Today’s Headlines

  • Muni’s 5-Fulton Limited Service Launches Today (SF Examiner, Hayeswire)
  • After Bicyclist Death, Muni Changes Policy to Require Wheel Guards on All Buses in Service (SF Weekly)
  • Tim Redmond: Allowing Driving Churchgoers to Park in Bus Stops “Would Never Stand Up in Court”
  • Golden Gate Bridge District to Consider Toll Hike Options (KQED, ABC, SFGate, KTVU)
  • An Update on Caltrans’ Progress on Construction of the New Doyle Drive (ABC)
  • More on the Dog/Skate Park Being Constructed in the Central Freeway Parking Lots (Urban Life Signs)
  • Proposed 10-Story 16th/Mission Development: Parking Info (SocketSite); Tom Radulovich Weighs in
  • Is It a Car? A Motorcycle? 7×7 Calls This SF-Based Invention the “Car of the Future”
  • SFPD Officer’s Defense Against Charges in DUI Crash: It’s “a Medical Issue” (SF Appeal)
  • Drugged Berkeley Driver Arrested After Hitting Three Blind People, Fleeing, Hitting Driver (Berkeleyside)
  • Menlo Park Couple Walking in Bike Lane Killed by Repeat Drunk Driver (SFGate, KRONKTVU, CBS)
  • Cyclelicious: San Jose’s Cuts to Traffic Enforcement Leading to Increase in Deaths
More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill
  • Anonymous

    More on this drunk driver police officer (although I just realized it’s the same article at the appeal):

    He had three times the legal limit upon arrest.

  • Anonymous

    The proposed 10 story building at 16th & Mission BART could present a great piece of transit oriented development. It is planned to have over 350 housing units and ground floor retail. A couple of sketches show an ugly box, seemingly unimaginative. I am naive to hope that community input will help create a better building, rather than stopping this neighborhood disruptor in its tracks?

  • Anonymous

    Mostly agree, but that building is too tall. We need to keep residential neighborhoods residential, which means no towering buildings. 3-4 stories is enough. Otherwise, you just drive people out who don’t want to live in the dehumanized canyons of concrete and steel. I hate to see the Mission lose it’s residential appeal because of these behemoths. I’m all about building more housing, but anything bigger than 3-4 stories needs to stay in areas which already are built with these buildings (downtown, Soma, Mission Bay, etc.). One of the secrets to getting more people to live in urbanized environments (where less resources are used per capita) is realizing that there is a “sweet spot” in density. Too dense and it feels overbearing and unnatural and drives people out to less efficient areas (mostly suburbs), but too spares and you have, well, suburbs. I believe neighborhoods like the Mission have struck that balance and I had to see these behemoths ruin that.

  • mikesonn

    Cyclist hit on Polk by Bush by cab driver.

  • Anonymous

    A thoughtful reply, jdx. I now live in a 10 story, 19 unit building but find neighborly experiences on the sidewalks (tons of dog-walkers), the local square (a park), two playgrounds (for adults and kids), a great corner store, and even the bus and cable car stops. Walked home discussing politics with a woman from the #1 bus. There is no lack of large apartment and condominium buildings around here, but it’s the other neighborhood amenities that allow us to feel human. Density, especially regarding height of buildings, does not seem to discourage community, but public spaces need to be better, the more people you have living in a neighborhood.

  • Andy Chow

    10 stories is not too tall at all for an area with a BART station and many of the buildings already multi-residential units 3-4 stories tall. What we need more 3-4 story buildings is in the suburbs like along El Camino Real and downtowns in San Mateo County.

  • Jamison Wieser

    The sketches do nothing for gaining public support, but arbitrarily counting stories isn’t very helpful either. Were this on the southwest corner I’d be inclined to agree with jd_x, but on the Northeast corner the BART plaza will not be thrown into shadow and the two plazas together keep the intersection open to more light and sky. The worst shadows will be in the building’s own interior courtyard.

    The streetlife, shops, restaurants, and new neighbors could do much more for the neighborhood than adhering to a strict height limit would do in this case.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed that all the things you mentioned are important and hence the reason you can’t be as sparse as suburbs. But as you increase density, you also increase negative interactions and create stress and tension in people. The extreme example would be giving everybody a 200 ft apartment and making all buildings 100 stories tall. Though clearly that example is bad, at what density do the cons of being crammed into too small an area outweigh the benefits of lots of positive social interaction and efficient access to resources like transit? There is an “optimum density” (which probably changes over time and place) and research has shown this. For example, this great article from Atlantic Cities:

    I’ve added a relevant plot from that article.

    So okay, there is some optimum point. The trickier question is: what exactly is that density? I believe it lies within so-called “residential” neighborhoods like the Mission. Sure, I’m fine with their being the occasional really tall building, and maybe this one at Bart would be the exception. But I’m worried that it leads to a trend and that we get carried away trying to solve a short-term problem (needing urgent housing) by creating a long-term one (creating too dense and hence unlivable cities which drive people back out and/or make them miserable). I’m trying to remind people to think carefully about large buildings for, outside of downtowns that already are dominated by them, I argue most people don’t want to live surrounded by such buildings. Sure, some do, and that’s why there will always be such neighborhoods. But most do not. Exhibit A supporting this: the existence of suburbs.

    So what I’m arguing is that keeping most buildings at the 3-4 story level, with many more 2-3 stories, is the key. And again, the occasional modestly tall (~10 story) building is fine, but it should be the exception. Here is a great article talking about this in more detail:

  • Anonymous

    By the way, the last article is from Trim Tab magazine, in case anybody is interested:

    This magazine is put out by the International Living Future Institute, an NGO

    perhaps most famous for the Living Building Challenge:

  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much for all the links to relevant articles. I did glean this, however, from your first link, and it seems to weaken your argument about density. It was this:

    “Bettencourt’s theoretical framework suggests that a kind of optimal city exists when we have the most social interaction – and social and economic output coming from it – with the least cost of connecting people and goods and ideas to each other. A sprawling city, for instance, isn’t reaching the full potential it could achieve if more people moved into town in denser development. Likewise, a dense but congested city loses some of the potential it could achieve with better transportation.”

    It seems the problem is not with density, but rather with congestion. A great transport network can connect people to one another easily. San Francisco does not yet have this. If we get denser, we must get this built or really detract from the quality of life.

    Stockholm has this, so that even as it adds many tens of thousands of residents every year (it is booming), people get around easily to jobs and friends and children’s schools, because the government invested in a massive subway and tram system, bike share more recently, and parks and bikeways a long time ago.

  • Andy Chow

    I feel the same way you do. Higher density can exist if there’s efficient transportation, along with other essentials like power, water, sewer, schools, hospitals, etc. What urban planners do is to coordinate those things. Since San Francisco has demonstrated that higher residential density can exist in areas away from BART, I have no doubt that a 10-story building will be just as popular as SOMA condos since people have fast transit that is not Muni.

    I would rather point out that the current democratic political process is actually working against increasing density. Even if a new development can bring more people and enhance the economy, the future residents have no votes whatsoever, current residents have other factors (some legit, some not) that may turn them against higher density developments (like property values, traffic, perception about crime, racism). So far, higher density infill development is more likely to happen with large blocks of underutilized land with few or no existing residents, redevelopment scheme if the political system is less democratic, virgin land, land free of residents due to a disaster.

    Perhaps San Francisco can support 3-4 story buildings along the N or the L line in the Sunset, but that won’t happen because people current living there will be against it.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, it’s true that the first article is mostly concerned about transportation benefits at high densities. I was more using that article to point out the idea of optimum density. I do think, however, that that article overlooks other facts. Again, using my extreme example of people living in 200 sq ft apartments in 100-story buildings (imagine block after block of this), I don’t think the vast majority of people want to live this way. If I cut the buildings to 50 stories, then is it okay? What about 20? Again, the point is, at some point, regardless of transit benefits, people don’t feel “crowded” and have “space”.

    The second article also does a much better job than I can pointing out the other benefits of living too densely. One example I’ll pull out is biophilia: it becomes harder to integrate nature into cities as they get more dense. The extreme example on one end is rural areas with extremely low densities and very high amounts of biophilia. On the other end, you have my extreme example of 100-story buildings block-after-block, and clearly there is little room for biophilia (other than green roofs on the tops of buildings which few can enjoy). You need space for parks and greenery as well as space for the native species that use them. I had this discussion on another article on this website last week, but I think, along with minimal noise, nature in the city is one of the most important yet underrate and least-discussed aspects of a truly livable city. And I think tall buildings prevent true integration of nature. I think you can achieve sufficient density for positive social interaction, transit benefits, etc with the density found in residential neighborhoods like the Mission.

  • Anonymous

    From the national news (CNN):
    The New Pandemic: Road Deaths

    Unfortunately, the most obvious solution — reducing car usage — utterly alludes the author. Just sad that we are this addicted to cars that we can’t see straight even when the common-sense solution is staring us in the face.

  • Anonymous

    I saw Barcelona in winter and it was mostly devoid of parks except for big ones on the edges, and of course the beaches. A lovely city, but too much stone and concrete. Very few birds except in those edge parks. So, I would agree about how important nature in any city is.

  • Anonymous

    Here’s a *much* better analysis from the NY Times dealing with the peripheral, but as important, health issues caused by cars:

  • Sainte Apple

    wheels spin free
    bringing glee to cheeks & Qi
    a solo flow, a spirit’s glow

    a horizon surrounds, lost in sounds
    soaring rhythms, heart pounds
    mourning chatter, concrete splatter