Rankstravaganza 2016: My Top 30 Favorite Songs of the Year

And the winner is … [Youtube screencapture]

Like many of you, I read an awful lot of dispiriting, confounding news stories this year. For me, it was usually while I was riding a crowded bus on my way to work in downtown Oakland. Sometimes I’d look up from my phone and take a look at all the diversity—the mingling and mixing of cultures, ideas and ideals—that is one of Oakland’s great strengths. And then I’d look down, read another depressing headline, and furrow my brow.

The soundtrack for this push and pull between hope and gloom was the songs below, one of which was usually playing on my earbuds. It contains a fair amount of mixing and mingling, as well as a few political songs expressing outrage and protest.

Regrets? I wish there was some more local music on the list (which I always determine based on the actual number of plays I logged throughout the year). As it is, there is a single San Francisco act below. My new year’s resolution is to make a better effort to explore Bay Area artists in the next 12 month.

Without further ado… Continue reading

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PHOTOS: Oakland Public Design Fair disguises engagement as play

Stakeholder engagement. Ugh. The words just sound inherently boring.

So how does a city convince its overworked, overscheduled residents to contribute to the planning process? Oakland is taking a unique tack as it works on its Downtown Specific Plan. In addition to more typical (and contentious) community meetings to discuss the plan, the city is collaborating on a Public Design Fair that turns the feedback process into all-ages playtime. The fair is taking place in Frank Ogawa Plaza. The public square is full of interactive design projects that encourage climbing, gaming, and general fun. And then, just when they least expect it, visitors may just find themselves offering their thoughts on what they like about Oakland and what they hope for its future.

Several coworkers and I visited the fair—which continues through Sunday—on our lunch break today. It was…remarkably fun. Not many of the activities had anything to do with planning, but they pulled visitors in and broke the ice. Here’s what it looked like:

Visitors got to write their vision for the future on scrap wood and then stack them into a cityscape. Waaaay cooler than writing on a poster.

Visitors got to write their vision for the future of Oakland on scrap wood and then stack them into a cityscape. Waaaay cooler than writing on a poster.

Continue reading

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Rankstravaganza 2015: My 25 favorite songs of the year

The Watkins Family Hour gang was responsible for my favorite track of the year. Photo by Roman Cho, courtesy of Sacks and Co.

The Watkins Family Hour gang was responsible for my favorite track of the year. [photo by Roman Cho, courtesy of Sacks & Co]

Ha! You thought this blog was done for. Surprise! I’m back. (Fair warning, though: There might not be another post until New Year’s Eve 2016. I am, however, staying somewhat active with posting both music- and planning-related stuff on this site’s Facebook page, though. Check ‘er out.)

Only 25 songs this year (*insert frowny emoticon here*), because I didn’t feel like I listened to enough new music in 2015 to warrant the usual 30. (Grad school, it seems, has a way of eating into not just blogging time but music-exploration time.) I feel strongly about these 25, though. They are all imminently listenable songs that any other aging wannabe hipsters out there should be able to get behind. You’ll find plenty of Americana and unobjectionable modern indie pop, a little bit of garage punk, some female-fronted ‘90s grunge throwbacks, and (this being 2015, after all) some trendy ‘80s synthpop throwbacks. Soooo much synthpop out there. If only synthpop could somehow counteract carbon emissions, climate change would be as quaint a concern as the hole in the ozone layer. (The hole in the ozone layer isn’t a concern anymore, right? I’m just assuming because I haven’t heard anything about it in 20 years.) Continue reading

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Fun With Georeferencing: Oakland in 1857 vs. Oakland in 2015

I’m taking a GIS class, and this week I learned how to georeference. Fun! (No, really, it’s fun.)

I was just testing out my skillz and put together this little slider comparing the current map of Oakland and Alameda with an 1857 map of the area by the U.S. Coast Survey. It’s too small here for you to make out much detail, but it gives you an idea of just how much of the modern landscape is infill and how today’s roads follow some of the contours established back then. See? Fun!

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This is What Booze Gentrification Looks Like

Spotted today in Berkeley:

Cask on College store

Cask on College in southern Berkeley.

What was once a corner liquor store is now an “artisinal beverage purveyor.” Located at College and Alcatraz avenues, Cask on College opened last summer. It is just over the border from Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood, which we are contractually obligated to refer to as “trendy.” Clearly, we’re seeing changes in the character of the area’s drinking options, and dive bars are being literally pushed out of the neighborhood. Sorry tallboy fans, it’s all maple notes and citrus finishes now. Next thing you know, someone’s going to stencil “Die mixologist scum!” on the sidewalk.

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Urban Planning Links Worth Clicking: Scatalogical Edition

Human Wasteland

Screencap of Human Wasteland’s heat (ewww) map.

Of all the crappy problems cities have to deal with—traffic, climate change, hipsters—actual, literal crap often gets overlooked. Not today! I’m leading off my roundup of vaguely planning-related news items with a pair of fecal matters. Hold your noses, everybody! Let’s dive in.

1. Crap Map

“San Francisco’s public defecation map highlights a shitty situation” [engaget.com]

Is there anything that can’t be GIS’ed? Human Wasteland, a website that geographically plots reports of human defecation submitted to San Francisco’s 311 customer-service center, says the answer is “no.” In all seriousness, the map makes a pretty strong case for the need for more public toilets around the Civic Center to serve the homeless population. Continue reading

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Go Here, Do This: Maps on display in SPUR’s “Urban Cartography” exhibit push boundaries

exhibition at SPUR

Urban Cartography exhibition at SPUR Urban Center in San Francisco.

If you, like me, are a bit of a map geek, you should carve out a half hour in the next two weeks and set coordinates for SPUR Urban Center in San Francisco. The urban-policy nonprofit’s Mission Street headquarters is an extremely welcoming space designed to facilitate public outreach, and it includes gallery space near the front entrance. Through Feb. 6, that gallery space is devoted to “Urban Cartography,” an exhibit detailing the latest developments in map making, from technical innovations to artistic statements. Continue reading

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Zoning for Clifford (the Big Red Dog)

Lately, we’ve been reading a lot of Norman Birdwell’s children’s classic “Clifford the Big Red Dog” in my household. Like pretty much every night. There is one page that was confusing to me, though.

2015-01-22 09.16Frankly, I didn’t see what the “problem” was. Clifford seemed comfortable enough. The drawing doesn’t show any neighborhood denizen frantically waving his hands in the air as was the case with the problems caused by Clifford’s fetch games, car chasing and shoe chewing. Continue reading

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Two Gentrification Videos (One Funny) and Other Planning Links Worth Clicking

Sign protesting gentrification in the Mission District. [photo by ClockworkGrue via Flickr]

Sign protesting gentrification in San Francisco’s Mission District. [photo by ClockworkGrue via Flickr]

When SNL starts tackling an issue, you know it’s gone mainstream. Perhaps post-mainstream. Such is the case with gentrification, which is clearly on the minds of people around the country as the economy picks up steam. The subject keeps popping up like yet another farm-to-table gastropub.

Here are two videos addressing gentrification, plus eight more planning-related articles that have captured my attention over the past few days.

1. Answer: It Stinks

“What It’s Like To Lose Your Home To Gentrification” [buzzfeed.com]

I knew I recognized the young gentleman in this video. He was one of the neighborhood kids captured on camera last year in a sorta-heated argument with a group of Dropbox employees, who had reserved a Mission District soccer field that historically had been used for pickup games—thus personifying San Francisco’s growing culture clash. In this Buzzfeed-produced video, the young gentleman—his name is Kai—takes you on a short tour of the Mission District. Contrary to the title, it doesn’t really delve too deeply into how Kai felt about his family getting evicted from their apartment. It’s basically him pointing at various upscale bars/salons/condos and saying, “That didn’t used to be here.” Continue reading

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Construction Crane Over Lake Merritt: Affordable Housing Project Proceeds in Oakland

construction crane in Oakland

Construction of the AvéVista Apartments affordable housing complex in Oakland proceeds.

I was spending some time walking through my old neighborhood in Oakland near Lake Merritt on Wednesday, when I came across something I don’t think I ever saw in the more than three years I lived there: a big ol’ construction crane. Continue reading

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