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John King


SF architecture firm named nation’s best

Sat, 10 Dec 2016 00:18:00 UT

The honor from the American Institute of Architects was conferred this week on Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, which has added such buildings to the Bay Area as the North Beach branch library, the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley and a dozen apartment complexes for low-income residents. “The three of us decided we had one career, and we wanted to use it to make positive change,” said Marsha Maytum, who founded the firm with Bill Leddy and Richard Stacy in 2001. In announcing the selection, the AIA praised Leddy Maytum Stacy for its “highly influential work that advances issues of social consciousness and environmental responsibility.” [...] Plaza Apartments provides a calm anchor to one of the city’s toughest blocks, while Cazeneve Apartments includes such ground-floor retailers as a Vietnamese sandwich shop and an upscale chocolatier. Ed Roberts Campus, which houses a variety of organizations focused on the issues of rights and access for people with disabilities, was attacked as overscaled and intrusive even though the Ashby BART Station is across the street. Ed Roberts Campus allowed the firm to push the limits of universal design, where buildings are easy to use no matter what someone’s age, eyesight or physical ability might be. Among its projects on the drawing board are a housing complex for veterans in Mission Bay, the renovation of a large pier at Fort Mason for the graduate center of the San Francisco Art Institute and a middle school in Hillsborough that will use less energy than it produces on-site.

Sea level rise — a common threat, an array of answers

Sun, 20 Nov 2016 03:07:06 UT

Sea level rise — a common threat, an array of answers Both, though, are examples of the Bay Area shoreline at risk from the long-term effects of sea level rise — and reminders that there’s no single way to prepare for what might lie ahead. The correct remedy in some areas of shoreline will involve forms of natural healing, with restored and managed marshes that provide habitat for wildlife and trails for people. [...] when major public investments or large residential communities are at risk, barriers might be needed to keep out water that wants to come in. Projections done in 2012 by the National Research Council, a scientific think tank, suggest that looking ahead to 2100, the “most likely” scenario for bay rise is average tides 36 inches higher than today’s. “We’re in a big transitional period,” said Allison Brooks, executive director of the Bay Area Regional Collaborative, an alliance of four state and regional agencies that play a regulatory role in planning in the nine Bay Area counties. Whatever the precise impacts of sea level rise, the mistake for us would be to treat it as one of those problems to be dealt with someday, down the road. No matter how grim the political climate in Washington, D.C., might be, the design community here and beyond can offer scientifically grounded visions of the future that stir a sense of potential rather than dwelling on apocalyptic what-ifs. “I tell people, ‘Give me an air boat and a box of dynamite, and I’ll restore the marshes,’” said John Bourgeois, driving his Prius across bumpy levees on the south edge of the bay, Silicon Valley’s tech campuses visible through the haze. Bourgeois is executive manager of the California Coastal Conservancy’s South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, which since 2004 has worked to bring 15,100 acres of former marshland back to life. Nearby are the lumpy remnants of a levee, bits of it left in place after it was breached so that salt marsh harvest mice, an endangered species, can scamper to safety during extra-high tides. [...] a levee would be erected at the far edge of tidal flats. Berms added on the inland side allowed marshes to be flooded to create ponds of uniform depth. Within the 10,000-plus unrestored acres that are overseen by the Coastal Conservancy, the next phase of restoration should begin in 2018 — an $11 million rebirth of 730 acres on the shore of Menlo Park owned by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service known as Ravenswood Ponds. By starting now, the restored tidal marshes should be hardy enough that as sea level rises, the remade wetlands will endure. Today, the former hay fields where a levee was breached are a sleepy rustle of cord grass and pickleweed sliced by blue rivulets of water that swell and contract depending on the tide. Portions of the shoreline, meanwhile, were molded into slowly rising slopes known as horizontal levees, where, if needed, marshes can migrate as sea level rises. A local farmer spread the material and then plowed it into the slope, reducing the acid levels so that native plants someday will sprout. “Going from dry to wet overnight is the easy part,” Meisler said during a visit to Sears Point, where he pointed with relish to a single tuft of cord grass poking above the muck. After T. Jack Foster bought the acreage in 1960, 18 million cubic yards of fill were used to raise future development parcels above sea level and shape lagoons that now hold boat slips for homeowners. To escape that designation, the city expects to spend $70 million to raise existing levees an average of 3 feet — and perhaps millions more to take sea level rise into account. Adding a knee-high wall to the path along the levee’s crest would add to the expense, but also would protect against the tide levels forecast through at least 2050. [...] to the east, facing a bay inlet known as San Leandro Bay, airport property ends at the low bend of Doolittle Drive, a roadway owned by Caltrans that leads into the city of Alameda. A study done for the B[...]

4 shoreline stretches show range of challenges to cope

Sat, 19 Nov 2016 21:38:52 UT

4 shoreline stretches show range of challenges to cope With as little as 18 inches of sea level rise, water could spill across Doolittle Drive onto the Oakland International Airport several times a year during extra-high tides. Raise the drive’s low spots. [...] the road is owned by Caltrans, which means the airport might need to protect itself with inland measures while waiting for Caltrans to take action. Add another 2 feet, as is now being considered by the City Council, and no additional treatment for hazard protections should be needed until at least 2050. A good example is near Sears Point, where two large restoration projects involving 1,300 acres were done in 1996 and 2015. Ducks Unlimited and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are planning a similar 4,400-acre effort on nearby Skaggs Island (off map). An example of the ongoing rebirth of the South Bay Salt Ponds is the next installment of the multidecade effort by the California Coastal Conservancy: 730 acres in Menlo Park. (B) will remain as a salt flat that provides nesting areas for western snowy plovers.

A design to watch for California College of the Arts

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 21:00:00 UT

California College of the Arts has selected the Chicago firm Studio Gang, led by Jeanne Gang, to remake the school’s cluster of buildings and properties near Showplace Square. In selecting Gang late Tuesday, the college went with an architect best known for distinctively shaped and textured towers — including a 39-story high-rise with what she calls “migrating bays” that is approved and could begin construction early next year on Folsom Street near the Embarcadero. [...] her academic work is extensive, including an 800-bed residential commons at the University of Chicago described as “stunningly beautiful” in the November issue of Architectural Record. An imaginative approach to landscape architecture will be necessary as well, since green space in the former blue-collar flatland is nonexistent. Gang’s initial focus is likely to be on a 2.4-acre empty lot behind CCA’s main building in San Francisco, a spacious, light-filled former Greyhound Bus facility at 1111 Eighth St. that the college restored in the late 1990s. Beyond the addition of buildings and plazas, CCA seeks to create a learning environment in sync with the fluid technology culture that has emerged in San Francisco and Silicon Valley — while also making the campus feeling like something distinct unto itself. Even with such industrial equipment as ceramic kilns and glass furnaces for students, CCA would like to consume no more energy than it can produce on site. Stephen Beal, president of the college, said there will be a simultaneous effort during the next six months to map out a campus plan, while Studio Gang starts to tackle design possibilities for the empty lot.

Ro Khanna ousts incumbent Mike Honda from 17th District seat

Wed, 9 Nov 2016 16:31:06 UT

In the Bay Area’s marquee congressional race, Fremont Democrat Ro Khanna ousted Rep. Mike Honda from the South Bay seat the incumbent has held for the past 16 years. With 58 percent of precincts reporting, Khanna had a substantial 59.4 percent to 40.6 percent lead over his fellow Democrat in the bid for the 17th Congressional District seat. “I know it’s a deeply divided national election and it’s easy to become cynical these days, but let us remember our democracy is the most open political system in the world,” Khanna told a raucous crowd at the Royal Palace Banquet Hall in Fremont about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday Honda hit back with ads pointing to his 35 years in political office and accusations that Khanna’s campaign had illegally hacked into his campaign files.

Khanna takes big lead over Honda in key congressional race

Wed, 9 Nov 2016 07:34:58 UT

In the Bay Area’s marquee congressional race, Fremont Democrat Ro Khanna was holding a strong early lead in his bid to oust Rep. Mike Honda from the South Bay seat the incumbent has owned for the past 16 years. With 18 percent of precincts reporting, Khanna led his fellow Democrat 58 percent to 42 percent in the bid for the 17th Congressional District seat. “I know it’s a deeply divided national election and it’s easy to become cynical these days, but let us remember our democracy is the most open political system in the world,” Khanna told a raucous crowd at the Royal Palace Banquet Hall in Fremont about 9:30 p.m. The candidate’s spokesman, Vedant Patel, said shortly before 10 p.m. that the campaign would wait for final vote tallies before making a statement on the race. Honda hit back with ads pointing to his 35 years in political office and accusations that Khanna’s campaign had illegally hacked into his campaign files. Huerta, the son of Latina labor icon Dolores Huerta, found that his famous name wasn’t enough to overcome the popular 39-year-old dairyman, despite the district’s strong Democratic and Latino tilt. In the Santa Barbara area, Democrat Salud Carbajal held a lead over Republican Justin Fareed in the race to fill the seat of retiring Democratic Rep. Lois Capps. GOP Rep. Steve Knight of Lancaster (Los Angeles County) was fighting off Democrat Bryan Caforio, a Santa Clarita (Los Angeles County) attorney, in his high-profile contest to win a second term in Congress. While on paper, the district should be a safe haven for Republicans, Democrats worked overtime to tie the conservative Issa to GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and his policies.

Berkeley battle over minimum wage ends in useless ballot measures

Sun, 6 Nov 2016 15:52:07 UT

Berkeley battle over minimum wage ends in useless ballot measures San Francisco has the Bay Area’s longest ballot, but Berkeley has the region’s most confounding pair of ballot measures. Meet Measures BB and CC, each of which is intended to hike wages paid in the city of Moe’s Books and Chez Panisse. [...] 72 hours of paid sick leave and annual wage increases based on inflation.

Girl rebuffs man’s attack in Pacifica

Tue, 1 Nov 2016 04:42:02 UT

The incident occurred shortly before 5 p.m. near Hickey Boulevard and Firecrest Avenue, according to a statement released by the department Monday evening. The assailant is described as a man in his 30s, thin, with a trimmed beard and wearing blue jeans and a black shirt. Anyone who might have information on the man or the incident is encouraged to call the Pacifica police department at (650) 738-7314, or leave an anonymous tip at (650) 359-4444.

Novato woman arrested in hit-run death

Tue, 1 Nov 2016 03:55:22 UT

A police officer on patrol Sunday saw a car with damages similar to what would be expected when a vehicle hits a pedestrian. According to the department’s news release on Monday evening, the officers “established probable cause to believe she (Loiseau) was involved in the collision.” Loiseau, a Novato resident, was arrested Monday evening on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and felony hit and run, and booked into Marin County Jail.

‘Frank Lloyd Wright and San Francisco,’ by Paul V. Turner

Thu, 27 Oct 2016 19:23:05 UT

By focusing on his work in and around the region, the relationships with his clients and Wright’s visits, where he happily fed outrageous quotes to an eager press, Turner gives us a scholarly but flavorful history that’s far more satisfying than the lavish monographs or detailed studies that Wright tends to attract. After a quick nod to hints of a 1900 design for a house in Oakland, apparently never built, the saga begins with Wright’s quixotic effort in 1913 to design a high-rise home for the San Francisco Call at Fourth and Market streets. The promotional fanfare included a sold-out lecture by Wright in which he extolled the virtues of his “tap-roots bridge that goes down into the bed of the bay and stands there, on the bottom, on tip-toes.” Even now it’s a thing of conceptual beauty, with smooth arches and a curvaceous form that widens at the top to make room for a large public park Spoiler alert: When he submitted plans for the Daphne Funeral Chapels to the city — it would have hovered above Market Street midway between Castro Street and Van Ness Avenue — he was photographed at City Hall eating chocolate cake while explaining to reporters that “a place where you go to see the last of your earthly companions should be a happy place.” More often than not, he stayed at the St. Francis, perhaps stopping by the exquisite gift shop he designed at 140 Maiden Lane for V.C. Morris to rearrange the displays (invariably changed back after his departure). “Wright’s Bay Area works are distinctive mainly for their diversity and the unprecedented nature of many of them,” writes Turner, an emeritus professor of art at Stanford University. Turner’s prose is methodical and so is his approach, with a succession of chapters that begins with the mysterious Oakland house and ends with a deservedly lengthy account of the birth of Marin Civic Center. At times he steps back to fill us in on Wright’s more unusual encounters — including a 1949 symposium on modern art where Wright shared the spotlight with such luminaries as artist Marcel Duchamp and came off as something of a boor. [...] what lingers are the glimpses we receive of Wright as a force unto himself — one scheme for a Telegraph Hill apartment tower went astray because, Green later said, the potential client “wasn’t as effusive as Mr. Wright expects his clients to be” — in a city where you could rent a floor of office space near Union Square for $125 a month.

Cloud-shape design floated for Lucas museum

Thu, 27 Oct 2016 06:00:00 UT

Streamlined and metallic, the proposed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art conjures up the futuristic realm of “Star Wars” rather than the romantic yesterdays of the Palace of Fine Arts, the filmmaker’s inspiration for the proposal rejected by the Presidio Trust in 2014. The unanswered question is whether Lucas will try again to place his eclectic collection of illustrative and cinematic art in San Francisco, or instead take a site offered to him in Los Angeles. If he and his team choose Treasure Island, the museum would be built on a 4-acre site at the south end of the island, next to a planned ferry terminal and the historic Building One from the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition. [...] it fits within the height limits on the site that Lucas and his staff have been looking at since the Marin resident abandoned plans in June for a museum in Chicago because of legal opposition. Both the Treasure Island museum and a proposal for Exposition Park in Los Angeles are being designed by Ma Yansong, 41, a Chinese architect known for free-flowing sculptural drama. The public levels of the museum would be lifted up in a way that anticipates sea-level rise, but also to make room for a level of parking that would be cloaked in landscaping. The Los Angeles version of Lucas’ museum is more conventional but still has a turbo-charged air — it’s an elongated spaceship that would touch down on either side of a major road leading into Exposition Park. The largest local stumbling block apparently involves a determination of whether or not the museum’s traffic and environmental impacts are allowable within the island’s approved studies, or if a supplemental (and time-consuming) environmental impact report will need to be done. Planners are likely to offer several sites where it might be moved, either into the new shoreline park or to public spaces planned within the island. Overall, city officials say they’re intrigued by the idea of adding a major pop-culture attraction to a plan that has been on the drawing boards for more than a decade. The Lucas Museum “fits well with the plans for the island, and the overall programs we’re trying to have here,” said Bob Beck, director of the Treasure Island Development Authority. According to Don Bacigalupi, the museum’s president, the design work and search for approvals are being done simultaneously in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

State agency to draw up plan for sea level rise in Bay Area

Sun, 9 Oct 2016 21:03:35 UT

State agency to draw up plan for sea level rise in Bay Area “We need to take stock of what’s vulnerable, and prepare a response that makes ourselves more resilient and prosperous,” Larry Goldzband, executive director of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, said Friday. The unanimous vote by the agency’s commissioners Thursday also recommends that local governments “explore new institutional arrangements to address the impacts of climate change.” The commissioners agreed to begin working with Caltrans and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to assess the dangers to major roadways and rail corridors as well as “communities with characteristics that make them more vulnerable to sea level rise.”

Embarcadero in SF on list of nation’s at-risk historic treasures

Wed, 5 Oct 2016 05:00:00 UT

San Francisco’s Embarcadero has been named one of America’s at-risk historic treasures — not because of development threats, but the looming dangers posed by earthquakes and sea-level rise. The combination of the 3-mile seawall that forms the downtown shoreline and the piers along it that extend into the bay are on the list of the nation’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places released Wednesday by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “We wanted to call attention to the fact that thousands of historic resources along our shorelines and our rivers are at risk from sea-level rise,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust. Extreme shaking wouldn’t cause the century-old barrier of concrete and rocks to collapse, but the partially submerged structure could lurch down and out toward the bay, tearing apart portions of the roadway and structures above. Add the challenge of preparing for sea-level rise — the city now bases its planning on a 2012 study by the National Research Council that estimates tides in 2100 climbing as much as 66 inches higher than they are today — and “costs could reach $5 billion to fully incorporate adaptation measures needed for the next 100 years.” Given these scenarios, the city has budgeted $8 million during the next two years for a full assessment of the seawall’s strength or lack thereof, along with initial work on planning and environmental studies of a response In its annual listing, the National Trust calls the Embarcadero Historic District “a major economic engine for the Bay Area” that “has contributed to a remarkable urban waterfront renaissance.” [...] there have been popular restorations of the Ferry Building and Piers 11/2, 3 and 5, as well as waterside plazas and a new cruise terminal at Pier 27. Other places in the class of 2016 include a historic naval hospital facing demolition threats in Charleston, S.C.; two heavily Latino neighborhoods in El Paso, Texas, that are under pressure from gentrification; and the 1.9 million-acre Bears Ears landscape in southeast Utah “threatened by looting, mismanaged recreational use, and energy development.” The 1.9 million-acre Bears Ears cultural landscape features archaeological sites, cliff dwellings, petroglyphs and ancient roads. Historic district played a prominent role during World War II as a re-entry point for American servicemen injured in Europe and Africa. Historic neighborhoods form the core of El Paso’s cultural identity, but homes and small businesses are threatened by demolition. Historic buildings at the core of the town that hosted “Trial of the Century,” Charles Lindbergh baby kidnapping trial, are threatened by a development proposal that would demolish the iconic Union Hotel. The river and landscape remain threatened by a proposed transmission line project that would compromise their scenic integrity. Unique engineering marvel and a highly significant example of midcentury modern architecture, the domes are facing calls for their demolition. Two-mile corridor on Tucson’s Broadway Boulevard features one of the most significant concentrations of historic midcentury modern architecture in the Southwest but is threatened by a transportation project that would require demolition.

1st Bay Day to celebrate local treasure

Sat, 1 Oct 2016 00:24:37 UT

Billed as a local counterpart to Earth Day, the first Bay Day will take place Saturday with more than 40 themed events, ranging from bicycle tours and discounted kayak rides to a shoreline tai chi gathering. [...] while nobody expects the turnout to rival this weekend’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in Golden Gate Park, the organizers say they’re confident this year’s event will be the start of a tradition all its own. The nonprofit organization dates to the early 1960s, when cities along the bay routinely turned shallow waters into sites for dumps, industrial parks and whatever else was on the agenda. The group’s most recent achievement was the successful campaign for Measure AA in the June election, a regional parcel tax that is intended to raise $500 million over the next 20 years for marsh restoration and other bay improvements. Some of the planned events are for earnest devotees of the bay, such as hikes to showcase the challenges of sea level rise in East Palo Alto’s Ravenswood Open Space Preserve. Other events have a less obvious connection to the topic — such as $4 pints of ale at the 21st Amendment Brewery’s tasting room in San Leandro, several blocks inland from the shore.

‘Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs,’ by Robert Kanigel

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 19:22:56 UT

Jane Jacobs has had more influence on how we think about cities than anyone else since World War II, or at least since 1962, when her book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” made a case for the messy vitality of old-fashioned neighborhoods at a time when clean-slate urban renewal was all the rage. [...] notions as the value of shops and apartments along a city sidewalk are treated as holy scripture by devotees, or fodder for checklists used by earnest planners and cynical developers alike. “She was social activist, gadfly, rogue, and rebel,” writes Robert Kanigel in Eyes on the Street: Kanigel sets out to chart the evolution of a physician’s daughter in Pennsylvania coal country into a Greenwich Village working woman and then a lay author of startling originality. [...] the author strikes a conversational tone throughout that tries too hard to be engaging. When Jacobs works for the Office of War Information in the 1940s, Kanigel gushes that “her talents, her bristling intelligence, were plain to see” but then frets that “she was still invisible to the great world of literature and ideas.” Another path in — the heretical one that I recommend — is to skip the masterwork and instead read “Downtown Is for People,” one of 37 articles, speeches and ephemera in the new collection Vital Little Plans: The piece appeared in 1958 in a surprising venue, Fortune magazine, and it maps out the terrain she would explore much more fully in “Death and Life.” The “ultimate expert” on urban conditions can be you or me: “What is needed is an observant eye, curiosity about people, and a willingness to walk.” There’s plenty more of value in “Vital Little Plans,” which ranges from a 1936 piece for Vogue on New York’s jewelry district to an excerpt from the book Jacobs was working on at the time of her death 60 years later at age 89. In small doses it may be beneficial, says the woman who can be seen as having (figuratively) paved the way for the trend, but there’s a tipping point where “so many people want in on a place now generally perceived as interesting … that gentrification turns socially and economically vicious.”