June 29, 2006

Blogs about urban planning

I am heading to the model city of urban and regional planning: Portland, Oregon. In honor of the model metropolis, here's a short list of urban themed blogs: - altantalarry "An assortment of writings involving Atlanta's neighborhoods, New Urbanism, and Cities" - Neighbourhoods "...neighbourhood relations, social capital..." - Rebuilding place in urban space - San Francisco Cityscape - starts and fits "A log about land use and transportation that is updated . . . from time to time"

June 24, 2006

In Bay Area newspapers

I read two of my favorite Bay Area newspapers on Friday : the Berkeley Daily Planet and the East Bay Express. Several interesting items are listed below. From the Berkeley Daily Planet (June 23-26) - The Espresso Roma cafe in the Northbrae neighborhood (Monterey Market area) was once a gas station. - The recent passage of a side yard parking ordinance allows one car to park in the side yard. The property owner has to maintain a two-foot landscaped zone between the parked car and the adjacent property. From the East Bay Express (June 21-27) - The South Berkeley neighborhood was once the town of Lorin. It was annexed to Berkeley in 1878. - Four "truly stand out" Easy Bay farmers' markets : Grand Lake, Lakepark Way, Oakland; Berkeley Farmers' Market, several locations hosted by the Ecology Center; Fremont/Irvington District, Fremont Boulevard, Fremont; Brentwood Certified Farmers' Market, Downtown City Park, Brentwood. (See page SG15 for more detail.)

June 22, 2006

Urban forests: Boston gets rooted. San Francisco fades.

'The shrinking of San Francisco's urban forest must be halted and the trend reversed' reports today's San Francisco Examiner. The article, titled "The city's urban forest fading," is based on a report issued by the Urban Forestry Council. The council asserts that the number of trees planted is less than the number of trees removed from the canopy. Overall, the council would like a 3% increase in tree cover, from 668,000 trees to 835,000 trees. Some of this coverage can be planted along city streets, which have a carrying capacity of 127,000 trees. Currently, there are 106,000 street trees. On the other side of the country, the Boston Sunday Globe (June 18) reported on the Greater Boston Urban Forest Inventory, a collaboration between several agencies and organizations including the Urban Ecology Institute and the Boston Parks Department. Boston has an estimated 50,000 street trees (and 75,000 park trees based on a decade-old survey).* According to the Globe, not only will the inventory provide the city with accurate, comprehensive tree information for management purposes, it will serve as the basis of environmental justice research. Specifically, the inventory data will be used "to establish links between neighborhood greenery and residents' health, safety, and psychological well-being." The inventory is not only a critical tool, highlighting the economic value of urban trees; it is also a progressive tool, which, as a mother and daughter team noted, residents can use to make their neighborhoods look more 'like home.' * I worked as urban forester with the parks department from 2001 to 2004.

June 20, 2006

What types of institutions make a neighborhood?

According to an article in today's San Francisco Chronicle, a library is an essential neighborhood-making institution. The Mission Bay is "San Francisco's newest neighborhood" with landmark institutions like the Giants stadium on the waterfront, a major regional commuter terminal, and a UC San Francisco campus. Mission Bay emerged as a neighborhood with its most recent amenities: two grocery stores and a new library, the Mission Bay Branch Library. The library is the city's first new library in 40 years and is described as the "public center that established neighborhoods take for granted." Although the Chronicle does not mention of a centrally located park or an elementary school per the Clarence Perry ideal neighborhood unit, today's Cityscape issue does : a 48-acre park and an elementary school are proposed for the neighborhood. http://www.sfcityscape.com/.../mission_bay_overview.jpg

June 18, 2006

This is not eclectic seating. It is an abandoned couch.

When I saw the green couch (below) at western end of my block, I thought I would write about eclectic seating in Berkeley's public landscape. But I abandoned that line of thought (for now) after a surprising discovery. When I turned the corner and walked one more block, I saw the missing cushions for the green couch (below). This discovery sparked two questions: (1) Did the owners put the couch curbside for municipal disposal and someone (well, at least two people) took the couch but abandoned it because it was too heavy? or (2) Did the owners place the couch a block away from their house because they knew the city would not dispose of such a large item? Photographs by local Ecology (localecology.org)

June 17, 2006

Jane Jacobs' neighborhood

Note: This post was edited on Jan. 20, 2007. Hotlinked image(s) were removed. Follow the link(s) to the image location(s).In the spirit of neighborhoods and New York City, I have included an excerpt from "Jane-washing" by Paul Goldberger (Metropolis, July 2006). If the tendency of developers to exploit Jacobs's ideas for their own purposes is one piece of her success, there is another troubling part of her legacy: the frequency and ease with which her words are taken as pure and absolute gospel by well-meaning, earnest followers who don't have half her imagination or boldness. Just as Mies was not always well served by the Miesians, who interpreted his architecture with the dutiful precision of pure acolytes, or Freud by the Freudians, Jacobs is not always well served by urbanists who insist that there is no model but Greenwich Village , and that there is simply no other way for a city to work, period. Jacobs subtly encouraged this by engaging in what I have often called the fallacy of physical determinism, suggesting that the physical form of a neighborhood determines everything about how it will function. But as anatomy is not always destiny, neither is architecture. High-rises in open space are usually not right, but Stuyvesant Town works just fine, thank you, despite Jacobs's misgivings. And there are plenty of other examples of places that do not fit within the Jacobs mold and succeed anyway. Yet Jacobs could often see beyond the formulaic, but the same cannot be said for too many of her followers. Greenwich Village, New York

June 16, 2006

Nora Ephron on "the sense of neighborhood"

Note: This post was edited on Jan. 20, 2007. Hotlinked image(s) were removed. Follow the link(s) to the image location(s). On June 5, The New Yorker featured a Nora Ephron short story titled "Moving On." Ephron describes her love affair with the Apthorp apartment building in New York City. A sense of neighborliness is one of the reasons she loved the Apthorp. She writes, Most people who don't live in New York have no idea that New Yorkers have exactly the same sense of neighborhood that supposedly exists in small-town America; in the Apthorp, this sense if magnified, because the courtyard provides countless opportunities for residents to bump into one another and eventually learn one another's names. At Halloween, those of us with small children turned the courtyard street lamps into a fantasy of pumpkin-headed ghosts; in December the landlords erected an electric menorah, which coexisted with a Christmas tree covered with twinkle lights. The Apthorp courtyard

June 15, 2006

What is a park?

Note: This post was edited on Jan. 20, 2007. Hotlinked image(s) were removed. Follow the link(s) to the image location(s). The story of this question begins with my husband's comment that Portland, Oregon has the smallest park, "about the size of a tree pit." I was skeptical but a Google search produced numerous descriptions and photographs to prove his point. Mill Ends Park in Portland, Oregon is "the smallest park in the world" according to Wikipedia. The park was unofficially designated as such in 1946 by Dick Fagan who converted an unused light pole hole into this unique park space. The official designation came in 1948. The Portland Parks and Recreation website features a special note about the park: Mill Ends Park has been relocated to downtown Portland while sections of SW Naito undergo construction. In July 2006, the park will be relocated again, permanently, in the median along the parkway, about 7.5 feet from its original location. Mill Ends Park, Portland Oregon Other small parks Chinatown Park in Chinatown, Boston 0.75 acres, part of the designated Kennedy Greenway Paley Park, New York City (4200 square feet)

June 13, 2006

Signs #1 : Questioning traffic?

I was out of town for several weeks. Upon my return, I noticed the traffic rotary at the top of my block had been weeded. In addition, a cheeky person had whited-out parts of the rotary sign, leaving a question mark ("?"). What is the question? Traffic rotary (left); question mark Photographs by local Ecology (localecology.org)

June 12, 2006

A blooming yard

A poem from Sara Midda's In and Out of the Garden: Brave flowers, that I could gallant it like you and be as little vaine, You come abroad and make a harmlesse shew, And to your bedds of earthe againe, You are not proud you know your birth For your embroidered garments are from earth. (quoting Henry King, 1657) Here are some "brave flowers" from my yard. Photographs by local Ecology (localecology.org)