Posts Tagged ‘Urbanism’

San Francisco – the New Cauldron of Tech and Real Esate

When people think about a city known for technology in California, the first thought stop tends to be San Jose. Its quite logical, considerating that it is the largest city within SIlicon Valley, housing some of the most major tech HQs – Adobe, Cisco, Ebay, HP, and IBM… and those are just some of the major names there.

San Francisco is catching up though, and I was once again reminded of that as I read this little article by SF Gate:

Tech firms seek perfect space in S.F.

With new industry, comes new demands and needs. It is no wonder that the advancement of tech industry will directly influence commercial design, architecture planning, urban structure.


The America Cup-Inspired Transportation Revolution

My first encounter with the America Cup Competition and Village was in the summer of 2010. The Golden Gate Yachut Club had yet to win, but my summer studio professor was looking forward to the event. My school, Cal Poly, made an exception that year after a fellow classmate’s campaign for a summer studio, allowing my teacher James Doeflour to open a summer architecture class.

Jim set our class project to the America Cup Village, and my class logically took a class field trip to my home city, San Francusco. We first visited the Oracle HQ, then we visited the Golden Gate Yachut Club. Both time, my professor managed to contact someone from the company to introduce to us to their role in the competition. Finally, we visited our project site – China Basin. As the project and site studies continued, I was awed by how a competition could possibly change the entire planning of a city. My class team came up with a revised version of the China Basin masterplan, then we individually used a combination of Revit and Rhino to create a laser-cut sculptural model for the site. Eventually, we finished the final project of that class – a landmark building on the China Basin Pier.

Two years later, I have returned to San Francisco, and the transformation brought by the America Cup is now going full force. The energy is high, and I see the name everywhere. Of course, my information network tends to gear toward the city planning aspect, what with my engagement in the sustainability community and being a Bicycle Coalition intern. As a result, yesterday I met with a group of professionals at a networking session, and is it any wonder how the conversation turned toward AIA when I am an architectural professional and another member in the session is a Sustainability Coordinator? Anyhow, I learned from her that AIA is hosting a presentation about the America Cup!

Thanks to my internship, I learned quite a bit about the role of bicycle in the America Cup, but a view from the AIA point? I was surprised (though I shouldn’t be, now that I think about it) that people are already gearing up to purchase or renovate their buildings to accommodate the crowd that America Cup will bring. Several of the visitors will actually be staying in the city for a few months because of their company business – instead of just the few days that the competition will be held. The competition site, along with the changing architecture and cityscape, goes from the Fisherman’s Wharf to as far as the China Basin, wrapping itself across the west side of the city. The presenter noted that on a architecture level, the ones most influenced would be the Hotel business, in addition to the retail business that the Competition will bring.

The information that excited me most included:

  1. New Muni line and Bikeshare!
  2. This year America Cup has aimed to be the most sustainable Village so far, placing priority on zero waste, bay health, and ocean health.

For number one: While I already own a bike, bikeshare means more people bicycling. How many times have I heard “Safety in Number” when it comes to bicycling? Besides, while I love biking, going all the way from Bayview to Downtown and then back… takes just too much energy for me to do anything else – what’s the point of riding to downtown if I tired myself out first? I would much rather take the T-Muni downtown, then rent a bike there. And Muni line? How can not be happy about more of it? The change in transportation system in 2013 will directly and indirectly change the cityscape, as evident now by the People Plan approved by SFMTA Board Directors (which will affect the bike and bus system around the Waterfront), not to mention the re-pavement in 2015 (AKA, The Better Market Street). I laughed when the presenter say that the message is Do Not Drive to North Bay. When it comes to San Francisco, driving is not really the best option no matter what time of the year. The America Cup will certainly test the transportation system in this jam-pack city.

For number two: Considering that America Cup will cover a significant region of San Francisco, its goal to be sustainable will be a strong influence to the city design and business, and will probably inspire relevant industries (transportation, city planning, real estate, public art, advertising, … architecture) to match the same theme in their design and work. I recall that my class team paid a good amount of focus on the open space aspect of the masterplan redesign in our project, and on how to incorporate greenscape and transportation system.

I am strangely looking forward to watching the race despite my lack of yacht knowledge, and I certainly look forward to how the Competition will redesign the city itself. San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has been doing City Rides to introduce people to the current proposals. Sadly, my schedule has been conflicting every ride. The next one is coming up on May 26, which will introduce the North part of the Bay Trail, but the date conflicts with Homestead Skillshare Festival, which I will be attending and volunteering (The festival itself will have workshops on water catchment, place-making, cohousing, urban gardening, disaster preparation, community work, activist communication skills… and Solar Ovens?). Fortunately, SFBC is doing one last bike ride – introducing the South bike trail – in June, and I have every plan to attend.

Until then, Ciao!

Happily Biking the Weekend Away: P1 – Reclaim Market

The week of October 22 to 23 had been one of the most eventful weeks I had – I was there for both the “Reclaim Market Street! Street Intervention” bike tour and Sunday Streets.

Reclaim Market Street! Street Intervention

Here’s a description on SPUR (San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association): “An inspired bike ride down Market Street with Rebar, the San Francisco Bike Coalition and the San Francisco Great Streets Project.

Bicycling from urbanist’s view, combining two of my favorite topics? Nope, definitely not missing it!

The group met at the Harry Bridges Plaza at Ferry Building. All sorts of people were there – tourists, bike advocates, bike shop owners, city officials,┬ácollege students, children, and parents. Two of the children fell in love with my ladybug bell – I know it would come into some unconventionally fun use at some point! I chatted with the people around me as I waited at the plaza with the sound of my bell ringing every few minutes. As time approaches, more and more people come, and it ended up to be quite a crowd:

I chuckled when I looked around and realized what a sight we would make on the road. I wished I had a video camera attached to my helmet.

(Before anyone gets confuse, the light wasn’t that low. The camera was on the wrong setting – same problem for the next two photos.)

No video-cam for me, but those leading the tour have two very unique devices – gadgets that would color the wheel with paint, which would then leave trails as the wheel glides across the floor.

The paint was, of course, water-soluble (or else the City, who supported this event, would have a big headache on its hand. While I love pink, I am not sure the street cleaners would love it as much if it is not soluble). The paint wasn’t as smooth and noticeable as expected though, but it was fun to watch up close.

While I known downtown have railroad tracks, it wasn’t until I biked on Market that I realize their presents. Needless to say, I carefully stayed to the right while I watched with admiration of those who could shift left and right on the parallel railroad tracks. I known it can be done if the wheels are angled correctly, but generally, I would rather not risk it. As a city-bicycle newbie, I shall stay on the right side of the tracks until I am ready. (Falling on a railroad track in a quiet, college town is very different from falling in a busy, city downtown.)

Yes! Graffiti fun! Loved, loved by the kid participants. And adult too, of course:

How else could one get more involve – other than actually constructing – than by drawing road paths with our very own hand?

Whoever set up the coffeeholic bicyclist image there is a genius. Of course, I would be bias – if my love of coffee isn’t already widespread among my friends, I would have used it as my avatar.

We got to try out the new paths ourselves.

Ready, set, go!

I wonder if it feels like flying for the kids?

At this feature talk, officials from Municipal Transportation Agency talked about what the city have been working on, its plans, and even passed out some street plans. Changing the Market meant that the designers had to combine what was learned from failed and successful cases from both US and Europe and blend it with the culture of San Francisco. It would take time to do so, and I look forward to see how Market will change.

Our second stop is about a block or two before Powell station:

We were right on the road. The red shirts people were the volunteers and guides, who had placed the cones and made sure the path was clear.

Our second stop ended up being quite eventful. In the middle of our spraying, we heard the sounds of ambulances in the distance. Before we known it, the ambulances were here, and they needed to get through – and our cones are at the corner they needed to enter.


Those at the corner rushed to move the cones away. Those of us at the middle of the block rushed to move the kids back into the street. Then, right around the time when our second feature talks ends, the Occupy Wallstreet protester caught up to us.

Double oops.

They were about one street away. We could hear their voices growing louder. Considering we just heard a feature talk regarding Critical Mass and the revolutionary history set by bicyclists, it was ironically fitting to the topic. But amusing as it was, we don’t want to get stuck in pedestrian traffic.

Confusion, confusion. What should we do? The guides were at the corner of the block, some of us were at the middle of the block.

Communication distance. Instant decision needed.

Eventually, several of us started riding down slowly. We did left in time, but I wonder how many people thought we were Occupy Wallstreet people opening the road with our bicycle. It was a fun topics as the rest of us rides toward our last feature talk site.

At that point, I was at the heart of Market. As I was bicycling through, I couldn’t help but be awe by how beautiful it was to ride a bicycle through Market. It was like one of those movie opening where the camera captures the flowing images of historical buildings and autumn leaves as the main character enters a new town. Better yet, I could hear the voices and feel the air. I sat in cars and bus through Market before, but the feeling couldn’t be compare to riding on a bicycle. I felt somewhat sad that this was really only possible if I am on a bike tour, since Market is a pretty busy and chaotic street that generally requires a bicyclist’s full attention on traffic.

Before I known it, we stopped at our final talk site – the newly opened repair kiosk by Huckleberry Bicycles. Their main store, right next to the kiosk, was in construction. But the kiosk has opened, ready to provide free repair assistance to the commuters. Those who needed some repair help got to try their service out right there on site:

The kiosk was definitely well-prepared.

Not until then did I realized that there wasn’t much bike service near Powell of Market. Now if there is a bicycle shop in 3rd street as well, I will be very happy. And a coffee house with wifi and visible bike racks, of course.

The ride ended at the plaza near Civil Center, where we finally proceed to the juice blender.

Da Da! The Juicecycle! Insert music here.

Yes, a bicycled-powered juice blender provided by Rebar. It was fun to watch as 3 people pedaled away to power a single juice blender. It made one re-appreciate the invention of electricity. Gathered quite a crowd as well – free apple juice and non-stopping, spinning pedals do tend to gather some attraction.

A line for the juice! Even dog and dog-walkers had came.

As the sun began to lower, I left for Bart so I can transfer to bus 44 later. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay long, since I couldn’t physically bike home from Civil Center, and I don’t want to be caught at 3rd street at night while walking – or even riding – a bike. So, early left for me, but the crowd of pedestrian and bicyclists gathered in the red-brick plaza remained as they chatted away.