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Archive for the ‘architecture’ Category

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Tackiness at Hearst Castle is nothing new… here is some lovely 1960’s wall paper wrapping a switch plate cover in the “secret” kitchen… downstairs in one of the guesthouses, behind what looks like just a closet door. WRH probably didn’t see this modification… looks a bit more like the Patty Hearst”era to me. Maybe this is what inspired Lady Gaga in her most recent video filmed at the castle… we’ll never know I suppose.

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montereybikebridge

I have a crazy bike bridge idea…. one that I pitched to some Cal Poly architecture students (and also some planning students) a few years ago.    I have recently suggested it to the City of SLO.

THE BACKSTORY:  SLO has been planning and building a long class one (off street) bike path that is known as the Railroad Safety Trail for many years now.   It extends from Orcutt road in the south up to the Railroad station… and from Cal Poly in the north down to the 101 freeway along California Blvd.    The section that is missing is between the 101 freeway and the Railroad station.  The City has been attempting to negotiate with the Railroad for an easement… but the Railroad has basically just said NO.

So the City of SLO public works dept has been working on various solutions that would make a safe connecting route for bikes across this middle section of town to each of the already completed sections of the RR safety trail.  So far it looks pretty good… except that a portion of the route will be on Pepper st… which includes a relatively steep section between Monterey street and Mill St.  Too steep for kids and anyone on a single speed or cruiser type bike.

The idea… is to span the small valley of Monterey st with a 1000 foot long bike bridge… which spans from Higuera st.  all the way up to Mill St…. most of which is actually just the roof of two skinny buildings built on half of what is now the east side of Pepper street.  Only a short section of this 1000 foot length would be an actual bike bridge…directly over Monterey st… the rest would be built on the roof of commercial space combined with maybe a small apartment or two… whatever.  It is a tad difficult to grasp at first… you have to imagine two buildings… one on either side of Monterey st… built on half the width of Pepper street… the roofs of which are at the level of the green line in the photo above… and then the bike path on top of those roofs.  The remainder of Pepper becomes an alley of sorts.  It is really low traffic usage now.  The new bridge would turn the steep hill… into a manageable 4% grade.  The new buildings would not block any views that the current railroad track already blocks.

The City would have to either partner up, sell or lease the land to a developer that would then build the buildings and the bike path. There would be an easement for the bike path across the buildings… and some sort of long term maintenance agreement.  It would be a tricky negotiation… but in the end it would eliminate the steep section of this portion of the RR safety trail across town.

From the south end of this bridge…  the path would continue as per the existing bicycle master plan which I don’t have space enough to go into here as it is fairly complicated… but it is already a plan and it will work.  Same goes for the northerly connection… but that section is quicker to describe.  Basically to the north.. Pepper continues as a bicycle blvd for two blocks… where there would be a new bike bridge over the RR tracks and the path then continues over to the south corner of the Highway Patrol building property on California… and then northerly between that Highway Patrol building and the RR tracks but on Highway Patrol Property.  From the Highway patrol property… the path becomes a “protected two way bike lane actually built on the west side of California blvd.   This section is protected by a barrier from the automobile traffic… and it continues across the existing wide automobile bridge over the 101 and connects with the existing RR safety trail just beyond the 101.

Interesting, yes… is it feasible… I dunno… but it would sure be fun to explore.

 

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01.31-Water-Bill-KA-285x285

Last night the San Luis Obispo City Council voted to lower the base water impact fees charged to developers of new residential units.  The new Water Development Impact Fee for a studio of 450 sq. feet or less is now $3232.  This is down from the previous fee amount of $12,735 .  This is a big change.  Fees for larger homes are also lower but not quite as much… multi family homes are $7542 (down from $12,735) and single family water impact fees are $10,775 (down from $15,919)

In addition the base wastewater development fees (for a studio) have dropped to $1119 from a previous rate of between $3079 to $3849.   Muliti family wastewater fees are 2610 and single family wastewater fees are 3729. Depending on where the unit is located there may still be some additional fees based on lift station (catchment area basin) issues etc.

So if you are wanting to build a separate studio apartment on your lot… the water and wastewater development fees have dropped from $15,079 down to $4351!  29% of what it used to be!  Previous to this Studio development was penalized as there was no separate smaller ratio reserved for tiny units.

Over the past decade or so there have been almost NO small studio’s built in the City of SLO because of this price issue.   I think the new fee structure will mean that folks with “detached bedrooms” will now be able to legally convert them to secondary dwelling unit studios without the huge fees.  Hopefully this will mean a bunch of affordable studio sized rental housing gets created.  We do really need this type of small housing here.

NEW FEES:

Water  fees               Wastewater fees          Total

$3232                           $1119                               $4351  Studio

$7542                           $2610                            $10,152  Multi Family

$10,775                        $3729                            $14,504  Single Family

OLD FEES:

$12,735                         $3079                            $15,814 Studio

$12,735                         $3079                            $15,814  Multi Family

$15,919                         $3849                            $19,768  Single Family

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walkablecity

“Walkable City” is a fantastic new book by Jeff Speck on creating great cities and overcoming dated planning ideas.  For anyone interested in making more pedestrian, bicycle and transit oriented spaces it is a must read.  It is also a must read for anyone interested in what it takes to make your city “feel” better… or making places a better place to live.  Jeff Speck was a co-author of “suburban Nation” a few years back… also a great book.  I recommend this book to city council’s, bike/ped advocates, and city planners.

For more info:  http://jeffspeck.com

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I’ll admit it… I am usually not a big fan of can lighting. But I take exception in this case.  This is an old coffee can… opened on both ends and then spray painted blue.  It is screwed to the wood… surrounding a galvanized exterior light socket.  The astute amongst you will have noted that the wiring is actually speaker wire.  ( I don’t recommend this)  This lamp was built circa 1967 by a Cal Poly Architecture student named Todd Stoutenborough.  (now he designs colleges and office parks… I wonder if he misses building lights out of scrap).  I’m gonna call this style “hippie minimalist”.  Most hippie architecture is just scrappy… but this particular piece was actually pretty cool back in the day.  Now however… 44 years later… it is looking a tad saggy and rusty around the edges.  Probably time to get a new can at least.. and maybe some regular wire.

You can build this yourself…The can is free… the wire you can swipe from something else probably…. and the galvanized bits are probably less than 12 bucks at the hardware store.  Spray paint is around 6 bucks.  I can visualize this project in an old issue of popular mechanics back in the day… but today I suppose it would be in “make” magazine.

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Below is a short story I wrote in 2000 about living in Montecito CA (Santa Barbara area)… where we lived for a few years in the 1990’s.  We left in 2001 and moved back home to downtown San Luis Obispo, CA.

—–

On living in Montecito…
Despite what you might think… well… Montecito is just a pretty odd place to actually live.  There are houses here and there… usually on at least 2 acres… but I somehow don’t have any neighbors really.   I know, I know… what about Oprah and all the movie producers etc etc.  Well,  it is not exactly as it seems.

 I was one of the lucky ones… or so everyone thought anyway… I looked lucky after all… I had sold my company… I had lots of funny cool shoes from Europe and had a new Audi wagon and a cool small 50’s modern house with a nice view and old oak trees.  My wife and I were young… in our thirties… we had nice bookcases with interesting books and we had some nice paintings.

But nobody really lives in Montecito as it turns out.  This was somewhat disconcerting at first.  You’d really never know it for all the activity going on.

Anyway…

I was walking across San Ysidro Rd. one day… at the corner of East Valley… on my way over to Pierre’s (the deli) when I noticed that all four cars at the intersection were Range Rovers… probably all Realtors…all talking on separate cell phones… and even the passenger of one of the Range Rover’s was talking on a cell phone… (that’s 5 phone calls at a 4 way stop). I had to hurry so as not to get run over by one of them (no doubt discussing the proper spelling of “Palladian” with her assistant).

So I was pondering about realtors and real estate as I walked over into the parking lot at Pierre’s.  It was a normal day… I noticed nobody noticing Christopher Lloyd having coffee.  Nobody noticed Sandra Bullock either… I’m pretty sure it was her… I was trying hard to be cool and not to gawk.

I got my coffee and I began ruminating on the fact that the house next to mine has been remodeled three times in the last five years… and all the while it has never been lived in.  It sold for 1.2 about three years ago… then 2.2 about a two years ago… and now I expect it will be 6 to 7 as the most recent remodel involved scraping the entire old structure (a somewhat odd but fine old house) and building a new 5500 square foot palladian (there’s that word… see) villa. Basically this house has been more of a business for developers than a home.

It is one of 5 houses in my neighborhood that have recently become palladian villas.  In fact I would say that most of the houses in the area have been going through some sort of Tuscanization process of one sort or another constantly since we moved here. (save three that are owned by people who are so old that they still keep horses on the property)

The house two over was leveled and got built into a 10,000 foot mansion a few years back.  It sold just over a year ago for around 8.  The new owners are adding on… they needed another 1000 feet.  I have yet to see them… no sign of them anywhere.   Up the hill a bit is another.  It was modern…now it’s been hispanificated and sold… then sold again.  Another sold on the first day at 9.9.  One magazine article from LA calls these houses “white piles”… the subcontractors call them “big dick” houses.

The house across the street sold to a corporation before anyone knew it was for sale.  It’s now the latest in the “scrape it and build a huge mansion on it” category.  Montecito ABR reviewed it and declared it will be beautiful enough (preserving the character you know).  New landscaping will replace existing landscaping.

I have never hired a building contractor but I know all of them some how… Paul… Doug… Rick…. Mark… Mike.  Always a four-letter name.  Anyone who actually lives here knows them too.  You see them all the time… over various fences…  they are quite similar to neighbors actually.

Montecito may not be a place people really live I guess… it is just the impression of a beautific enclave… a well disguised business for Realtors, gardeners, and home builders… except maybe on Sundays… but during the week it is major earthmoving equipment of one sort or another… with a light topping of leaf blowers and chainsaws… punctuated by the din of “tres million watt” Mexican radio stations (the guys building all the walls around the houses nobody lives in).

So meanwhile back at Pierre’s some LA producer type drives up in his new Aston Martin.  He’s probably here to look at some houses.  He’s not staying at the Miramar mind you because despite whatever Schrager’s Gucci wearing team of PR people are telling Wallpaper… there doesn’t seem to be much construction going on.  He’s probably staying at one of the “Beanie” hotels owned by Ty Warner (Beanie Baby fortune… why does that sound so goofy)

Anyway… he gets out of the car and it’s horn beeps as he locks it…  never mind that the only other cars in the lot are a whole slew of BMW’s, a Mercedes 600CL, a Turbo Porsche with ceramic brakes, four or five Mercedes wagons (the Montecito Taurus), the aforementioned RRR (Realtor in a Range Rover) and an Audi wagon (the dot com influence you know)… and the only people sitting there that would possibly steal anything from his $200,000 car are six or seven old timers and a smattering of young retired entrepreneurs in huaraches, old shorts and scrappy t-shirts quietly arguing about how the cinnamon rolls used to taste better.

So… after my coffee I walk to my car in my huarraches… and yes… it is the Audi… parked at Pierre’s even though I went to the Pharmacy (hey I did buy a coffee and I would have bought a cinnamon roll except… well you know)  I drive over to the Post Office and park in front of Tecolote book store, quietly kicking myself for buying that last book on Amazon.

On the way home I drive by an open house (It’s Wednesday… caravan day for the RRR’s)  It’s a decent older modern house with a terrific view of the mountains.   I’m told it “might have been designed by somebody famous”.  Most agents are calling it a scraper.  It’s priced at 3.5 on 2 1/2 acres.

Later that evening my wife and I go to “the Ranch”… to the Plow and Angel restaurant… because it is only about 1500 feet from our house.   Bill Gates and his wife were eating dinner at the table two over.  The last time we went to the Plow and Angel Oprah was there… although at that time I didn’t know that she was buying the Bacon Estate.

I do suppose all this construction will have to die down a bit someday.  It can’t go on ad infinitum.  Harry Dent says the Boomer earnings peak is between now and 2007 or so… So I ponder my future… and meanwhile it is a great place to live… especially on Sundays.

I feel compelled to mention we bought an older house downtown in San Luis Obispo, CA… We don’t live there now of course… it just sits empty.  I pay gardeners to keep it up.  We’ll move back there eventually I suppose.  After a remodel.

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I am a big fan of special architectural details.  This sidewalk is a perfect example.  It takes just a bit more work… but it is so much more fun in the end.    Don’t just do something like it has always been done… make it something special.    Every aspect of building can be made special in some way… and the more special details you have… the better you will love what you build.  This sidewalk took a bit of form work… and some extra acid washing… but just look at it!  It is awesome.

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