that it contains. A wood panel system made of tongue-and-groove Accoya boards allows the tops of two of the rehearsal space’s walls to bend in a way that provides abundant natural light from above while also preventing excessive audial buildup in the lower portion of the room.

Visually distinct from the cubic rehearsal space is the office bar, a lower-slung, redbrick building designed to match the older buildings on the University of Oregon campus. Many of its windows are operable, permitting natural ventilation while reducing the demand on the building’s active heating and cooling systems.

Sunshine Canyon Residence

One of Hacker Architects’ few residential projects—as well as one of the firm’s smallest, at 2,200 square feet—the Sunshine Canyon Residence was built in the hills outside Boulder, Colorado, to replace its client’s previous home, lost in the Fourmile Canyon Fire near the site in 2010. To preserve the landscape, the majority of the house is supported by narrow steel columns that minimized the amount of construction work on the site. Given that the house is in a cold climate that receives an abundance of annual sunlight, its windows face south to maximize solar gain and reduce the need for active heating.

The materiality and formal simplicity of the home were inspired by the abandoned mine shafts, rusted steel mining structures, and naturally occurring granite bordering the site that resurfaced after the fire. The majority of the exterior is clad with corrugated steel and untreated Ipe, both of which are designed to patina over time, like the nearby mining equipment. The interior is lined with clear vertical-grain fir that recalls the trees on the site while subtly changing in shifting daylight.

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Virgin to build another high-speed rail line from SoCal to Las Vegas

The United States has largely tailed other global leaders in the development of high-speed train infrastructure. State and municipal governments throughout China and the European Union have long-invested more in public transportation systems over the automobile, but one recent development in the U.S. may potentially bring America to the fore. A 170-mile-long, high-speed train from Las Vegas and Southern California is slated to start construction next year. Developed by Virgin Trains USA, the $4.8 billion rail line will be placed in between the Interstate 15 highway lanes, from Victorville, California, to Las Vegas Boulevard between Blue Diamond and Warm Springs roads in Las Vegas, Nevada. According to Tina Quigley, vice president of business strategy for the company, the build-out will begin on the western end in California. She told the told Las Vegas Review-Journal that contractors will likely begin work "in about five different areas when construction starts" and that "those five areas will probably be in California.” A section of the track stretching 35 miles will run through Southern Nevada and is expected to begin construction in 2021. Virgin is basing much of its design strategy for the project on a previous, 70-mile system completed by the company in South Florida between Miami and West Palm Beach. When complete, the train is expected to dramatically influence the economy of Victorville, a town with a population of fewer than 20,000 people, as well as the development of other high-speed rail projects throughout the United States. The price for train fare has not yet been determined, but it will have to remain competitive with plane fare and the cost of driving to remain a viable option for interstate travel. Though the project cannot begin until it receives a "record of decision" by the Federal Railroad Administration, Virgin has already begun securing equipment and materials, according to Nevada's Department of Business Director Terry Reynolds. The company received an additional boost last month when the state of California approved a $3.25 billion bond request to support the project. If all goes according to plan, construction on the route will break ground in the second half of 2020 and be completed in 2023.
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California coastal community geared toward eco-conscious tech elite now accepting offers

In the picturesque hills above Monterey, a quiet town on California’s rugged central coast, is a pristine, 609-acre forest that one investor purchased with dreams of turning the site into a unique real estate opportunity. When Nick Jekogian, CEO of New York-based Signature Group Investments, acquired the land in 2015 he first conceived of a golf course with Mediterranean-style mansions, a development not dissimilar from others in the area. However, after spending a weekend on the grounds, Jekogian decided it would be more worthwhile to instead develop it into a one-of-a-kind “agrihood”—a neighborhood providing communal agricultural facilities, farmland, and an abundance of green space for its residents. “I looked at a 200-year-old oak tree and realized that depending on what we do, it could either be taken down in the next few months or last for another 200 years,” said Jekogian in 2017. For a burgeoning class of millennial millionaires, agrihoods have become an attractive alternative to the golf communities and megamansion suburbs that attracted previous generations of wealth. Jekogian renamed the land Walden Monterey, in a nod to 19th-century transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau and the quiet life he led at Walden Pond. The site is divided into 22 lots, each of which will sell for $5 million. Although the project was initially announced in 2017, the community is now accepting offers and buyers will be given free rein to design homes on their 20-acre lots however they please—provided that they commit to two basic rules. The homes can only use renewable energy resources, and they are not allowed to cut down any of the 200-year-old trees currently on the property. Jekogian laid out these rules to establish Walden Monterey as a neighborhood where the houses blend into the natural environment in a manner similar to other California developments, such as the Case Study House Program in Los Angeles and Sea Ranch in Sonoma County. To give potential buyers a better sense of their investment, Jekogian commissioned architects to develop speculative renderings for home designs that “are light on the land” and range between 3,500 and 5,00 square feet. Walden Monterey will also be the new site of Walden Gathering, an event series that gathers “a diverse community of passionate innovators finding inspiration from nature to focus on making the world better for the next generation.” Sited 90 miles south of Silicon Valley, Jekogian hopes that Walden Monterey will find wealthy young clients from the region’s tech industry.
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Facebook pledges $1 billion to counteract California's housing crisis

To be a member of the middle class in San Francisco, California, it currently requires a minimal annual income of $192,000, more than double the national average of $78,442. While the rest of the country pays a mere average of $1,216 a month to rent a one-bedroom, the same space in San Francisco can easily set you back over $3,600. California has the highest poverty rate of any American state and the recent influx of tech companies in the Bay Area—along with the sudden increase in the cost of housing that followed—is cited among the biggest culprits. With accommodations for over 12,000 employees in Menlo Park, Facebook has become one of the largest companies headquartered in the area and critics have shown little restraint in pointing the cause of the local housing crisis squarely at the social media giant. In response to long-standing complaints, Facebook announced on October 22 that it will partner with the state of California and allocate $1 billion to address the housing crisis the company took part in producing.

According to Facebook Newsroom, the $1 billion will divided five ways: $250 million will go toward developing mixed-use housing in a partnership with the state of California; $150 million will be given to the Bay’s Future Fund toward the construction of affordable housing in the Bay Area; $225 million will be used to create roughly 1,500 affordable housing units on land in Menlo Park previously purchased by the company; $350 million will aid in the construction of affordable housing in other cities with Facebook offices (including Atlanta, Boston and Ashburn, Virginia); and the remaining $25 million will be used to develop housing on county-owned land for teachers and other “essential workers.”  

Altogether, the pledge will bring an estimated 20,000 additional housing units to the Bay Area, with an emphasis on helping teachers, nurses, and first responders “live closer to the communities in which they work.”

The news comes months after Google, another tech giant with headquarters in the area, also pledged $1 billion towards affordable housing in June. Just yesterday Apple shared it would one-up both Facebook and Google's offerings with a $2.5 billion commitment