Blog: June, 2011
Public Workshop #2 - Presentation Material Available
The power point presentation from the June 4 public workshop is now available for download. Please find it below!
Good Government Awards: How Dana Ketcham Modernized SF's Park Permits
SPUR’s 31st annual Good Government Awards, held earlier this year, honored five City of San Francisco employees and teams who have performed exceptionally, becoming models for other agencies and cities around the country.
Dana Ketcham became involved in the Recreation and Park Department as a full-time volunteer when she spent two years redesigning the 103 athletic fields' reservation and permit system. She surveyed all field users and helped with public meetings to develop a season-by-season plan and online reservation and permit system. This new process added 35,000 hours of field playtime, more than doubling total field availability and capacity. Field users have enthusiastically received the outcome. She was then hired as the Reservation and Permits Manager and has completely automated all permits and reservation customer service functions by incorporating them into the recreation management database system – SFRecOnline. She led a staff reorganization to optimize customer service delivery, which has resulted in a 12% increase in permit fees – an increase of $600,000 from $3.5 million to now $4.5 million.
Watch our video on Dana Ketcham's work:
Will the City's Pension Proposal Really Solve the Pension Crisis?
In the coming weeks, the SF Board of Supervisors Rules Committee will be hearing the "consensus" proposal for pension reform, which Mayor Ed Lee and a coalition of the city’s labor unions released May 24. The board has until July to make amendments and vote on the proposal.
The proposal, which projects savings of $1 billion over ten years, would:
- Require that city employees pay more for their benefits, rather than reducing benefits. Employee contributions to the pension fund would increase as the city’s contributions increase. Employees earning less than $50,000 per year would be exempted.
- Increase the retirement ages for new employees from 62 to 65 for most employees and from 55 to 58 for public safety employees.
- For new employees, calculate pensions based on the average of the last three years of service (instead of the last two years, as is the current practice).
- Amend the composition of the Health Services Board to give the city more influence over employee health benefits and costs.
- Require existing employees to contribute to the Retiree Health Care Trust fund starting in 2016.
We congratulate the mayor on navigating an extremely difficult political process to achieve some level of consensus. But a number of questions still remain. It’s no secret that the city’s pension spending has exploded in recent years, but less well known is how it will increase in the coming years. The city controller projects that the pension burden will grow by an average of approximately $100 million per year in the next five years to somewhere between $717 million and $820 million per year by fiscal year 2015–16 — a near doubling of annual costs in just 5 years. Further, these projections show the city’s annual pension payments reaching nearly $1 billion somewhere around fiscal year 2020–21. To address this, Mayor Lee indicated that negotiations must save at least $300 million to $400 million per year to save the city from near-certain bankruptcy.
The City’s pension costs are projected to rise to at least $700 million per year within 5 years.
Preliminary estimates indicate that maximum savings generated will be approximately $60 million in the first year (2012–13) and total just over $1 billion over 10 years — well short of the Mayor’s original estimates, and well short of the projected increase in pension costs. Estimates of savings from the Adachi proposal total more than $100 million in the first year and $1.6 billion over 10 years.
What does all of this mean? Simply: neither of the solutions currently on the table actually solve the pension problem, but they certainly move things in the right direction. At best, they address 10 to 20 percent of the total pension burden at its projected peak and continue to divert significant funding from important public programs. And these savings will only be realized if one (or both) of these proposals is approved by voters in November. Unfortunately, all signs point toward two competing measures on the ballot — whether the second is driven by Adachi or by members of his coalition.
The Board of Supervisors Rules Committee meets the first and third Thursday of each month at 1:30 p.m. Follow their discussion of the consensus proposal here.
San Francisco Crowned the ‘Coolest’ Climate-Ready City
According to a recent analysis by the carbon-offset managers at CO2IMPACT, San Francisco tops the list of U.S. cities ready for climate change. The study gave us high marks for having committed political leaders, a proactive university community (11 SF schools are members of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) and the largest number of LEED certified buildings per capita in the United States.
While it comes as no surprise to see San Francisco leading the way, a lot can be learned from other U.S. cities positioning themselves as leaders in "climate capitalism." Coming in second is Seattle, home to the country’s first major utility to become carbon neutral. Other West Coast cities in the top ten are San Diego — for making great strides in transitioning to an economy with reduced carbon impacts — and San Jose, whose ambitious Green Vision seeks to turn San Jose into "the world center of clean technology innovation." The analysis used a methodology based on factors including political commitment, green buildings, university leadership, transit access and use, clean tech investment, and energy and greenhouse gas emissions.
While climate change action has been slow at the federal level, major U.S. cities are taking a proactive role at the local level, mitigating their impact as well as investing in appropriate climate change adaptation solutions. To learn more about the impacts of climate change in the Bay Area and what needs to be done, visit "Adapt! Climate Change Hits Home," on view at the SPUR Urban Center until July 22.
Read more about the Top 10 Climate-Ready Cities at Triple Pundit >>
Weekly Snapshot: Ban Cars in L.A.'s Downtown?
In preparation for their relocation to Downtown L.A., Gensler, one of the world's largest architectural firms, has already envisioned how to make the neighborhood a more energized, livable place. The firm, in partnership with three Cal Poly architecture students, has published a video showcasing their recommendations for the area. One such proposal is make the downtown car-free, pushing all parking to the perimeter, and replacing the overwhelming number of parking structures with cultural institutions, educational facilities, and housing.
Read full story at GOOD
More from the week in urbanism:
Underpass Park Will Change the City Forever
Toronto's innovative plan to build a park under a freeway overpass could transform the city's lower-east side, a formerly industrial "hole in the urban fabric."
Read full story at The Star
In Germany, the site of a never-realized nuclear power-plant has been converted into an amusement park run on renewable energy.
Read full story at Spiegel
After much deliberation, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved San Francisco's proposed Treasure Island development plan.
Read full story at S.F. Gate
Public Workshop #2 - Summary
We had a very successful public workshop for the Ocean Beach Master Plan on Saturday morning, June 4th. Special thanks to the 60 dedicated neighbors, advocates, and stakeholders who came out in the pouring rain to review our work and provide their input! Thanks also to the SF Rec and Park Department for providing the venue.
In case you were unable to attend and still want to provide comment, please find the feedback sheet from the workshop attached. You may either print it and mail it to us here at SPUR (654 Mission Street), or you can simply write your comments in an email to email@example.com.
Two animated videos from the workshop are below. The first explains the coastal dynamics at Ocean Beach. The second shows how waste water and storm water move through the treatment facilities located at Ocean Beach.
Thanks again for your interest and participation!
- The Ocean Beach Master Plan Team
Coastal Dynamics at Ocean Beach
West San Francisco Water Treatment Facilities
4 BART Stations, 1,000 New Residences, 0 Added Footprint
Accessory dwelling units — better known as cottages, in-law apartments or granny flats — could provide an estimated 1,000 new residences near selected BART stations, research by UC Berkeley Professor Karen Chapple shows.
ADUs diversify and increase the housing stock without enlarging a neighborhood's footprint, while allowing senior citizens to find a smaller dwelling without leaving their neighborhood, or college graduates to afford of a modest room of their own. With Bay Area housing in perpetual short supply, ADUs could provide a much-needed supply-side boost.
The catch? Existing zoning laws in the five-city study area of Albany, Richmond, El Cerrito, Berkeley and Oakland. Minimum lot sizes disqualify small properties from building ADUs, lot-coverage maximums and property-setback minimums restrict ADU placement and architectural design, and parking requirements—well, these stop many projects before they’re even started. Several cities require an additional unit of off-street parking for an added dwelling unit but do not allow tandem, or end-to-end, parking. This effectively requires an ADU builder to laterally extend a driveway (read: pave over part of the front yard) in order to provide a third independently accessible parking space.
The tale of the tape is that out of approximately 5,400 single-family residences within a half-mile radius of El Cerrito del Norte, El Cerrito Plaza, North Berkeley and Ashby BART stations, only 1,460 are even eligible for ADUs under current zoning laws. Eliminating the Berkeley lot size minimum and reducing the El Cerrito setback distances and parking requirement would increase that number to 3,568 eligible homes.
Chapple’s market research indicates that 28 percent of single-family homeowners in station areas have considered building an ADU; that's about 1,000 homes. While many in that tally face barriers under existing zoning laws, simplifying and reforming the code would allow the market to decide how many units will be built.
Widening the analysis to El Cerrito and Berkeley at large shows that reducing the zoning requirements doubles the properties eligible for ADUs from 4,220 to over 8,400. Assuming a market interest of 28 percent, and including the already-analyzed station areas, zoning reform could generate an additional 2,300 units of housing.
And that 28 percent figure is hardly fixed: as more baby boomers age, more will look for smaller, single-story housing within their neighborhood.
Weekly Snapshot: Adaptive Reuse in the Netherlands
As the Netherlands have no suburbs, planners in the area face the unique challenge of accommodating a growing population within the confines of dense cities, without expanding into the neighboring countryside. The PBS series Design E2 reports on one such "shining example of urban redevelopment," in which the Borneo-Sporenburg district of Amsterdam, a former dockland, was converted into 17,000 waterside homes. The plan, which includes a sea of low-rise, high-density houses interspersed with three high-rise apartment buildings was inspired by the 17th century Dutch tradition of building small homes around one central cathedral.
Watch video at Hulu
More from the week in urbanism:
Visualizing the Washington of Two Centuries Ago
A cool video by the Imaging Research Center at the University of Maryland uses historical maps and paintings in attempts to recreate Washington, D.C. as it looked 200 years ago, before the first plans for the city were underway.
Watch video at the DCist
Panasonic is planning to build an energy and eco-conscious “smart town” in the Kanagawa Prefecture of Japan, an area that was hit relatively hard by tsunami.
Read full story at Popular Science
Long Commutes are Relationship Killers
A new report by a Swedish university suggests that longer commute times contribute to greater stress on relationships, with individuals who have longer than a 45 minute commute each way experiencing 40% more martial problems.
Read full story at Infrastructurist
Hidden Histories: The Oakland Museum of California
The recent renovation of the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) by Mark Cavagnero Associates has brought much-deserved attention to this important Modernist design. Our Young Urbanist tour of the museum on Friday, June 3, A Night at the Oakland Museum of California, will give a behind-the-scenes look at the renovation project. But the original design of this Modern masterpiece deserves a closer look.
Designed in 1963 by architect Kevin Roche and landscape architect Dan Kiley, the museum was celebrated as a milestone in museum design when it was completed in 1969. Roche and Kiley worked with local landscape designer and horticulturist Geraldine Knight Scott to create an institutional complex that integrated architecture, landscape and program. The museum design has since proven to be a significant example of midcentury Modernism in the United States and is unique for its dual role as a museum and an urban park. Roche designed the museum with three distinct areas for art, history and natural science, and Kiley and Scott created a roof-top urban garden above that serves as an important public space within Oakland.
The OMCA design epitomizes themes of the Bay Area’s modern design aesthetic—with monumental, low slung, horizontal planes rendered in stark concrete. The lush landscape softens the lines of the building and provides the essential connections between indoor and outdoor spaces. The combination of architecture and landscape creates a thoughtful procession throughout the museum complex and facilitates the explorative experience so critical to museum programming.
The OMCA project was one of several important collaborations between Roche and Kiley, including the Ford Foundation in New York City and the Miller Garden in Columbus, Indiana (considered to be Kiley’s residential masterpiece). The lesson in the design of OMCA is in the harmonious skills of the design team, combining Scott’s knowledge of local plants, with Kiley’s powerful vision for an urban park and Roche’s grand gesture in modern institutional design. Together, these designers created a multi-faceted yet unified space for learning and exploration. The act of renovating and upgrading the museum by Mark Cavagnero Associates provides new focus on the OMCA while adding another rich layer to this important Oakland landmark.