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- July 20, 2010BY JULIE KIM
[Image: The New York Times]
Where will I live?
How will I get around if I can no longer walk or drive?
Will I be able to afford health care?
Can I hope for something more than whittling away my golden years in a nursing home?
Whether you face these questions around growing old for yourself, or indirectly through the concerns of your parents, grandparents or other senior relatives and friends, the issues around aging are tough.
And let's face it: no one likes to think about getting old.
The issues are not made any easier by the traditional paradigm of aging and senior housing and care in the U.S.—a narrow field of options defined on one end by living in your home and having frequent or live-in care and on the other, being confined to a different sort of "home" more reminiscent of a hospital than a supportive and stimulating environment in which to live out your golden years.
It's no surprise that many who are dealing with aging issues are anxious they'll be presented with an either/or option, neither of which is exactly right for their situation.
But thanks to the work of leaders in the field of aging, that paradigm is starting to shift, the field widening to include a more diverse array of options. I was glad to hear some of them discussed last week at a roundtable hosted by Kuth Ranieri Architects, in preparation for SPUR's upcoming "Cities for Aging" program series, which kicks off next Tuesday evening at the Urban Center.
These options fall loosely under the umbrella of "aging in place," which we framed in broader terms—as a way to foster more choice and independence—than the more common definition allows.
Joyce Polhamus, director of Smith Group's Senior Living Practice, touched on the importance of variety in designing, planning and building communities for seniors, a population of 60-85 year-olds that will comprise an estimated 20 percent of San Francisco's population by 2020 (a nearly 30 percent rise from 2004.)
Polhamus noted that some elders will want to remain fully independent, renting or owning homes in major cities where daily life can be carried out without a car. (Although, as reported by today's New York Times, there's a lot more we can do—lengthening crosswalk signals, for instance—to make cities more "age-friendly.") "¨"¨Others may find that prospect daunting, and opt instead to buy into a self-sustaining development in the suburbs, a city unto itself with a roster of amenities (think yoga classes, gardening clubs and nutrition workshops) and a supportive, community-oriented feel.
Nader Shabahangi of AgeSong, a developer of senior communities in San Francisco and the East Bay, believes we need to offer more diverse housing options (low-income rentals as well as high-end condos), and more innovative models for care (specialized transitional, emotional and behavioral therapy). And Byron Kuth wondered how senior communities of the future might be designed to support emerging principles of aging, health and community.
Kuth, Polhamus and Shabahangi are all panelists for Tuesday's program. They'll describe where and how we need to push the envelope when it comes to urban planning, architecture and policy. Here are some questions I hope will be addressed by Tuesday's panel:
How might we retrofit outdated nursing homes and build new communities to reflect this expanded paradigm?
In the realm of public policy, could (or should?) California go as far as Oregon did and create a State Unit on Aging to implement a statewide plan to support our rising population of seniors?
What options are out there for those who don't (or won't) have the luxury of good physical, mental and financial health?What are the differences between assisted, independent and fully supportive living?"¨"¨
For Tuesday's program, we're lucky to have Kenny Caldwell of Caldwell Communications + Marketing on board as our able inquisitor and discussion facilitator.
COMMUNITIES FOR AGING
A three-part program series "¨
July 27, August 4 & 5, 2010
Communities for Aging "¨
Tuesday, July 27, 6 p.m."¨
Featuring Byron Kuth, Joyce Polhamus and Nader Shabahangi"¨
Moderated by Kenneth Caldwell "¨
Free for SPUR members; $5 for non-members "¨Reception to follow
Community programs for urban seniors "¨
Wednesday, August 4, 12:30 p.m.
Featuring Seth Kilbourn of Openhouse, Steve Nakajo of Kimochi, Inc. and Christina Olague of the Senior Action Network"¨
Free for SPUR members; $5 for non-members"¨"¨
Institute on Aging campus tour
Thursday, August 5, 12:30 p.m."¨
With Don Lusty of BRIDGE Housing and Ken Donnelly of the Institute on Aging "¨
$10; SPUR members only; Register here"¨
- July 19, 2010BY ELIZABETH HOLDEN
Fritz Haeg's Animal Estates Snag Tower [Photo Credit: Monique Deschaines/FOR-SITE Foundation]
How does public art play with the space of an urban area? In San Francisco, public art is important to people, but open space is scarce. Open spaces dedicated to slices of visual quality, such as the POPOS or Pavement to Parks projects, engage the public in a conversation about art without the confinements of a museum. The recently opened Presidio Habitats redefines this conversation of art and place by exhibiting art in an urban national park.
This installation is unique because it is built for native animals. Architect Fritz Haeg embraces the idea of building for the animal client through his Animal Estates project, which he has installed throughout the United States and built according to the natural space of the specific area. One of these installations is Snag Tower in Presidio Habitats.
Haeg's work does not focus on promoting himself as an artist, but rather blends into the environment, like another tree, through its minimalist design. Snag Tower stands alone, but like a tree becomes a unique part in a collective whole. The FOR-SITE Foundation, which aims to promote "art about place," describes Snag Tower as "a prototype for a collective model home designed to accommodate six animal clients that would otherwise live in a snag, or standing dead tree, in the park." Haeg's desire to share the overlooked beauty of a dead tree, by recreating it with the Snag Tower installation, presents the public with a new definition of natural beauty.
In this initial phase, Presidio Habitats embodies art about place because it represents and interacts with the environment of the Presidio. Perhaps over time this unique example of public art will come to define the park. Haeg's piece in particular represents a subtle piece of architecture that defines and responds to its surroundings. Presidio Habitats stands apart from other public art installations because it changes the interaction of art and place in urban areas by graying the relationship between them.Tags: public art
- July 16, 2010BY FABIANA MEACHAM
Last week's Parks and Parklets tour led a group of enthusiastic urbanists to three of the city's parklets — miniature parks built on roadway and parking spaces reclaimed for the pedestrian realm.
Divisadero: We kicked off our tour at the Divisadero Street parklet in front of Mojo Bicycle CafÃ©. CafÃ© patrons sipped coffee and admired their gleaming two-wheelers as Great Streets Project's Liza Pratt filled us in on the parklet's history: installed in March of this year, this newborn parklet has been a boon to business, inspiring Mojo to apply for a license to serve liquor outdoors.
En route to the Castro Parklet, SPUR members and staff traded stories, shared laughs and tried not to notice the obscenities scrawled on the battered wood veneer of the 24 bus, (among the most offensive: "I â™¥ STEELY DAN").
Castro: Seth Boor of Boor Bridges Architecture joined us in the Castro, where he told us about the collaborative design process. Boor led the project, but worked with landscape architect Flora Grubb and local sculptor Paul Cesewski on the garden design and rolling gate, respectively. The custom-built gate, created from salvaged steel obtained at no cost, rolls open to allow streetcars to pass through, but remains closed most of the time, creating a lovely barrier against traffic for parklet users. Due to a limited budget (around $50,000), parklet construction can't interfere with any below-street infrastructure, so instead of hooking up to sewer and water lines, passive, ground-level drainage channels were added to the concrete planters.
Mission: A long walk to 22nd and Bartlett Street ended with at the Rebar-designed Walket, which Rebar describes as "a modular, flexible sidewalk extension system designed to create new public spaces for people by extending the pedestrian realm into the parking lane." A diverse crowd in various states of repose was found on, under, and next to the structure.
Thirsting for more parklet adventures, one intrepid tour-goer led a solo expedition to the Guerrero Street parklet after the tour ended. Most of us, however, returned to our respective workplaces, enlightened by an afternoon of small, economical and successful public spaces.
[Photo Credit: All photos by Colleen McHugh]
- July 16, 2010BY ANIKA JESI
[Photo Credit: Colleen McHugh]
SFMOMA architects meet the public: The project of designing the $250 million SFMOMA extension to house the incoming Fisher Collection has been narrowed down to four eclectic finalists. In a short film, each architect discusses their individual hopes for the future of MOMA and their theories on what a museum should be.
Science city stores warm air from summer to heat buildings in winter: A Swiss University has found a way to heat its campus with virtually no carbon emissions. Their innovative method, which could have significant implications for city-scaled sustainability solutions, stores warm air from the summer, and uses it as a heat source during winter.
Will California achieve its anti-sprawl targets? California's anti-sprawl bill promises to bring about much needed change by requiring metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to invest in projects that promote sustainable land use, but will MPOs shift their investments away from destructive development in order for these changes to be realized?
Subway on the street: The Bx12 in NYC offers a glimpse into the bright future of bus transit, if buses are given a dramatic makeover. In this utopian, but not altogether unattainable future, passengers board in mere seconds, and buses glide through rush hour traffic with ease.
So-Cal seeks High Line West: With the recent success of New York's High Line, it's no surprise that LA is unveiling plans to build the West Coast version of the popular elevated park.Tags: Weekly Snapshot
- July 15, 2010BY TIMOTHEA TWAY
[Photo Credit: flickr user Sam Williams]
Earlier this month, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) unanimously adopted new air quality guidelines related to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and particulate matter (PM 2.5) from land use projects. The comprehensive new guidelines, among the most stringent in the nation, address the impacts of air pollutants, as well as recent changes in state and federal air quality. The guidelines also include air quality significance thresholds and mitigation measures local agencies can use when preparing air quality impact analyses under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Some significant changes to the guidelines include:
- Single family housing projects of 56 dwelling units or greater, hotels with more than 83 hotel rooms and general office buildings with more than 53,000 square feet will all be considered to have a significant impact on GHG emissions under CEQA.
- Local governments are encouraged to adopt qualified GHG Reduction Strategies.
- New screening criteria and threshold levels have been set for extremely fine particulate matter emissions and toxic air contaminants. Projects which fall above these new thresholds will be required determine whether the project will result in a significant impact, including evaluation of emissions within a 1,000 foot radius of the proposed project.
Stricter greenhouse gas and particulate matter guidelines are a good thing, right? Not always, say some who argue that the new guidelines may inadvertently lead to more sprawl by making it harder to develop the denser parts of our region. Some worry that the new regulatory obstacles will drive up the costs of future affordable housing, infill, and transit-oriented development (TOD) projects. Developers and cities are concerned that the new guidelines will make compliance with SB 375, the State's law which requires compact development, more difficult.
The guidelines do contain a method for local governments to accelerate the CEQA review process for projects that are infill or transit-oriented. To do this, a city can prepare a GHG Reduction Strategy and have it approved by BAAQMD. Projects or plans consistent with these strategies could then be considered less than significant under CEQA, and therefore exempt from full review. With cities around the region reeling from the budget crisis, and in some cases cutting planning staff, however, resources to develop these strategies are in short supply.
San Francisco has already begun working on a GHG Reduction Strategy, so it is unlikely that the BAAQMD Guidelines will cause significant environmental review process changes for projects in the City; the new air quality standards will likely have more significant impacts on projects and plans in jurisdictions without GHG Reduction Strategies or detailed climate change related policies.
- July 14, 2010BY JON ROGERS
Determined to see changes occur in their neighborhoods despite tight city budgets, many DIY Urbanists are taking matters into their own hands. They are rolling up their sleeves to make improvements to their built environment by planning, designing, and implementing projects. Because DIY Urbanism projects are conceived by individuals and implemented on tight budgets, innovation and creativity are key ingredients in any DIY project. As a result, DIY Urbanism projects are as diverse as the people who implement them. Projects can run the gambit from short to long-term endeavors, and can include anything from greening and beautification of public spaces to temporary improvements to stalled construction projects.
Aside from jumpstarting an otherwise stalled project, DIY Urbanism offers several other benefits, not least of which is empowering individuals to make a positive difference in their communities. In direct contrast to typical "top-down" approaches to planning, DIY Urbanism's "bottom-up" approach requires that individuals actively partake in shaping the city around them. This, in turn, strengthens the connection between individuals and their surroundings, and can even lead to a more engaged citizenry.
Featured Project: Life in the Fast Lane
Not all DIY Urbanism projects have to serve a particular goal such as beautification, public safety, or information sharing. Check out this example (sponsored by Volkswagen) from Berlin, to see what happens when a little piece of the playground is brought to a subway station. This whimsical project is a friendly reminder to have fun and shows us that a small DIY project that re-imagines a conventional environment can add a little joy to our everyday lives.
In preparation for our upcoming exhibit, DIY Urbanism: Testing grounds for social change, the blog will feature urban projects from around the world that embody the "DIY" mentality. Check back for more DIY Urbanism features in the coming weeks.
- July 14, 2010BY BEN LOWE
[Photo Credit: Colleen McHugh]
The San Francisco Department of Elections announced on Monday that the Fix Muni Now campaign had submitted enough voter signatures to qualify their Muni reform measure for the ballot.
The Department of Elections conducted a random sample of 2,248 signatures of the total 74,933 submitted and, based on this statistical sampling, determined there were more than the 44,382 signatures required.
The measure, if approved by voters in November, would require the Muni operators union, TWU-250A, to engage in direct negotiations for their wages and benefits, like every other public service union in San Francisco. Currently, operator wages and benefits are guaranteed in the City Charter to be, at a minimum, the second-highest in the country. TWU-250A is the only public service union in the city that has made no concessions during the recession of the past several years, opting instead to collect an automatic raise on July 1st, less than a month after Muni service was cut by ten percent.
By restoring collective bargaining as the method by which wages and benefits are determined, the City of San Francisco will be able to address inefficient operator work rules, which a recent audit by the City Budget Analyst estimates cost the city several million dollars per year.
- July 13, 2010BY JORDAN SALINGER
Golden Gate Bridge, circa 1933 [Photo via Historypin user megscannell]
Beyond simply serving as tools to express our knowledge of our physical surroundings, maps have frequently served as an artistic medium, allowing for the expression of biases and acting as a platform for storytelling. Since the start of the 21st century, online mapping services, led by Mapquest and more recently Google, have focused less on creativity and more on accuracy in attempting to map the planet. Google's Street View took this one step further, placing photographic evidence in the context of the map. A new service, introduced by Historypin, is bringing back the creative side of map making."¨
In collaboration with Google, Historypin allows users to geotag their photos and place them on the online map. This type of crowdsourcing is not new, as it has previously been employed by flickr. Where this website truly differentiates itself from previous geotagging endeavors is by allowing the user to incorporate the date of the snapshot and an explanation of the image. Another feature allows you to place the historic image alongside the street view image, an interesting way to note changes to the location over time."¨
I stumbled upon a recent photo upload that captures the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge (top) between 1933 and 1937. The user who uploaded the photo speculates that the photo was taken in the middle of that period, because both towers have been erected, but the roadway has yet to be built. In reading the photo description, you also learn details about the origin of the photo (in this case it was discovered in her aunt's garage), but the photographer remains a mystery.
Sutro Baths, circa 1936 [Photo via Historypin user megscannell]
Another photo awaiting more detail (above) shows the S.S. Ohioan run aground outside the Sutro Baths in 1936. Today, the former site of the Sutro Baths looks much more like a modern ruin. Looking at this picture I was struck by the temporary nature of our built environment, and the permanence of our natural surroundings. "¨
With this freedom to narrate a map of our photographic history also comes great responsibility. Just as with Wikipedia or any other site dependent on user-generated content, Historypin must successfully balance storytelling with fantasy. Where the service excels, however, is in its recognition that a city is not simply made up of streets and parks, but also includes a narrative fabric, one that is too frequently forgotten.
- July 13, 2010BY FABIANA MEACHAM
What are the most pressing issues facing California in the next 15 years and how should we deal with them? If only there were one comprehensive PDF document floating around the internet with all the answers.
Policy wonks across the state will now be thrilled to discover the Public Policy Institute of California's recently released CA2025 report, a "briefing kit" covering California's most important long-term policy issues. Outlining policies on topics ranging from water to transportation to the economy, the report acts as a kind of handbook for every major policy concern confronting the state today. While one might expect an insufferably dense document, the text is actually quite accessible, the graphics clear and informative. Some might crave more detail and in-depth analysis than CA2025 provides, but the report still serves as an excellent primer for the key issues facing the state, and presents compelling arguments for how our policy makers might tackle them.
[Graph courtesy of PPIC CA2025]
- July 12, 2010BY TIMOTHEA TWAY
[Photo Credit: Timothea Tway]
At SPUR we work hard to promote the use of green building and energy efficiency practices. (Did you know the SPUR Urban Center recently achieved a LEED Silver rating? Look for it in our lobby soon!) The City of San Francisco has a comprehensive green building ordinance to address new buildings and large retrofitting projects, however we always love to see more retrofitting of existing buildings in order to further conserve resources.
That's why we're so excited about W San Francisco. Located a few blocks from SPUR in the heart of SOMA, the W Hotel recently received the first LEED certification of an existing building owned by a major hotel chain in the nation. The building is also only the seventh hotel in the country to receive LEED recognition for an existing building.
In order to help achieve LEED certification, the hotel incorporated energy efficient lighting into 70% of its guest rooms, and utilized motion sensors and an HVAC system to save 300kWh of energy annually. The hotel also offers "zero-waste," carbon neutral events as well as meeting experiences for clients featuring local and organic food and beverages. The hotel is even considering incorporating wind turbines on the building's roof in order to further improve energy efficiency, which, if implemented, would be a first for a commercial building in downtown San Francisco.
The City of San Francisco currently has more than 50 LEED certified buildings, many of which are newly constructed. Hopefully this project will bring attention to the many opportunities in the City for green retrofitting and the benefits of improving the energy efficiency of already existing buildings. For more information on this topic, check out this recent report by the Mayor's Task Force on Existing Commercial Buildings.