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Archive for the ‘city planning’ Category

Saw this cool poster recently on Copenhagenize.com as regards the way Rio de Janeiro Brazil feels about transportation Infrastructure.  I’m in sort of a big bike advocacy mood as of late… so I thought I would repost it here.  The City of Sao Paulo Brazil is reworking their complete infrastructure with the help of Copenhagenize.  Rio is along for the ride too.  Anyone interested in bike infrastructure around the world ought to be tuned into Copenhagenize.com

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Opposite land.

In Opposite land the roles of bicycles and cars are reversed.  Every street is a bike street.  Every house has a bike garage and bicycles dominate the transportation environment.  There are elevated commuter trains over grand central Bike stations with tons of bike parking and restaurants and showers and mechanics on staff.  Roadies ride through towns on Bike Freeways with onramps and offramps.  There are large beautiful country bike loops to wineries, cafes and b and b’s in the surrounding hills.

There is a Bikotel… or “bike hotel”.   The first in the nation.  There are arterial streets for faster riders… and local streets for slower riders. There are “bike up” windows at hamburger places.   Tourists flock to the area from Europe and Japan… and Portland.   Bike infrastructure receives 98% of transportation funding…

There are cars in opposite land too… and there is a growing automobile enthusiasts network that make this “alternative transportation” choice.  There are some class one “Car-Paths” and a few decent class two “Car-paths”. But they usually end just when you need them most… before big intersections.  There is also a plan for the City to Sea Car Path… but “CalBike” is being a stick in the mud by requiring a huge Car Bridge over the CALBike freeway that nobody has the funds for.   Two of the most innovative Auto infrastructure items are the unique “Car traffic Signal” on Santa Barbara St. and the six block long “Car Blvd.” on Morro Street (which is closed to bikes in this area!) Both of these Car infrastructure improvements have been featured in automobile advocacy magazines.  Indeed… Automobile usage has been widely promoted in many circles as greatly beneficial to the public at large

But in Opposite Land… the general public says that cars are just not useful for regular people who actually go to work and need to buy groceries.  They are too difficult to get around in and too dangerous…. They just don’t make sense.

So the Opposite Land “Automobile Coalition” aims to change this.  They visualize a multi modal transit infrastructure that serves all users equally.  They have signs that say “share the road.   They explain that with more Car paths and car routes car usage would go up… dramatically.

 Yet even with advocacy… Opposite Land automobile infrastructure receives less than 2% of transportation funding.

What is it going to take to change this?  How can we convince Opposite land government that Automobiles usage is up and climbing… and deserves more than 2%?

full disclosure: BikeSnob NYC already panned Opposite Land years ago in his blog as a “parody of itself” (the author here thinks it’s important to note that Bike Snob took 6 weeks off work to drive to Opposite Land on truckroutes though… with a group of other “dieseltourists” from NYC in a Peloton of Dodge Double cab dually pickups and as such dismisses BSNY’s earlier appraisal)

BTW… the bike in the photo up top was built by John Cutter in San Luis Obispo… for the 2011 Oregon Manifest.  It received honorable mention… but probably should have won instead of that beachcruiser with a radio.

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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.

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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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There is a quality of patina… that is impossible to describe.  The effects of weather, of chairs sliding on the floor, of cracks in the concrete, edges worn by use, stains from the wine bottle, and the worn area on a threshold from thousands of visitors footsteps.  I love this quality.

It is often difficult to convince people of this beauty.  But this quality took decades to acquire.  It can easily be erased with a careless restoration.  What is lost is truly the soul of a thing.  While a new restoration creates a facsimile of the old structure… all the experiences and acquired character are lost if you rebuild the patinated areas with new. The story of a place is in its flaws.  You remember the time that the wine spilled… the day your brother crashed his bike into the wall… and the day your dad scribed your height onto the closet doorjamb writing your name and the date next to the pencil line.  Can you imagine painting over all those height marks… from your youth?

Be careful when you restore things.  Try your best to notice what is damage… and what is life and history and soul.    The difference between an historic design… and a brand new design… is only the character of time that has been imprinted on something.  If you eliminate this character of time… you have destroyed the context of the thing.

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Check out this trailer court in Holland… dang!  The trailers seem to be stacked on old containers set on end… with some I-Beams here and there.  Wow.   Good luck getting this one through your Community Development dept!     It becomes art basically at this point IMHO.  Probably not a great idea in a single family neighborhood though eh.

(repost from honestlywtf.com…  )

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So I went to Hawaii and all you get is this odd photo.

On the big island of Hawaii… in South Kona… the Public Works guys have these crazy crooked stripe situations… before stop signs that are hard to see before you get to them.  Notice how the stop sign is just sort of around a little corner and would be hard to see if you were not familiar with it.  Interesting… and they certainly catch your attention right away.  The crooked lines start about 200 feet back from the stop sign… giving all the stupid tourist (me) time to anticipate the hidden stop sign.

This vacation to Hawaii was the reason I’ve not been posting lately.  We went to Kauai and also the big island of Hawaii (Kona).  Both are interesting.  Kauai is too small for me… “no there… there” if you know what I mean.  Beautiful… yes.  The homes for sale were PRICEY! ( we always look at real estate to get a feel for the real place.  They were between 2 million and 20 million… and nobody actually lived in those… they are second homes for bankers and Dot Com billionaires.  The locals live in normal neighborhoods… which are pretty cool often.. but still 600k for a pretty normal looking house.  What I didn’t like was that the towns all center on tourism… and I would guess that 60% or more of the cars on Kauai are rental cars… If you are a surfer… Hanalei is cool… or just northwest of there. But if you are not a surfer… well you better be a writer or something because it is a bit quiet!  Beautiful though… did I say that yet.  we toured the botanical gardens and hiked and had a lovely time.

The Big Island is more up my alley as far as actually living in Hawaii I think.  People living right.  The locals have figured out life.  No ego… no pretense… just enjoying life rather than trying to show how cool they are… or how much stuff they have.  I really liked this part of Hawaiian culture.   Very few fancy cars… lots of hitchhikers (getting rides actually too… how many of you have seen a hitchhiker get a ride where you live lately)   We also liked visiting with the old japanese families in their old stores.  We avoided most of the touristy areas North of the Airport and stuck to the lower class farm areas around Kona… no mansions… no pushy important people.  South Kona is AWESOME.

We looked at a cool old modern house for sale… a foreclosure… it was 200k  on leasehold land… with 32 years left on the lease at 400 dollars a year.   It sold several years ago for over 600k.  It was on two acres of coffee plantation… so you have a bit of income from the coffee… enough to pay for the lease and the property taxes.    It needed work… here are a couple of crappy cell phone shots of the interior.  No windows in the living room… just screens.  The weather is just so balmy there they are not needed.  What a life it would be.  It was surrounded by jungle on two sides…and totally private… with 180 degree views of the ocean out the front side… but it was about 600 feet away from the highway (two lane)… so a tad noisy … otherwise we would have bought it!

I could live on the Big Island…. surfing every day… warm air… blah blah blah…

Our old buddies Erik and Lou were our hosts for the week. Erik Hinshaw was our realtor/tourguide and we stayed at the South Kona Hideaway two room B&B  run Lou D’Angelo.  A casual and perfect setting in what I consider the real Hawaii… amongst the coffee plantations… away from golfing, hotels, shopping and chaotic tourist destinations.

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Well… I suppose it had to happen eventually.  That damn book on happiness has outed San Luis Obispo, California big time.  We were on Oprah a couple of days ago. Jenny McCarthy interviewed a bunch of people… and toured around the city and general environs….  talking in that kinda goofy odd “Crest toothpaste spokesmodel” way she has.

I know EVERY SINGLE person interviewed in this segment!   I suppose that it is these social connections that make you feel good about a place.  You can go anywhere and find a conversation almost anytime you like.

Of late I am starting to see more saccharine smiles on tourists around town… Very Stepford wifey.  Wandering around… looking up a lot… as though this were New York maybe… or perhaps like animals that have just been let of of the cage… in a kind of happiness stupor.

The wine and  cheeze places are no doubt doing bang up business… and it is hell to rent a bike I bet.  Oprah Effect they call it.

Here’s kind of a cool overview of SLO and the surrounding area  (a “tilt shift” video)… for some reason a shot of Morro Bay is the first image though!

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Here’s an interesting view of the intersection of US highway 1… and Los Osos Valley road. Circa 1972.  Check out how wide San Luis Creek is in this shot!  Parts of Dalidio’s farm are covered  on the left of the freeway… and the right hand side of the highway… where the sewer treatment plant is… well that’s basically underwater! The creek is more of a RIVER.  If you click on the photo… it will get bigger… there’s more to see when it’s bigger.

and this shot above… well that is san luis creek… you are looking southwest… towards Nipomo st. from mid block… behind the buildings on Higuera where the creekwalk is now.  Today that white building in the foreground is “the Burrito wagon” I think… you are looking at the back side of it and Nipomo st. is out front….you can see the railing on the bridge…. the Children’s Museum would be in the upper right of the shot in a photo taken today… behind those bushes and rightmost telephone pole sorta.

This is a shot of Higuera st.  taken from near the corner of Higuera and Osos.  Looking down Higuera.  The B of A on the left is now First Bank.  What happened here… is that the creek overwhelmed the tunnel under the downtown… and started spewing out from behind the Firestone Building (now Firestone Grill).  So this water then travelled west down to Osos… and splashed up against the B of A… and then made it’s way down Higuera… through the middle of town.

This shot above is Marsh st.   I am pretty sure this shot is from Nipomo st… looking west.  Directly to the right of where this shot was taken is the Foster’s Freeze.  Hazels Pet Shop would be on the left…. except they are out of business now.

A different view taken from the intersection of Higuera and Osos… looking south on Osos.  Firestone building on left… Arco in the background is now a big two story bank building on the corner of Marsh and Osos.  New Times is now in the basement of the Maino building on the left behind the Firestone Grill.  Wouldn’t want to be down there in this shot… totally flooded to the ceiling I imagine.

This shot above is Monterey st… between Johnson and Toro… looking west towards the Fremont Theatre.  Westside Auto on the right… Currently Smith Volvo is on the left here…  Notice the raft in the water!

This shot above is on Marsh st.  near where the Napa Auto Parts store is… roughly Beach st. I guess.  Looking west.  Budget motel down there on the left.  It was a few feet deep down there on mid Higuera.  You couldn’t really get down there.

pretty sure this shot is of Oceanaire… just off Madonna Rd.  Looking northwest on Oceanaire… just west of Laguna Lake… not positive about this location though.

These shots offer a rare look at a view of San Luis Obispo most folks have never seen.  The Public Works Dept has done an ENORMOUS amount of flood control work since 1972… to help alleviate situations like this.  This is part of the “your tax dollars at work” that nobody ever sees.  Dave Romero was running Public works in this era I think…  Yesterday was his last day as Mayor.   Thank you Dave… for all your years of service to SLO.

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UPDATE… Jan 2012… I’ve discovered that Rudolph Schindler built an A frame house in 1936… So this post is somewhat misleading.  Sorry about that.  Needless to say… Schindler is probably my favorite architect in the world anyway… here is the post from a year ago below.  Click the link just above to see Schindler’s aframe.

 

In 1949/1950 a fellow by the name of Gerald Rupp built this A-frame home in Morro Bay, CA.  It was the first Modernist A Frame house I think.  (A fellow by the name of Andrew Geller often gets credit for being the first to re-introduce the A-Frame style though … as his house built on Long Island in NY in 1955 was published in the New York Times in 1957.)

Gerald (Gerry) also built these homes in Morro Bay… a few lots away in the early 1950’s

and this home… next door to the a frame…

here again below (out of focus)…. notice the early fifties addition to the a-frame house in the background

and this house below… across the st…. mid 1950’s…

another shot… this house below was torn down just last month… sad

a view of the a-frame from high on the hill… before some of the other houses… and before the addition to the front… below:

The other side of the A-frame… below… all in all there were 8 neighboring modern houses… and a few a couple more lots away… 10 all together.  Gerald sold them to artists, writers, musicians… all early modernists.  It was a hotbed of intellectualism and Beat Culture in the 1950’s.  Known then by the local fishermen as “Beatnik Hill”.  One of the first experiments in building intentional community between like minded individuals.  Many Famous beat generation icons stopped through on their way to Big Sur.

neighborhood context 1949 or so I think

The man… Gerry Rupp 1922-2010… with my older brother… circa mid 1950’s:

Rest in Peace Dad

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Look carefully at this wrought iron.  Move around the window view bars if you can’t see the whole image.   It is a small very small fence on a building in Carmel by the Sea, CA.   Awesome work.  Such amazing detail at the top…each little dragon head different than the next.  It is inspiring to think that somebody cared enough to build this grate … that 80 years later still really makes a huge impact.

A simple iron fence that makes you smile.

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