February 23, 2007

Signs #6: Do not ...

Note: Edited on February 25, 2007. This photograph was taken in January 2007 at the intersection of 4th Street and Hearst Avenue, Berkeley, CA. Previous posts of the Signs series: Signs of the times Signs of the season Signs #3: Regulating social space Signs #2: Contested Bay Area house sale Signs #1: Questioning traffic?

February 16, 2007

Pedestrian-friendly gridiron

Top Conventional open grid; pedestrian-friendly grid; connected culs-de-sac w/ public spaces Bottom Conventional cul-de-sac; pedestrian connected cul-de-sac My neighborhood is a "pedestrian-friendly gridiron" (also known as a walkable neighborhood). The pedestrian-friendly gridiron is one of five street patterns identified by Southworth and Isaacs (Street Patterns and Pedestrian/Bicycle Connectivity in Streets and the Shaping of Towns and Cities, Southworth and Ben-Joseph, 2003). Left Conventional open grid Right Pedestrian-friendly grid If you only consult a street map, like Yahoo, my neighborhood looks like a gridiron. However, if you walk, bike, or drive my neighborhood, you quickly realize the gaps in the grid. These gaps are designed to limit neighborhood auto traffic. Pedestrians and cyclists can move continuously through the neighborhood. Experience it for yourself (or view the Willard/Bateman/LeConte Neighborhood Traffic Calming Plan). Read earlier posts on streets: Bike|Walk and Livable (traffic-calmed) streets.

February 15, 2007

Social housing

A headline in the Feb. 13-15 edition of the Daily Planet ("City reviews planned Section 8 rent hike) and a lucky find at a UC Berkeley library (an old Journal of Architectural Education featuring Richard Plunz' book A History of Housing in New York City: Dwelling Type and Social Change in the American Metropolis) prompted this post. Despite the (provocative) title, this post is not a manifesto on housing. Rather, it is a few photos and a list of books on housing - of the public kind and of the private kind. Left William Houses, public housing, 1938 (source JAE September 1993) Right Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union, garden apartments, 1927 (source JAE Sept. 1993) The photographs above were originally published in Plunz (1990). Quotes from the book review written by Tony Schulman: "The combined cost of Harlem River Houses and First Houses, two on New York's best-designed publis housing projects, was less than half the cost of the Triborough Bridge, built under the same New Deal auspices." "[During] the twenties and the sixties...a combination of factors produced a rare fusion of aesthetics and utility in housing design." "These promosing efforts came to a crashing halt in the seventies with the financial demise of the UDC [Urban Development Corporation] and the withdrawal of the federal government from sponsorship of new housing production programs." In addition to Plunz' book, check out the following titles: Modern Housing, Catherine Bauer, 1934 The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs, 1961 Building the Dream: A Social History of Housing in America, Gwendolyn Wright, 1981 Crabgrass Frontier, Kenneth T. Jackson, 1985 Housing as if People Mattered, Clare Cooper Marcus, Wendy Sarkissian, 1986 Living Downtown: The History of Residential Hotels in the United States, Paul Groth, 1994 Modern Housing for America: Policy Struggles in the New Deal, Gail Radford, 1996 The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Equality in Postwar Detroit, 1996 Holy Land, D.J. Waldie, 1996 Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago 1940-1960, Arnold R. Hirsch, 1998 Reclaiming Public Housing: A Half Century of Struggle in Three Public Housing Neighborhoods, Lawrence Vale, 2002

February 14, 2007

Designed with ecological intent

Note: Edited on February 21, 2007. I am exploring neighborhood landscapes that are citizen-based and designed with ecological intent (for habitat, stormwater management, heat island reduction, &c.). I refer to these landscapes as nature-made sites. The first in the series is the Ivy Narrow Bird Habitat (Preserve) in New Haven, CT. I will also look at the Le Conte Butterfly Habitat project in the Le Conte neighborhood of Berkeley and the coastal prairie plant community project on Ohlone Greenway by the California Habitat Indigenous Artists. (If you have any recommendations, please submit in the comments section.) Left Vacant lot at Ivy Street and Dixwell Avenue, 2001 Right Ivy Narrow Bird Habitat* with perched water table/ pond, 2006 Image source: Urban Resources Initiative Community Greenspace Program In the 1990s, a residential building was demolished at the corner of Ivy Street and Dixwell Avenue, thus creating a vacant lot. The lot is located in the center of Newhallville, a working-class black neighborhood in New Haven. The city mowed the lot, but a particular neighbor with the support of family and neighboring friends wanted to significantly improve the lot. In 2000, this group of private citizens applied for an Urban Resources Initiative (URI) Community Greenspace Program grant to work on the vacant lot. URI is a community nonprofit and its Greenspace Program is a partnership with the City of New Haven and the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.

In initial meetings with the neighborhood alderperson, the group was advised to limit its improvements to the perimeter of the lot. However, the group envisioned more than a "side yard." After the perimeter of the lot had been planted including street trees on the south-side of the lot, the group held another design meeting and articulated their desire to create an urban bird habitat. The group developed a restoration plan with the help of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection’s Urban Wildlife Habitat Program. The restoration plan was implemented over the course of two years, transforming the weedy lot into a bird sanctuary. (The habitat/ preserve is located 1 mile east of the Beaver Ponds ecosystem.)

*The nature-made site is now known as the Ivy Narrow Bird Preserve.

February 9, 2007

Rain ... falling, standing, rushing

Strawberry Creek It's raining! I must admit: I was beginning to worry about the lack of rain this winter. As part of its water-themed book display, University Press Books (on Bancroft) has posted an EBMUD water ban notice. I don't recall the date of the notice, but in any case, I am glad it's raining. This post features the various ways that rain interacts with Berkeley's environment.

February 1, 2007

If you are the big tree ...

If you are the big tree, we are the small axe, ready to cut you down, well sharp to cut you down - so goes a song line from Bob Marley's "Small Axe." Two recent events remind me of this political song line as well as song lines from Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" (see below) and activist philosophies like "act locally," "the grassroots," "small is beautiful," and "it only takes one ...." 1. On January 29, 2007, Alameda Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller barred UC Berkeley from proceeding with plans to remove a grove of oaks and other trees in order to retrofit and expand its athletic facilities. News stories Save the Memorial Oak Grove Berkeley Daily Planet, Jan. 31 Alameda Times-Star, Jan. 24 Contra Costa Times, Jan. 23 Mercury News, Jan. 23 San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 23 The New York Times, Jan. 23 2. This week, Pacific Steel Casting, located in Berkeley, settled a lawsuit filed by Communities for a Better Environment, an Oakland-based health and justice advocacy organization. News stories Oakland Tribune, Feb.1 Camelia Street Blog, Feb. 1 East Bay Business Times, Jan. 19 They took all the trees Put em in a tree museum And they charged the people A dollar and a half just to see em Dont it always seem to go That you dont know what youve got Till its gone They paved paradise And put up a parking lot (Joni Mitchell, see LyricsFreak)