Urban Planning

Posts about urban planning, cities, development, land use, transportation, etc.

10 Simple Steps to Keep Amazon From Ruining Your City

Amazon Spheres

11. Oh, and definitely don’t let anything like this happen. [By SounderBruce [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons.]

The Failing New York Times reported today that Amazon is going around and asking the finalists for its second headquarters “how to avoid soaring housing costs and paralyzing traffic.”

Easy. Duh. Lemme walk you through it, Jeff. (Can I call you Jeff?)

  1. Put the new HQ right on a central, well-connected transit line.
  2. Build a limited amount of employee parking, and manage demand by charging for it and offering transit vouchers.
  3. Create some sort of totally-unheard-of-in-America regional government entity that can regulate land use in the central city and surrounding suburbs.

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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.

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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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People riding BART in their underwear and other vaguely planning-related links worth clicking

No Pants Subway Ride

“No Pants Subway Ride” day 2015 in Mexico City. [Photo Credit: “ViajesinPantalones2015 22” by AlejandroLinaresGarciaOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.]

Perhaps you loyal readers didn’t notice all the changes around here over the last 24 hours, but it’s a new day for All The City Lights! Being strictly a music blog is so streets behind. In order to stay streets ahead, I am going to be writing about literal streets. Dovetailing with my current studies in urban planning, this blog will now include posts about the issues facing cities, and their challenges and successes.

I’m going to start out simply, with a roundup of links to recent articles touching on planning topics. In fact, depending on how intensive my classes are this semester, simple link roundups might be the only type of post made to this blog for the foreseeable future. That’s OK, because there is so much going on in the world of planning right now that there is no shortage of fascinating stories. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the field, once you get acquainted and start looking, you start noticing planning everywhere. Like, literally, 10 percent of the stories on NPR are planning-related. Continue reading

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