20080916

STAND Best Picks

In doing some research for another post, I came across the website of Standing Together for Accountable Neighborhood Development (STAND). I had seen their booth around town and always thought they were anti-development. It turns out I was wrong, they are anti-design. On their Best Picks page, they highlight three recent developments they like. None are good.

The first, Il Piedmonte (image above), on the corner of Pleasant Valley and Piedmont Avenues, is at least not terrible. From Piedmont Avenue it gives the impression of a decent courtyard building that was filled in badly at the height of the post-pop period, around 1983. From Pleasant Valley Avenue it resembles three separate buildings. I can only imagine that somewhere in design review it was suggested that the architects "break up the massing", thinking that would make a large building better; it rarely does. The scale seems about right, though it would benefit from adding one more floor and losing the pergola fronting Piedmont Avenue on the habitable roof deck. Were it a single coherent building and maybe a story higher, it could have been the kind of solid work-a-day corner building found at major intersections in great cities all over the world.

The two other developments are so bad they aren't worth explaining (I hope it is obvious), though I reserve a special hatred for the last (image at top), both because I walk by it several times a week, and it is just a block or so away from the lovely Nomad Cafe.

I understand those who think recent development in Oakland is too dense. Generally I disagree, but change is difficult, and people typically don't like to share, whether it be their toys or their neighborhoods. I think Oakland would benefit from more people living here, especially along transit corridors and above shops. I like having a diversity of housing options, and think it great someone could live several floors above a store, a block away in a detached single-family house, or somewhere in between, depending on their preferences and station in life. But to hold these projects (especially the last two) up as some kind of design model is just beyond the pale.

4 comments:

austinjohn said...

It looks like Oakland has adopted some Vertical Mixed Use (VMU) zoning for the transit corridors. I love the concept and believe it will result in more walkable neighborhoods and more opportunity for single-family dwellers to ditch the car.
We have started to see these sort of projects here in Austin, Texas. I am afraid that most of them are of dubious design quality, I guess we are not alone. Actually, that last one looks like it took some inspiration from the Alamo. I swear that the central section is a scale-model of the Alamo entrance in San Antonio.

sixatom said...

"Il Piedmonte, on Piedmont Ave. Notice how this new development fits into the surrounding buildings and is only 3 stories." -From the STAND website

Certainly not from that picture. I haven't been by that part of town since the stucco's gone up, but I can hardly agree that it "fits in" when it's 20 fee taller than anything near it.

John said...

I'm really trying to understand your beef with STAND on these, but I just can't. Although you say STAND is anti-development, STAND advocates for appropriate-sized develoment, not 'no development' - there is a difference.

Further, you criticize STAND about three recent development projects which it likes and supports, bolstering your criticism of STAND based on the design and esthetics of the projects, not their size.

Your detailed critiques of the project designs are simply an expression of your esthetics, not of sound urban planning principles. Granted, there are a lot of ugly buildings out there, but when was the last time a project was denied at the planning commission because it was "too ugly"?

With regard to STAND, you appear to want it have it both ways: to put the knock on STAND for opposing projects and again for liking projects which you do not. This is a fairly transparent inconsistency.

Raymond Johnson said...

sixatom: Height rarely has anything to do with fitting in. Cities have buildings of varying heights adjacent to one another. The problem is that is doesn't fit in with Oakland circa 2008. Instead it tries to look like it was built in Sienna in 1683.

John: If you reread the first paragraph of my post, you'll see that I DON'T think STAND is anti-development, I think they are anti-design. I absolutely criticize STAND on their design and aesthetics - that is my beef with them, they support bad development that makes Oakland an uglier place.

On their Best Picks page, STAND writes, "we just want developers to do a better job of designing what is built," and claims these are projects they "like."

But these are bad projects; they are poorly designed. So the conclusion I draw is that STAND has bad judgment with regard to architectural and urban design.

I do not understand your claim of my inconsistency. They support poor development, so I oppose them. That hardly seems inconsistent, but maybe I'm missing something.