After receiving criticism for displacing low-income residents in Silicon Valley, tech giant Facebook will invest $20 million in below-market-rate projects in Menlo Park and East Palo Alto, California. Housing activists have long blamed Facebook for contributing to extreme income inequality in the area. This is not only because the corporation has displaced residents by expanding its headquarters campus, but also because of a seemingly well-meaning policy that offered bonuses to employees who lived near campus in Menlo Park rather than in San Francisco proper. Critics say this policy accelerated gentrification of the area and caused low-income tenants to be evicted in favor of the higher-earning Facebook employees. Of course, Facebook alone cannot be blamed for the Bay Area’s gentrification—Google, Apple, and hundreds of other heavy hitting technology firms and start-ups also call the area home. Plus, according to nonprofit group Public Advocates, the housing shortage in Silicon Valley has reportedly reached crisis levels, with the region building only 26 percent of the housing needed for lower-earning people. With Facebook’s new campus expansion, which entails adding 1.1 million new square feet to its current complex and plans to hire 6,5000 new employees over the next few years, community groups were concerned. In response, Facebook partnered with local activists and community groups, such as Youth United for Community Action, Faith in Action Bay Area, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, and Comité de Vecinos del Lado Oeste – East Palo Alto, as well as the local governments of East Palo Alto and Menlo Park to address the impact it will have on the Bay Area. Facebook is legally required to contribute $6.3 million to affordable housing thanks to development laws but does seem to be genuinely invested in the community. In addition to the $6.3 million required, another $12.2 million has been pledged to below-market-rate housing, $500,000 will go toward helping those displaced with legal and rental assistance, and $625,000 will go to job training in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). “Since shortly after Facebook was created, we’ve been part of Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. The region—this community—is our home,” said vice president of public policy and communications Elliot Schrage in a statement. “We want the region to remain strong and vibrant and continue a long tradition of helping to build technologies that transform the future and improve the lives of people around the world, and also in our extended neighborhood. We all need to work together to create new opportunities for housing, transportation and employment across the region. We’re committed to join with the community to help.”
Posts tagged with "Palo Alto":
According to Palo Alto Weekly, Stanford University will soon break ground on a new series of bike and walking trails around its campus designed by Page/BMS Design Group. The 3.4-mile "Perimeter Trail" will stretch along sections of El Camino Real, Junipero Serra Boulevard, and Stanford Avenue, providing new connections to local parks, schools, existing trails, and the nearby foothills. The project, being implemented by both Stanford and the city of Palo Alto, is being funded by a $4.5-million allocation from Santa Clara County. The scheme will both introduce new bike and walking paths (including green bike lanes in heavy traffic areas) and upgrade existing trails, sidewalks, and landscaping. According to Stanford, most of the trail is expected to be complete by this fall.
A team made up of HNTB (which is also leading the 6th Street Viaduct in Los Angeles), 64North, Bionic Landscape Architecture, and Ned Kahn have won a competition to design a new pedestrian and bicycle bridge spanning the 101 Freeway in Palo Alto at Adobe Creek. The winning proposal for the Adobe Creek Overcrossing, called Confluence, is highlighted by a multi-story, leaning steel arch integrated with an intricate web of cables and floating steel disks. The bridge's sinuous form was "drawn from the trajectories of the cyclists moving along it and the sinuous waterways of the Bay," according to the team's proposal. Storm water will be captured from the crossing and re-routed to a new basin, designed to adapt to changing seawater rise. The team beat out shortlisted teams led by Moffatt and Nichol and Endrestudio in a competition that elicited 20 responses. The plan will go before City Council in February for review and possible approval.
In Palo Alto, California, the city council recently approved a proposal (9-0) to alter the city's building code, requiring new homes to install wiring for electric car charging stations. Pre-wiring for the 240-Volt Level 2 charging stations costs about $200, while many homes in the city sell for over $1 million. The proposal would also make it easier for homeowners to get permits to retrofit their homes for the charging stations. (Photo: Steve Jurvetson / Flickr)While some fear the city is overstepping its boundaries, and that electric cars may not be the way of the future, supporters see this as a viable step closer toward more sustainable neighborhoods and cities by lowering greenhouse gases, in targeting the infrastructure of where we live first. Last year, Vancouver passed a similar ordinance requiring electric car charging stations in several types of residences. Here's a detailed checklist from the City of Palo Alto with the requirements for installing a home car charging station. And here's a roundup of which cities around the world have the most electric cars.
AOL's New Offices Are Snazzy: Fast Company has a slideshow of interior shots of AOL's new offices in Palo Alto. The space was designed to be bright and collaborative. "This being a tech company, naturally, it’s got a game room, too," writes Suzanne LaBarre. The interiors are the work of Studio O+A, which has designed offices for other Internet companies like Yelp, Facebook and PayPal. Philly Set For a Makeover: Sometimes it seems like Philly is the East Coast city people love to hate on for its small size, poor public transit and high crime rates. That may change soon with a new comprehensive plan for the city that could include: "more open space, bike lanes and preservation efforts, as well as specific goals including an extension of the Broad Street subway to the Navy Yard, an east Market Street that can really be Philly's 'Main Street', a waterfront lined with parks." NYC's Lesson for LA: New York Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan blogs on how Los Angeles can learn from New York City's Plaza program. It's the quintessential showdown of cities: New York, a dense metropolis where most native-born teens don't even have their driver's licenses, and LA, a sprawling auto-centric city. There's even a book called "New York and Los Angeles" that says so. Sadik-Khan's piece is part of Streetsblog's new series on how the best transportation practices in other cities can be adapted for LA. Brownwashing Republicans: Grist has a list of 10 Republican politicians who are backtracking on pro-environment statements they've made in the past. The #1 offender is presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who called for climate action in a 2008 ad for Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection. Earlier this year, he said, ""I would not adopt massively expensive plans over a theory."
At the risk of sounding schmaltzy, let me say that the SF Peninsula's new Oshman Family Jewish Community Center, which had its grand opening yesterday, is an admirable stab at making up for what we lack in contemporary American society: non-institutional housing for the elderly, daycare for the toddlers, a state-of-the-art gym--all wrapped up in an architecturally interesting package. My friend Angharad, who lives nearby and has three boys under the age of 5, said wistfully, "I mean, I could be Jewish." This eight-acre town-within-a-town is located on the southern edge of Palo Alto, where the built landscape devolves into the giant office park that is the South Bay. It introduces high-density housing right off the freeway and a fresh breath of modernity (by San Jose's Steinberg Architects). It's got the look and feel of a mixed-use project, with apartments overlooking a central pedestrian thoroughfare that meanders past sculptural benches and palm trees in giant planters that are taller than a person (by SF landscape architecture firm CMG). But by design, the complex is also insular and inwardly focused, without a welcoming street presence. Everything has been raised above street level. This was the architects' response to the site, a brownfield. So the parking is at-grade, while the town is above—and pedestrian access is only through two points along the whole perimeter, up staircases. (Given the $300 million budget, was excavating to remove the toxic soil truly out of the question?) Along the main facade (shown in the first picture above), no amount of graphic razzmatazz can change the fact that you're looking at a monolith at the primary intersection. Maybe it makes sense for a cineplex, but for an urban village, it's offputting. A cafe is supposedly on the way, but will be tucked inside the complex. Imagine the difference if there was a bagelry at street-level on that southwest corner. Maybe it's too much to ask of any particular community, to be friendly to everyone. It's just that the ambitions of the project—the complexity of the plan and all the parts it's tried to integrate architecturally—make you wonder whether they could have tried just a bit harder to bridge the divide between their town and the town at large, the chosen and those merely passing by.
When architects talk about the "skin" of a building, I realize they're going techie on me, but I also appreciate the sense of lightness and fluidity that the word conveys. (Did they talk about "la peau d'un bâtiment" in those Ecole des Beaux-Arts days?) A delightful "skin" has shown up recently on an office building in Palo Alto, the Peninsula town next to Stanford University. After a fire took down a big Walgreens on the main drag, WRNS Studio (the San Francisco architects who will never realize their design for CAMP in the Presidio), along with Allied Architecture and Design, came up with a building where the facade is partly covered in porcelain tile, with a subtly irregular pattern. Tile companies have been incredibly innovative in recent years--mimicking everything from leather to silk--and it's nice to see architects taking advantage of the new stuff. Below is a close-up of the tile on 310 University Ave. It's from Caesar Ceramiche, an Italian company (surprise!).