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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 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 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 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 7, 2010BY FABIANA MEACHAM
Maybe "Block 27 Parking Structure" isn't the most promising of names, but there's not much one can do to jazz up this widely reviled building type, so why try to come up with something catchy -- right?
At least that's what I thought before encountering WRNS Studio's garage on SPUR's Mission Bay walking tour last week. The Mission Bay Redevelopment District, home to luxury condos, swanky biotech headquarters, and a burgeoning UCSF campus, contains one of the most inspired parking structures around. Winner of a 2010 AIA San Francisco Design Award, the building incorporates "a deeply canted plaster wall" and perforated aluminum panels to great effect, standing out sharply from the surrounding office park. Although I'm not sure anyone on the tour picked up on the "pixelated imagery of California's redwood forests," it's curious to think that a parking garage, of all things, could invoke the region's ecological heritage.
The parking structure, which will accommodate the parking needs of nearby laboratories and offices, joins Ricardo Legorreta's UCSF Community Center and Richard Serra's giant oxidized steel sculptures as landmarks in this newly minted high-tech community. All these structures incorporate elements inspired from nature and contrast sharply with the glossy corporate setting, creating a more textured and personal sense of place in Mission Bay.
Ballast, Richard Serra (left); UCSF Community Center, Ricardo Legorreta (right)
[Photo Credit: All photos by Colleen McHugh]
- June 24, 2010
Alleys serve many purposes and people, often all in the same space. They provide back access so that service vehicles and garages don't conflict with transit and pedestrians, and so that main frontages can be preserved for shops and lobbies. They provide affordable and quirky commercial spaces for small businesses. They reduce the scale of large blocks, bringing light and air into dense areas, and creating a humane physical and mental framework for walking — with shortcuts, variety, and interest. They provide intimate, slow-paced environments protected from the noise and traffic of arterials, where people can spill out into the streets. The most interesting alleys are those that mix back-of-house with front-of-house with the house itself. But above all, they're the nooks and crannies of the city. For me, the sheer promise of hidden-ness, mystery and a sense of the unknown glimpsed down every narrow side street is what makes the city intriguing.
However, alleys are under constant threat, including by development. Once "vacated" and sold, we can never get them back. The fine city fabric is lost, made coarser and consolidated into larger parcels with bigger buildings owned by fewer people. Publicly owned rights-of-way are our most valuable and flexible assets. Our modern standards and codes, too, challenge our ability to design and replicate the best of San Francisco. In areas with large blocks, particularly industrial areas, we need to require all new large developments to create new alleys in order to build the web of public paths that inspire and enable people to explore on foot.
1. Quirk and fabric. At six feet wide, Elim Alley (above) is about the narrowest right-of-way in the city. You can almost touch the buildings on both sides. It reminds me of the Callejon de los Besos in Guanajuato, Mexico, so-named because lovers can lean out of their windows across the public way to kiss. Easily overlooked artifacts of space are vulnerable — this alley may be threatened or celebrated by a current proposal incorporating the parcels on either side.
2. Mess makes function. This Chinatown alley shows that informality and messiness can create a functional and humane place. Great places such as these give the standard-bearers the fits: it's impossible to fit the required sidewalks on both sides plus a separated roadbed plus space for trash cans, light poles, etc. Pedestrians dominate the space and everything else gently fits in.
3. Misapplication of standards. The re-designed Valencia Gardens was supposed to continue the pattern of great small streets in the Mission (e.g. Lexington Street, right), which have one lane of traffic and parking. But the Fire Department applied a suburban 20-foot drive width here, so we ended up with an overbuilt two-lane road that later required the installation of bone-jarring speed-bumps.
4. Get vertical and span the space. Alleys are perfect for creating a "roof" to the public realm with lights and decorations that span from building to building. Adding thin, lightweight elements overhead that don't block the sky — like these banners and retractable awnings on Mark and Claude Lanes — creates vertical interest and a human scale to draw people down otherwise foreboding and canyon-like corridors.
5. It's the small things that count. Trinity alley has been transformed into a successful lunchtime Financial District open space. Thin retail slivers that hold a hot-dog stand and poster store show that it doesn't take much to enliven a space! It's back-street businesses like these, not the premier restaurants, that make the city functional and affordable day-to-day.
6. Moderation and scale. Keeping alleys livable means maintaining sunlight as well as an appropriate scale. The Planning Department is crafting new height controls to require stepbacks and lower height limits along alleys. The Yerba Buena Lofts, while eight stories on Folsom Street, creates the right scale along Shipley Street by stepping down along the alley.
7. Erasing the public realm. Jessie Street. RIP. Nice wall, eh? Selling off streets to increase the size of development is explicitly prohibited in the General Plan, yet strong policies protecting the city's intangibles often lose out when officials are enticed by the economies of scale.
Caseworker: Joshua Switzky is a planner and urban designer in San Francisco.
Photo Credit: All photos by author.
[Urban Field Notes, an additive of cultural landscapes and observations compiled by SPUR members and friends, will now be a regular feature on the SPUR Blog. Urban Field Notes can also be found in the Urbanist, a monthly publication sent to all SPUR Members. Send your ideas to Urban Field Notes editor Ruth Keffer at firstname.lastname@example.org]
- March 19, 2010BY COLLEEN MCHUGH
Mayor Gavin Newsom, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, DPW Director Ed Reiskin and a crowd of supporters gathered yesterday in front of Mojo Bicycle Café on Divisadero at Hayes to celebrate the opening of the city’s first of many new “parklets.” These parklets—parking spaces repurposed as lively sidewalk extensions—are part of the city’s Pavement to Parks initiative.
The new Divisadero Street parklet consists of a wooden platform elevated to sidewalk height and extended across two former parking spaces. Benches, tables and chairs, planters, and bike parking fill the transformed public space.
These parklets can be attributed in some respects to several years of creative PARK(ing) Day activism. PARK(ing) Day was conceived by REBAR in a single San Francisco parking space in 2005. Since then, it has been celebrated in parking spaces across San Francisco and around the world. Opening exactly six months after PARK(ing) Day 2009, the Divisadero parklet shares many of the design aspects first experimented with in the Urban Center’s most recent PARK(ing) Day project—a collaborative effort between SPUR and the Great Streets Project. Architect Riyad Ghannam, who volunteered his time and skills to design the Divisadero parklet, also designed the temporary mobile platforms we used in front of the Urban Center. PARK(ing) Day 2009 was a great day at SPUR—a street-side celebration of sun, friends, neighbors, music, and public space. And it is exciting to see that the hours of construction by Riyad and other volunteers and interns in the depths of the SPUR basement may have had an impact beyond just one perfect day in September.
Left: PARK(ing) Day 2009 at the Urban Center. Right: Divisadero St. parklet. [Images: Colleen McHugh]
- December 18, 2009- posted by Colleen
Deputy Director Sarah Karlinsky was featured in a short film this week on the future of San Francisco’s streets.
Streetsblog San Francisco posted a video on Monday showcasing the Making a Better Market Street Project. The project envisions Market Street as a grand boulevard similar to La Rambla in Barcelona, the Champs-Élysées in Paris, or the more recently reconfigured public space in New York’s Times Square. As Sarah Karlinsky explains in the film, “[these cities] are really thinking about their streets as more than just infrastructure for cars to move along; they’re really places that people want to make use of.“ In this spirit, the project has instituted trial traffic diversions, public art in storefronts, live music and public programming along Market. According to the video, private automobile traffic on Market Street has reduced by 60%, pedestrian traffic has increased by 250 pedestrians/hour, and MUNI travel time in the trial area has decreased by a minute following the redirection of traffic off of Market.
See more of Sarah’s interview and learn more about the project by watching the video below:
- December 1, 2009BY ELIZABETH HOLDEN
Fall programming concluded November 18th with bikes, parks and policy in the City of Light. Writer and lecturer Marilyn Clemens illustrated current trends in Parisian roadway and park design, which follow the geometry of the classical era, while also redefining the purpose of public space. The Alliance Française generously sponsored the event.
Clemens reported walking as the most popular method of circulation, and the city of Paris plans accordingly for its pedestrians. From small alleys to the Champs-Élysées, streets of all sizes have taken lanes away from cars and given to pedestrians. Cyclists are also a priority, with over 230 miles of new bikeways in the works. And while bicycle sharing has faced challenges, Vélib’ remains popular throughout France.
A partnership of the planning department with the department of the environment prompted a new focus on sustainability in the parks, using educational programs and exhibitions to promote the message. Innovations in park design set new precedents. The Promenade Plantée (pictured) runs for nearly three miles along an abandoned railway viaduct. Completed in 1995, the green space inspired New York City's High Line. The beautiful elevated space caters to both bikers and walkers, making it easy for Parisians to take the high road.
[Image: Marilyn Clemens]
- October 22, 2009- posted by Julie
Join us on Wednesday, November 4 at City Hall for this special event, featuring planning directors from six cities, co-sponsored by SPUR and the San Francisco Planning Department. The evening's lineup includes:
- BILL ANDERSON from San Diego
- SUSAN ANDERSON from Portland
- AMANDA BURDEN from New York City
- JOHN RAHAIM from San Francisco
- DIANE SUGIMURA from Seattle
- BRENT TODERIAN from Vancouver
This event starts at 6 pm, and is free and open to the public. See you in two weeks!
Tags: community planning