The New York Times, March 3, 2019,
Paul Goldberger • Dublin-born Architect Kevin Roche “ … believed that because each building emerged out of a different situation, each called for something very different. It was a view he took from his mentor, Eero Saarinen, whose thriving architectural practice formed the foundation of Mr. Roche’s own.
“Mr. Roche was hired by Saarinen in 1950, and before long he became the architect’s chief design associate, working on projects like … the TWA Terminal at Kennedy Airport [and] Dulles International Airport, outside Washington.
When Saarinen died suddenly in 1961 at 51, it fell to Mr. Roche and John Dinkeloo, another Saarinen lieutenant, to keep the office going and complete Saarinen’s numerous unfinished works. As they began to take on new projects of their own, the Saarinen office transitioned into Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates.
“For all Mr. Roche’s delight in creating crisp, nimble architectural shapes in glass, some of his most notable early work came across as anything but light. For one of the most important projects he worked on with Saarinen, the John Deere headquarters in Moline, Ill., Mr. Roche proposed developing a kind of steel that could be allowed to rust naturally. The resulting rough, reddish-brown product, Cor-ten, became a common building material.
“Shortly after Saarinen died, Mr. Dinkeloo, Mr. Roche’s partner, persuaded him to enter a competition to design a new museum in Oakland (1968). His entry, envisioning a low concrete building consisting of a series of terraces with a park on the roof, won the competition, and Mr. Roche’s career as an independent architect had begun.
“In 1982, Mr. Roche was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, widely considered his profession’s highest honor.”
Read the complete obituary by Paul Goldberger here.
Sonoma Index-Tribune, February 23, 2019
Christiane Kallen • “Like most of the rest of Sonoma County, the Bennett Ridge neighborhood is beginning to recover. The October 2017 wildfires incinerated 92 homes on Bennett Ridge, destroying more than two-thirds of the neighborhood of 129 homes.
“The Parkinson family— Pete, his wife, Celia, and 10-year-old son Henry — fled their ridgetop home overlooking Trione-Annadel State Park in the early hours of Oct. 9, thinking at first they would go to Celia’s mother at Journey’s End Mobile Home Park for safety. But flames had destroyed much of the Santa Rosa mobile home park.
“ ‘From my perspective, that is emblematic of how overwhelming the whole situation was, because even the firefighting agencies did not in those early hours have a very good handle on the scope of the fires.’
“Parkinson knew to jump right away into permit applications, researching architects and contractors for his rebuilding project. The quick start paid off: The framing is up, the roof is on, the windows installed. Getting incentives from Sonoma Clean Power to build 20 percent over code, energy-saving insulation will reduce heating and cooling costs long-term.
“The new house will include a great view of Hood Mountain to the east. On a clear day the 2,733-foot peak looks almost close enough to touch. That view alone was incentive to stay on Bennett Ridge.” Read more here.
Los Angeles Times, February 20, 2019
Liam Dillon • “Citing the increasing cost of housing across California, state Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) has introduced new legislation that would block high-cost regions from imposing new prohibitions on housing construction or decreasing the number of homes allowed on certain pieces of land.”
[According to the Legislative Counsel, http://bit.ly/2STswaK, the bill would prohibit a county or city, and its electorate through initiative or referendum, from enacting or amending a general plan or zoning ordinance that would reclassify property to a less intensive use below what was allowed under the general plan as of January 1, 2018.]
“It would also prohibit local governments in those areas from enforcing requirements that developers install parking spots alongside buildings, among a number of other proposals.
“Her plan is among the most aggressive proposed by state lawmakers in dismantling city and county restrictions on development, which legislators have identified as a major contributor to housing cost increases.
“The legislation also would set deadlines for cities and counties to decide on housing developments that they have the discretion to approve.
“For low-income housing, Skinner’s bill goes further by eliminating local fees on development. Skinner’s plan also prohibits the demolition of rent-controlled apartments and those that offer Section 8 assistance in an effort to prevent displacement from new construction.” Read more here.
Mountain View Voice, February 16, 2019
Mark Noack • “Caltrain officials said that funding remains secure for a $2 billion project to upgrade the rail line to an electrified system. The state’s high-speed rail project is obligated to provide $713 million toward the cost of the upgrades.
“That funding remains intact, and the state recently awarded an additional $165 million to the project to purchase electric trains, said Caltrain spokesman Dan Lieberman.
“Mountain View Councilman John McAlister, who sits on the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) board of directors, expressed confidence that the recent setback for high-speed rail would not curtail the city’s plan to separate the local train crossings. Those projects include a $60 million plan to close off Castro Street to road traffic and a $120 million project to tunnel Rengstorff Avenue under the train tracks.
“Those expensive infrastructure projects already have funding secured, primarily from the 2016 Santa Clara County Measure B sales tax, which allocated $750 million toward grade-separation efforts, McAlister said.” Read more here.
San Francisco Examiner, February 9, 2019
Laura Waxmann • “Close to 45,000 potential homes are currently approved in San Francisco — the highest number tracked by the city’s planning department to date — but many have yet to break ground.
“ ‘No more bureaucracy. No more costly appeals. No more not in my neighborhood. It’s simple: Affordable housing as-of-right because housing affordability is a right,’ said Mayor London Breed.
“But public disapproval and the slow approval process aren’t the only roadblocks. Constraints on financing and a growing trend of flipping entitlements are significant causes for delays, with some sponsors never intending to build.
“Sean Keighran, president of the Residential Builders Association, cited city departments “working in a bubble’ as exacerbating ‘uncertainty’ already experienced by developers due to construction loans, ‘high land costs, rising interest rates, rising construction costs, and a softening real estate market.’
“Keighran called construction loans the ‘highest risk of all,’ adding that interest rates, now as high as 8 percent, have doubled in recent years, while real estate sales are slowing down.
“The non-profit Council of Community Housing Organizations estimates that it can take up to four years for a for-profit project to secure financing for construction, and entitlements can be sold to other investors or ‘held for years with no firm requirement to build the project.’
“ ‘You can easily increase a property’s value in hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars just by entitling a project,’ said Jonathan Moftakhar, a realtor with Vanguard Properties.” Read more here
BART News, February 7, 2019
“In November 2004, voters in Contra Costa, San Francisco, and Alameda counties approved Measure AA, which allowed BART to issue general obligation bonds to fund up to $980 million of the $1.2 billion total cost of earthquake safety improvements.
“The highest priority for upgrades has been the Transbay Tube, the very core of the BART system.
“The tube is structurally sound, but BART is preparing for a rare and devastating earthquake — defined as a 1,000 year event — something that happens once every thousand years. In an event this large, the tube won’t fail, but it could crack and leak. The current retrofit will install an inner steel lining to key sections of the 3.6-mile-long tube and an upgraded pumping system to allow larger quantities of water to be removed quickly from the tube.
“Later this spring, a crew of more than 100 will bring equipment and materials into and out of the tube via an 800-foot long custom-built work train each night. Passenger trains will single track through the tube during this work, in 24-minute headways after 9 pm on weeknights.
“The components of the work train are being delivered to BART’s Hayward Shops. The work train will begin operations in spring from the Oakland Shops. It will travel through Lake Merritt and stop at the West Oakland Station to pick up the works crew before heading into the tube.
“The Transbay Tube work is expected to take three-and-a-half years.” Read more here.
The San Diego Union-Tribune, February 6, 2019
David Garrick • Help in solving “San Diego’s housing crisis by wiping out parking requirements for new [multifamily] complexes near mass transit moved forward on February 6. The City Council’s Land Use and Housing Committee voted 3-1 to forward the proposal for council approval on March 4.
“Council members in favor of the plan said reducing local reliance on automobiles [will make] housing cheaper and help the city meet the goals of its legally binding climate action plan.
“ ‘The cost of parking is incredibly detrimental to the cost of housing,’ said Councilman Scott Sherman, and as more young people choose to commute by transit, bicycle, and ride-booking services, ‘This provides flexibility to deal with the market as it is today and could be in the future.’
“Councilman Chris Ward noted that many other large cities have made similar policy changes based on emerging trends, including San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Santa Monica, Portland, Seattle, and Minneapolis. [Eligible San Diego projects must be] within half a mile of a trolley line, a bus rapid transit station, or two high-frequency bus routes. The transit must either be already operating or scheduled to begin operating within five years.
“Councilwoman Dr. Jennifer Campbell, the lone ‘no’ vote, said wiping out parking requirements would be premature despite its potential to help solve the housing crisis, noting that nearly 94 percent of San Diego adults own a car.” Read more here.
Quinnipiac University, February 6, 2019
“From January 30 – February 4, Quinnipiac University surveyed 912 California voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points, including the design effect.
“Affording the Golden State
“Led by younger voters, 43 percent of California voters feel they can’t afford to live in the Golden State. Among voters 18 to 34 years old, 61 percent say they can’t afford to live in California.
“Voters statewide say 77 – 18 percent that there is a housing crisis in California. That ranges from 72 – 20 percent among voters living inland and in the Valley to 87 – 11 percent among voters living in coastal areas.
“Climate change, forest fires
“A total of 78 percent of California voters are ‘very concerned’ or ‘somewhat concerned’ about climate change, 21 percent are ‘not so concerned’ or ‘not concerned at all.’
“California must do more to address climate change, 57 percent of voters say, while 19 percent say the state is doing enough and 18 percent say the state is doing too much.
“ ‘Californians say 62 – 34 percent that the changing climate is adding fuel to the wildfires. But voters are divided on which is more to blame for the severity of the fires, climate change or bad stewardship of the land,’ said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.” Read more here.
Poll results can be downloaded as a PDF.
CityLab, February 4, 2019
Teju Adisa-Farrar • “West Oakland residents’ decades-long resistance against poor air quality is starting to pay off as the Port of Oakland plans to reduce air pollution by transitioning to emissions-free solutions.
“In June 2018, the Port released the Draft Seaport Air Quality 2020 and Beyond Plan. The Plan aims to improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions and other pollutants, and includes proposals for vehicle electrification and zero-emissions infrastructure.
“The Seaport plan notes California’s 2030 and 2050 greenhouse gas reduction goals, but is timid regarding implementation of electrification [and] shies away from adopting electric trucks and equipment.
“David Wooley, Executive Director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Environmental Public Policy, says, ‘Trends in battery technology costs suggest that electric drive technology may become competitive with new diesel equipment soon,’ and he added: ‘Action now will also position the Port, its tenants, and supporting business to reduce costs and improve competitiveness of port operations over the long term.’
“The West Oakland Indicators Project has been a vital part of pushing the Port to make sure [the Seaport] plan centers on public health and air quality in the surrounding community. Oakland has a long history of resistance and consistent action from frontline communities fighting against industry that harms public health and destroys the environment. Now with the support of legal advocacy organizations, and in partnership with three of the state’s most active ports, these populations are gaining traction.” Read more here.