Tag: 2020-10-nn-roundup

Norman Foster says Covid-19 won’t change our cities

By Tom Ravenscroft, DeZeen, October 13, 2020

“The coronavirus pandemic will not fundamentally change cities, but could lead to more sustainable buildings, a ‘renaissance’ for urban farming, and a ‘new future’ for monorails, says Norman Foster.

“ ‘Is Covid-19 going to change our cities?’ asked the founder of London-studio Foster + Partners. ‘It might seem so now, but in the wider arc of history, the answer is no. It has merely accelerated trends of change that were already apparent before the pandemic.’

  • ‘The Great Fire, 1666, created building codes that led to fireproof brick construction.’
  • ‘The Cholera Epidemic of the mid-nineteenth century cleaned up the Thames from an open sewer and was the birth of modern sanitization.’
  • ‘Then Tuberculosis struck and helped birth the modern movement in architecture — big windows, sunlight, terraces, white, and clean.’

“ ‘But every one of those consequences — fireproof construction, sewers, green parks, modernism — would have happened anyway, and not just in London but in cities around the world, because cities learn from each other.’

“‘The cumulative effect of these many trends are transforming city centers and local neighborhoods, making them quieter, cleaner, safer, healthier, more friendly, walkable, bikeable and, if the opportunity is grasped, greener,’ he said. ‘The last major pandemic in 1918-20 … heralded the social and cultural revolution of the 1920s, with big public gathering spaces, department stores, cinemas, and stadia.’

“The architect concluded that the current crisis could lead to cities being improved to become more appealing to live in and more resilient to future health issues. ‘The pandemic is a tragic event, we have all lost loved ones, and for the moment the virus continues,’ he said. ‘But stepping back, I am confident that cities will prove their resilience and appeal — they will bounce back stronger and better as a consequence.’”

Read the full article here.

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What do Oakland, Vilnius, and Rotterdam have in common?

By Derek Robertson, The Guardian, October 12, 2020

“Rotterdam’s Witte de Withstraat was a car-choked thoroughfare. Today, cars are banned after 4pm, locals stroll down the middle of the road, and special wooden terraces have taken the place of parking spaces. ‘They give the extra space we need right now. And they’ve been decorated in a very attractive way — there’s a completely different energy to the area now,’ a local café owner said.

“The reallocation of urban space has become one of Covid-19’s most tangible effects on the built environment. Cities are being forced to innovate, and the car is bearing the brunt.

“[Cities] are introducing ideas that challenge decades of orthodoxy in urban planning and design.

  • “Oakland, California, has converted many neighborhood streets into pop-up ‘slow streets,’ closed to car traffic.
  • “London mayor Sadiq Khan, introduced Streetspace for London, including temporary cycle lanes and wider pavements.
  • “In Paris, the plan is for 650 new kilometers of pop-up ‘corona cycleways,’ and the removal of 72 percent of on-street parking.
  • “Even Vilnius, Lithuania, with its typically cool, rainy summers, made an effort to turn public streets into an open-air cafe.

“Parking spaces have proved the perfect way to reclaim the required land. Many people are working remotely, and inner cities have had huge drops in visitor numbers. American cities have been particularly aggressive in this regard.

  • “Portland, Oregon, was one of the first to seize on parking spaces with its Come Thru Market. The initiative connects black and minority ethnic farmers with customers through local parking lots in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
  • “Las Vegas has erected tented shelters and ‘cooling centres’ in unused parking lots for homeless people to take refuge and access services.
  • “And China has recently accelerated plans for a huge, car-free district in Shenzen, ‘designed for and about people.’”

Read the full article here.

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Google presents bold vision for downtown San Jose campus

By Victoria Song, Gizmodo, October 9, 2020

“In newly released renders, Google highlighted some early-stage illustrations for a few of the key concept areas. For example, ‘The Gateway’ is meant to be a 0.75-acre open space that integrates the San Jose Water Company Building and surrounding residential neighborhoods. The idea is for it to be a ‘flexible plaza for temporary pop-up programming and events,’ and include amenities like an amphitheater that’s also open for public use.

“The campus itself aims to be a ‘20-minute city’, as in you can walk most of the city within 20 minutes. Along that vein, Google says it aims for roughly 65 percent of the campus to be accessible via walking, cycling, public transit, or carpool to discourage single-car use. As for greenery, Google says the campus will include at least 10 parks as well as several trails.

“While a majority of the project will be dedicated to office space, Google also plans to include up to 5,900 dwelling units, a 300-room hotel, and 500,000 gross square feet dedicated for ‘active uses’ (i.e., retail, restaurants, nonprofits, etc.).

“It remains to be seen how the local San José community feels about it. Giant tech companies and their walled-off campuses have, after all, played a significant role in gentrifying Silicon Valley and the California housing crisis.”

Read the full article here. (~3 min.)

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Executive order directs California to conserve land, coasts

By Alexei Koseff, The San Francisco Chronicle, October 7, 2020

“Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order on October 7 setting a target to conserve 30 percent of the state’s land and coastal waters by 2030 — joining dozens of nations in a global pact to preserve biodiversity and prevent species loss.

“California would need to conserve another 8.4 million acres over the next decade to meet the goal Newsom set.

“Newsom’s order also directs his administration to take steps to streamline approval of land restoration projects, protect native plants and animals from invasive species, and reinvigorate the population of pollinating insects in California.

“Most significantly, several agencies will develop policies to capture more carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the state’s natural and working lands such as forests, rangeland, farms, wetlands and coasts. These strategies, intended to help California reach its goal of carbon neutrality by 2045, could include planting cover crops, restoring wetlands, managing forests more actively to reduce wildfire risk, and planting trees and creating parks in urban areas.

“ ‘It’s not about a scarcity mindset. It’s not about taking something away,’ Governor Newsom said. ‘It’s about an inclusive, abundant mindset.’”

Read the full article here. (~3 min.)

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New research: British Columbia shelter system tests homeless stipend

By Bridgette Watson, CBC News, October 7, 2020

The New Leaf project is a joint study started in 2018 by Foundations for Social Change, a Vancouver-based charitable organization, and the University of British Columbia. After giving homeless Lower Mainland residents cash payments of $7,500, researchers checked on them over the course of a year to see how they were faring.

“All 115 participants, ranging in age between 19 and 64, had been homeless for at least six months and were not struggling with serious substance use or mental health issues. About half were chosen at random to be given cash while the other half were a control group.

“Not only did those who received the money spend fewer days homeless than those in the control group, they had also moved into stable housing after an average of three months, compared to those in the control group, who took an average of five months.”

Many participants who received the stipend were food-secure after one month and were able to budget their stipend effectively for the year.

“Claire Williams, CEO of Foundations for Social Change, a charitable organization, said it costs, on average, $55,000 annually for social and health services for one homeless individual. According to study data, the project saved the shelter system approximately $8,100 per person for a total of roughly $405,000 over one year for all 50.”

Read the full article here. (~2 min.)

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Four Bay Area counties fail equity requirement for reopening

By Fiona Kelliher and Nico Savidge, The Mercury News, October 6, 2020

“California added its ‘equity metric’ last week to the list of criteria counties must meet before they can advance through the color-coded tiers created to guide the reopening of shuttered businesses and activities.”

Counties that fail the state’s equity requirement, “must promise to direct more resources toward testing and contact tracing in coronavirus hotspots.”

“On Tuesday, Oct. 6, data showed San Francisco, Contra Costa, San Mateo, and Sonoma counties were among 12 statewide whose coronavirus infection rates were particularly high in those neighborhoods and did not meet the requirement. All others in the Bay Area, including Alameda and Santa Clara counties, met the benchmark.

“The metric is California’s most aggressive move yet to try to address the global pandemic’s disparate impact on its Black, Latinx, and Pacific Islander residents. Although Latinx people make up less than 40 percent of California’s population, they account for more than 60 percent of coronavirus cases and nearly half of deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.

“San Mateo County officials, who last week praised the new metric even as they predicted they might fail to meet it, said they have worked to expand testing, improve contact tracing, and provide financial support for housing or food to help people stay isolated. The county’s most at-risk areas include parts of Redwood City, San Mateo, and East Palo Alto.”

Read the full article here. (~ 4 min.)

Return to the November Northern News here.

Pandemic and wildfires challenge California’s economy

By Conor Dougherty, The New York Times, October 5, 2020

“Businesses shuttered by the pandemic are slowly reopening, but technology complexes are quiet, their workers carrying on from home indefinitely. The smoke-filled skies had started to clear, but new fires have arrived in a fierce wildfire season that shows the intensifying effects of climate change.

“If California is to continue leading the nation’s economy deep into the future, its leaders and residents will have to rethink where and how the state grows.

“Superficially, the forecasts for California are no better or worse than the nation’s, with some sectors, like tourism, badly hurt and others, like technology, barely touched. But between climate change and remote work, the state is facing questions that uniquely cut to the core of its economic identity.

“Despite the diversity of California’s vast economy, there is near-universal agreement on one barrier to growth: the exorbitant cost of housing. 

“Economists and planners have long counseled that the best way to relieve this pressure is to build more housing near the coastal job centers, but California has continued to sprawl, a pattern that has undermined the state’s own emission-reduction goals by encouraging longer commutes, while placing more homes in fire zones. In 2010, the last year with available data, nearly a third of California housing was in the so-called wildland-urban interface, where wildfire risk is greatest, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

“In a season of perpetual fires and apocalyptic orange skies, and with home prices only continuing to rise, it seems open to question whether the state can get much bigger. But even in the age of climate change, some economists project that growth will find a way.

Read the full article here. (~6 min.)

RELATED: In Bay Nature, Hayley Davis describes ecological damage and recovery efforts in Bay Area parks due to recent lightning-ignited fires. (~10 min. read)

RELATED: Millions of Americans have already been displaced by climate change. Samantha Harrington writes about climate migration in Yale Climate Connections. (~6 min. read)

Floodgates in Venice work in first major test

By Elisabetta Povoledo, The New York Times, October 3, 2020

A network of 78 floodgates barricading three inlets protected Venice from high tides that would have flooded about half the city’s streets if the gates had not been raised.

“Designed some four decades ago to help save Venice from flooding, the mobile barrier system was delayed by cost overruns, corruption, and opposition from environmental and conservation groups.

“Alberto Scotti, the engineer who designed the floodgates, said the floodgates had been designed to defend the city ‘even in anomalous situations,’ and even with high tides reaching nearly 10 feet.

“While supporters of the project welcomed October 3rd’s test as a major victory, some pointed out that the floodgates won’t fully solve the growing threat posed by climate change.

“ ‘With climate change, there’s a chance that the floodgates could be employed 150-180 days a year, becoming an almost fixed barrier and severing the lagoon’s relation to the sea,’ said Cristiano Gasparetto, an architect and former provincial official who has long opposed the project.

“ ‘If the lagoon is cut off from the sea for long periods, it dies, because the natural exchange of waters stops, and all of its organic life risks decaying,’ he said.

“ ‘If the lagoon dies, Venice dies,’ he added.”

Read the full article here. (~3 min.)

RELATED: A short video from the BBC shows Venice’s mobile flood barriers being tested in 2013 during an earlier stage of construction.

Return to the November Northern News here.

Why Canadian metropolises will thrive despite the pandemic

By Joe Berridge, special to The Globe and Mail, Oct 2, 2020

“It’s too early to tell. But now, at the six-month mark of the pandemic, we can see some clues about how our cities will respond: very slowly.

“Cities have great inertia; they are enormous, complex, socio-physical objects which change probably less than 1 per cent each year. The city we have now is largely the city we will have post-Covid-19.

“After all, people and businesses have leases and mortgages, jobs and families, communities and connections, which take years — not months — to restructure. After that much time, the sense of crisis could have passed, or have become the new normal.

“All offices are likely to go on some form of blended work/home arrangement, staggered hours and shift work at first, with those constraints steadily easing as — hopefully — rates of infection diminish and any outbreaks are better tracked and controlled.

“But there are two wicked problems. First, elevators.

“Reprogramming of elevator speed and service, reserved time slots, no-touch operation, making all occupants face walls — along with in-place air-filtration, anti-viral UV and total sanitizer systems — all will become the new elevator normal.

“The less technologically solvable, much more significant problem is urban transit.” Berridge proposes several solutions, including:

“Transit has never properly explored the market price for movement, and to get people out of their cars it may have to offer a Starbucks’ as well as a Timmys’ level of service. Reverting to the ‘pack ’em in’ rush-hour style will be [transit’s] death, with fatal consequences for cities and their finances.”

Lastly, Berridge considers the impacts of the pandemic on Toronto’s poorest, least-well transit served neighborhoods:

“The pedal-powered ‘15-minute neighbourhood’ notions appropriate for downtown have little lived reality for [lower income communities in inner suburban districts]. Something more robust is required: a 15-year program of intelligent, comprehensive, and speedy regeneration, accompanied by the right forms of guaranteed income support to place a floor under poverty. Frankly, we owe these residents big time.

“Is big city density dead? No. Will the shape of the city change? Yes, but slowly. Could we use this opportunity to redress the glaring inequity of a city’s socio-economic structure and service quality? I hope so.”

Read the full op-ed here. (~15 min)

“Joe Berridge is an urban planner and partner at design and planning firm Urban Strategies. He teaches at the University of Toronto and is the author of the book, ‘Perfect City.’ ”

Return to the November Northern News here.

Richmond creates affordable homes from abandoned houses

CBS SF Bay Area (KPIX), October 1, 2020

“With the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, many wonder why abandoned buildings aren’t being used to house people. The city of Richmond is now doing just that.

“Richmond currently has 240 boarded-up houses — often the result of homeowners who die before arranging to pass on their properties. Investors don’t want to buy these homes because the environmental cleanup costs and property taxes make them difficult to sell at a profit.

“[The nonprofit Richmond Community Foundation (RCF)] helps repurpose these homes. They’ve turned 20 abandoned, single-family homes into affordable housing.

“RCF received grant money from the Environmental Protection Agency and social impact bonds from the local Mechanics Bank to fund cleanup and construction. They sell the homes to first-time homebuyers at below market rate.

“The families pay down the bond debt allowing Richmond to finance the next project.

“The concept is spreading. Jim Becker, president and CEO of RCF, says he’s talking with teams in Sacramento, Antioch, and Pittsburg about trying something like this in each of those cities.”

Read the full article here. (~ 2 min.)

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