Blog » community planning
- October 17, 2009BY MARY
It's not too late to catch some sessions at the National Conference in Planning History taking place at the Oakland Marriott this weekend. Organized by the Society for American City and Regional Planning History, many of the panels and tours are focused on the Bay Area, as well as their Sunday tours, which include "Historical Development and Ethnic Change in Oakland," "Urban Renewal in San Francisco" and "North of the Golden Gate: Growth Control, Open Space, and Alternative Agriculture on the Urban Fringe." The Marriott is an easy two blocks from the Oakland City Center BART station.
- October 1, 2009BY MARY
Today was the second day of the six-week Better Market Street Project trial number one, which diverts cars headed north off of Market Street at 8th and 6th avenues, in an attempt to reduce traffic on the oft-clogged street. What a transformation! The morning bicycle commute has become a breeze and we hope will encourage more workers to choose their two-wheeled vehicle.
The Better Merket Street Project hopes his traffic reduction trial will be the beginning of the metamorphosis of Market Street into one of the great city boulevards of the world. More trials to come will include new mini-plazas with tables and chairs. See our own SPUR Deputy Director Sarah Karlinksy share her thoughts on the matter here.
- September 23, 2009BY JULIE KIM
New York Times columnist Allison Arieff penned a piece yesterday on the temporary parks and open spaces sprouting up in San Francisco and New York City--and the opportunity for land owners (in this soft economy) to lend their empty lots to grassroots greeners.
This image, from Arieff's column, shows the site of one of San Francisco's newest temporary plaza at the intersection of San Jose Avenue and Guerrero Streets:
The San Jose/Guerrero parks use simple materials--many of them recycled--to create instant atmosphere.
Arieff's column also featured many great images from PARK(ing) Day last week, as well as a link to a Streetsfilms segment featuring PARKS by SPUR and other members of the San Francisco Great Streets Coalition.
- September 23, 2009BY JULIE KIM
Last Friday, we teamed up with the San Francisco Great Streets Project and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition to participate in 2009 PARK(ing) Day, an event-cum-social movement started by Rebar in 2005.
Before the big day, architect and SFBC volunteer Riyad Ghannam spent countless hours in the Urban Center's basement designing and building wooden platforms to create a seamless transition between the sidewalk and PARK:
We're hoping the installation can be a model for restaurants and other small businesses to create temporary outdoor eating and sitting spaces as an extension of their storefronts. The model was a hit among North Beach restaurant owners, for whom PARK(ing) Day turned into a PARK(ing) Weekend! (See Streetsfilm's clip below for the whole story.)
Finally, what would PARK(ing) Day be without a little bellydancing by Calamity Sam, who literally stopped Mission Street traffic.
Thank you to plant-provider Flora Grubb, furniture-maker Miles Epstein, belly-dancer Calamity Sam and cellist Leo Suarez-Peringer for making 2009 PARK(ing) Day a raging success! And we're thrilled that Dwell, Streetsblog and Streetsfilms all had a chance to stop by.
- September 9, 2009BY DAVID BONOWITZ
Twenty years after Loma Prieta, are we better prepared for our next big earthquake? A new website takes a grassroots approach to the question.The site lets anyone post photos and descriptions of retrofitted buildings on a Google-based map. It launched in mid-August with an eye on the October anniversary. Results from the first two weeks are compelling: hundreds of structures, everything from houses to high-rises, posted by owners, engineers, contractors--and even local governments.
The mapped projects show what can be done and suggest what needs to be done still. But do they add up to something? SPUR has made the case for public policy that focuses on resilience, not just survival, and that's going to take some planning. Whatever the policy, however, earthquake risk reduction will almost always get done one building at a time, as the website illustrates.What's the point of mapping hundreds (maybe thousands) of retrofits? The organizers (full disclosure: I'm one of them) acknowledge that the site started as a way to quantify progress, but it's morphed into something different. Since the content is user-generated, it's not controlled enough to support a research project. Instead, the site is about community and shared purpose, a way for anyone and everyone to say "I retrofitted!" Twenty years of progress, even if slow or scattered, is worth documenting in a public way.
- June 25, 2009BY MARY
Times Square has under gone a transformation lately, with lounge chairs replacing traffic and conversations replacing honking taxis. This coned-off chunk off Broadway is one of a number of experiments with public space happening around the city. New York City's Department of Transportation is trying out various spots to see where roads currently set aside for traffic could be turned over to pedestrian and bikes without serious disruption. Like the project in Times Square, the first step is to stage the area with inexpensive, easily removable objects: large potted plants, beach umbrellas, tables and chairs. If it "works," if people use the space, it can made permanent. SPUR has recently teamed up with the Bicycle Coalition to work for the Great Streets Campaign, which wants to create similar urban spaces in San Francisco. The mayor of Bogata, Colombia, a leader in this movement, will be speaking at the San Francisco Public Library July 7th about successful strategies to make public urban space. Join in!
- June 23, 2009BY MARY
Earlier this month, after ten years of advocacy from neighbors, activists and artists alike, the first of three sections of New York's High Line park opened for visitors. The 1.45 mile-long park is situated on a defunct 19th century elevated train track that used to carry cattle into the Meatpacking District, but had been left standing since 1980, when nature adopted it, and turned it wild with grasses and wildflowers--a magical place for those who knew about it. James Corner, the landscape architect endeavored with transitioning the old rail into public space, created a design that maintains some tenor of abandonment and "retain[s] that quality of wildness and melancholy." At three stories high, the park runs from the Hudson, between buildings and crosses avenues and streets, giving the visitor a new prospect of the city and a fantastic place to be a voyeur.
- May 19, 2009BY DAVE SNYDER
The Transportation Authority today released the draft Strategic Analysis Report on "Transportation Options for a Better Market Street."
SPUR has long considered potential improvements to Market Street, and advised the Transportation Authority on the scope of this SAR. We urged the agency to be bold, but positive. That is, we emphasized that a study of Market Street ought to focus on the goals first before proposing solutions such as banning car traffic. We cited five goals:
- speeding transit vehicles by 20%, at least.
- a contiguous, carfree bicycle path of travel
- elegant bus stops, that are comfortable and more like "stations" than "stops."
- more convenient and safer pedestrian conditions on the north side, where the "pork chop" intersections damage the walking experience
- beautiful streetscapes with plenty of options for sitting
How did they do? Plesae review the study and give them, and us, your feedback.
- May 14, 2009BY MARY DAVIS
Accessibility for persons with disabilities, New Urbanist planners and architects will tell you, is an important principle. Still, other New Urbanist principles can come into conflict with accessibility; or, at least, they often clash with interpretations of the Americans With Disabilities Act, or with accessibility as defined by disability-rights advocates. Take February’s “Lifelong Communities” charette in Atlanta, at which Congress for the New Urbanism co-founder Andres Duany and Eleanor Smith, of the organization Concrete Change, were able to agree on the removal of requirements for elevated entries from the Duany Plater-Zyberk SmartCode—prized by New Urbanists for the privacy they enable, but a barrier for wheelchairs—but had to agree to disagree on issues including the utility of walk-up apartments located above retail.
- May 14, 2009BY MARY DAVIS
Toronto, Ontario, is, by any measure, one of North America’s greenest and most sustainable cities. It is also, by some accounts, the continent’s densest metropolis – but this is due in large part to the hundreds upon hundreds of “slab” highrises that sprouted across its outer neighborhoods in the postwar era. While Toronto’s “commie blocs,” as they’ve been derisively dubbed, provide the sort of residential density necessary to support transit and walkability, they are limited in their effectiveness by acres of surrounding lawn. Enter the Mayor’s Tower Renewal Program, which would first retrofit the buildings to make them more energy-efficient during long Canadian winters, then, over the long term, would encourage urban food gardens and mixed-use development on their grounds. Refitting, rather than demolition and new construction, could save the city as much as $55 billion. In the name of efficiency, the plan calls to house all decision-making parties for the redevelopment of apartment communities under one roof, effectively combining transit and energy planning with the designing of land use codes.