Park(ing) Day 2009

Today is Parking Day!


Architecture + The City 2009

It is nearly half over, but September is the Architecture + The City festival sponsored by the American Institute of Architects San Francisco chapter. The most intriguing event is the symposium California and The Netherlands: A New Alliance for Climate Change Adaptation , which unfortunately is already on a wait list. But there are still plenty of tours, lectures, and exhibitions to attend.

The most interesting among them was canceled. Gardens are for People: The Innovative Landscapes of Thomas Church at Park Merced was to explore the some of the gardens and courtyards of the site, as well as the larger, shared open spaces. Hopefully Docomomo, who would have lead the tour, will try again next year.


The Americans

Though today I will be doing the typical 4th of July BBQ, if you are looking for something different and yet still uniquely patriotic, I highly recommend going to see the exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on Robert Franks' book The Americans entitled Looking In. Though I've seen many of these photographs before, I've never seen the book itself, and this exhibit displays all 83 photographs in the order they appeared, along with artifacts from its development and examples of his earlier and later work.

Another reason to go today, or at least very soon, are two smaller exhibits that close on Tuesday. Patterns of Speculation shows the work of Berlin-based architecture studio J. Mayer H. using images of their work along with a site-built installation. Though the exhibit somewhat falsely claims the firm's unique approach (or at least doesn't explain enough what makes it so unique), it does provide an interesting example of one of the foremost trajectories in architectural thinking over the last decade, that of turning the invisible fields of information and data that surround us into built form.

Also closing Tuesday is Otl Aicher: Munchen 1972. This exhibit highlights the incredible graphic program of the '72 Olympic games. As someone who spends a lot of time complaining generally about signage in California, and specifically about the terrible graphics and design program of AC Transit, this exhibition is like a cool bay breeze on a hot summer day.

SFMoMA also has the newly-opened rooftop sculpture garden. It is summer in San Francisco though, so be sure to bring your winter jacket.


NorCalMod Lecture

Thursday night, co-sponsored by the American Institute of Architects East Bay and the Oakland Heritgage Alliance, Pierluigi Serraino will give a lecture entitled Mid-Century Modern in your Backyard. Serraino comes highly recommended by a friend who had him as a studio instructor at UC-Berkeley. He is the author of NorCalMod: Icons of Northern California Modernism. The lecture is $10 for OHA or AIA members, $20 for non-members, and requires pre-registration. It begins at 5:30 at the AIA East Bay offices at 1405 Clay Street in beautiful downtown Oakland.


Idaho Stop

In a midday open thread earlier this week at dailyKos, I learned about the above video advocating adoption of the Idaho bicycle model, which allows bike riders to treat stop signs as yield signs. The video itself, in addition to being informative and instructive on the topic, is a nice piece of graphic design.

When I first began using my bike for transport in college, I was a fairly rigid follower of traffic laws. The theory being that the only way for cyclists to gain respect on the road was to follow the same laws as automobiles. So at 4-way stops in residential neighborhoods without a car in sight, I would actually come to nearly a complete stop. And that sucked!

A trip to Amsterdam several years ago where I experienced their amazing cycling culture began to change my views. I knew our transportation system was organized around the car, but there I saw how it might be different. The trip was lead by an architecture professor whose research interests included how people negotiate for urban space, and how certain types of negotiation make for a richer urban experience. And what the Idaho stop law does is essentially legalize greater negotiation between cyclists and others.

These days I am much less concerned with following all traffic laws while on my bike, though I still believe there is truth to the theory that drivers would give cyclists more respect if they better followed the rules of the road. Which is why it is so important to have good laws, and the Idaho stop law is one of them.

So I agree with Kos that all states should adopt the Idaho bicyle model. Besides being more efficient for cyclists, it makes for a more interesting city - one that fosters greater interaction and communication among us, even if only in the glance of recognition at a stop sign.



Sharing a page in The Economist with an article on a Prairie in the City of St. Louis is Killing for Respect, concerning crime in Oakland. It is always interesting to see how Oakland is portrayed in the national and international media. And while this article is fairly balanced, also pointing out a "flourishing urbanism", interesting architecture, a beautiful downtown, Lake Merritt and Oakland's amazing diversity, it has me considering canceling my (expensive) subscription, for two main reasons.

The first is the last paragraph, in which the correspondent tries to lay some blame for crime in Oakland at the feet of "liberal politicians" who don't even know how to talk about crime. The example they cite is that Mayor Dellums "had nothing to say at all" at the recent funeral of the four officers killed in the pursuit of Lovelle Mixon. Whatever you think about what happened (me: that Dellums handled it well and the fallen officers and their families demonstrated a lack of respect for the office of the Mayor), that is just not what happened. It may be technically true, but The Economist severely misled its readers in that last paragraph.

The second is that The Economist wrote nearly 2/3 of a page on crime in Oakland without once mentioning the size of the police force. The article simplistically dismisses poverty and racial tensions as factors, while suggesting a theory of a culture of chaos exacerbated by the large numbers of released prisoners, and the inability of our leaders to speak (and thus act) effectively about crime. I happen to think all of these are contributing factors, to a greater or lesser degree. But how can you write a column about crime in Oakland without even mentioning the size of the police force?


Design Lectures 20090406

Although I haven't yet made it to one as a result, I have really appreciated Becks putting together a weekly list of upcoming political and community events at Living in the O. In that spirit, I thought I'd point you to several interesting design lectures this week.

On Monday night, as part of the UC-Berkeley Department of Landscape Architecture lecture series, Kevin Congers of CMG Landscape Architecture will present a lecture entitled LOCALS: A Regional Practice Engages Communities in Conceptually-based Projects. Congers was project manager with Hargreaves Associates on Crissy Field (image above) in San Francisco. The lecture is at 7:00 pm in 112 Wurster Hall on campus.

At the same time and place on Wednesday night, another local landscape architect, Walter Hood, will speak as part of the UC-B Department of Architecture lecture series. Oakland residents may know his work on Splash Pad Park or Lafayette Square. If you haven't experienced his work, don't be too put off by the clunky website, his landscape work has much more finesse than is exhibited there, and the lecture is sure to be interesting and illuminating.

Finally on Thursday night, the Oakland Heritage Alliance continues its second Thursday lecture series with Chandler McCoy who is Associate Director of Planning at the Presidio Trust. McCoy will lecture on "Moderism Inside and Out," providing examples in and around Oakland that break down barries between architecture and landscape, inside and out. Note this is a change from the orignially scheduled lecture by Pierluigi Serraino, author of NorCal Mod: Icons of Northern California Modern Architecture, which has been rescheduled for June 11. The McCoy lecture is $8 for OHA members and $10 for the general public, and will be at 7:30 at the Julia Morgan-designed Chapel of the Chimes at 4499 Piedmont Avenue in Oakland.


Assume Good Faith

In an interesting essay from last Sunday's NY Times writer Noam Cohen compares Wikipedia to cities, claiming it mimics their basic civility, trust, and capacity for self-organization. I especially liked his comparison of the dangers in more lightly tread neighborhoods and industrial districts to those Wiki entries with fewer readers where errors and ulterior motives take longer to root out. Cohen also points too one of the founding principles of Wikipedia, which I think is important for all urban dwellers to remember, "assume good faith."


Future Oakland on BART

New work obligations have kept me from posting as much as I'd like of late, but I just wanted to flag this new post at Future Oakland on the problems with BART.

On the whole I like BART quite a bit, but that doesn't mean I'm not aware of it's problems. And FO outlines most of them, especially about the whole system being a tremendous subsidy for suburban commuters and therefore promoting increased suburban sprawl in the Bay Area. I'm amazed every time I look at a BART map and see all the studies underway for reaching the system even further out, rather than filling in with new lines (down the I-580 corridor for example). And I can't believe BART typically charges a dollar for parking at their lots, far below the market price, or wants to expand to the Oakland International Airport when ridership to SFO has been disappointing (though I love that service myself, and would take it to the OAK too).

I do have a quick qualm with what is a throw away line at the end when FO claims that "AC Transit is relentlessly criticized for buying nice busses," likely referring to the Van Hool debacle. FO, those buses suck! They are cheap, plastic concoctions that nearly everyone I talk to from drivers to riders hate, and especially the elderly, who have trouble navigating their 12 inch steps(!) up to the seats.

That minor issue aside, definitely go check out the new post at Future Oakland.


AIA SF 2009 Awards

Today in Place, an architecture and urban design column appearing Tuesday in the San Francisco Chronicle, John King highlights the American Institute of Architects San Francisco 2009 Design Awards. Christ the Light Cathedral in Oakland, which I discussed briefly a few months back, received an honor award.

King also mentions an exhibit at UC-Berkeley's Wurster Hall on Benisch Architeten, whom he reports has begun work on new dorms for the campus. I haven't seen the exhibit, but there work is definitely worth checking out. The exhibition closes on March 20.


The Skin of the City

Recently I came across Sergio Fajarda in an article in the alumni magazine of UW-Madison, which unfortunately I can't locate on line. From 2003-2007 Fajarda was the mayor of Medellin, Columbia, where he instituted a program of social transformation through city building. In the 1980s and 90s Medellin, the second largest city in Columbia, was known for drug trafficing and home to the eponymous cartel led by Pablo Escobar. At the height of the city's violence in 1991, there were 6,349 homicides, or 381 per 100k people.

In this excellent interview with Charlie Rose Fajarda describes his idea as an attempt to "change the skin of the city", a phrase which I love. His program was to decrease crime (largely through more policing) and immediately follow up with social interventions as a way of crystallizing (literally) the gains made in the reductions of violence. These interventions took the shape of increased transportation infrastructure and the building of "opportunity spaces" (park-libraries, schools, cultural centers) to better connect and bring additional services to the city's poor. In a 2007 feature in the New York Times Fajarda stated, "Our most beautiful buildings must be in our poorest areas."

And it worked. In 2006, the homicide rate was down to 29 per 100k residents, on par with Oakland today. Though obviously not all of these gains are attributable to Fajarda, what stikes me is how his program compares with that of Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums. Both have similar worldviews, their overriding goal being to reduce social inequality and provide a better life for their city's poorest residents. But in sharp contrast to Dellums, who's tired tropes of bringing people together and making a model city have resulted in few actual policy proposals, Fajardo's plans have done exactly that.

Which leaves us with the words of Medellin mechanic Jamie Quizeno, speaking to NY Times reporter Simon Romero on the Biblioteca de Espana (image above) designed by Giancarlo Mazzanti, "It looks like an enormous cloud when it is illuminated at night. Such a beautiful thing, right here with us, who would have imagined that?"


SHPR: Neldam's Bakery

Neldam's Bakery will celebrate 80 years in business by hosting a party from 9 am to 1 pm on Friday. There will be free cake tastings (!) and a drawing for dontated prizes every half hour.

The bakery has been on the same block in Oakland since opening in 1929, the year the Great Depression began. Just a year ago it looked as if the bakery might close altogether, but selling the land and building has apparently allowed the company to continue its operations.

Neldam's is located at 34th and Telegraph Avenue at the bottom of Pill Hill. Stop by and get your kringle on.

Citywide Zoning Workshops

Via Chris Kidd at the open thread comments section of ABO, I learned that tonight and Saturday are two community workshops on the citywide zoning update focused on commercial corridors and residential areas in the City of Oakland. I second his encouragement of bike/ped/transit /urbanist people to attend and offset the likely strong showing by the NIMBY crowd.

I have a more personal reason for attending. Recently I found out the house I bought a couple years back in East Lorin is completely illegal. Thus, I am going to try to get my house legalized. That and arguing for a greener, more urban conception of what Oakland could be.


The Experimental City

In a great post on Monday, Crimson at Oakland Streets discussed the problems and opportunities with creating pedestrian zones in cities. In addition to some illuminating insight into the mechanics of Bay Street/Emeryville (which should give pause to those who think there is much there for Oakland to emulate), Crimson called for a more experimental approach to creating pedestrian zones, which I think is spot on.

As mentioned, some places like Telegraph Avenue (near the UC-Berkeley campus) just cry out for pedestrianization. Having spent over half a decade in Madison (image above), where the main commercial thoroughfare (State Street, connecting the campus to the Capitol) is restricted to buses and service vehicles, I can attest to how well this would work. In fact, everytime I go to Telegraph, I'm amazed it still carries traffic (one way, no less).

But with other places, a much more experimental attitude would be beneficial. Somehow, I don't feel as if permanently restricting vehicles in Chinatown would work. On a commercial basis, it absolutely could, but there is an appealing chaos there that might be lost. But to know, we'd have to try. For a place like 17th Street, I could see starting with a quarterly or monthly street closing on a weekend day, which might serve to highlight the street and create more energy upon it. After a while, you'd adjust the frequency (more or less often) and the days (Saturday, Sunday, or weekdays?), until you found a sweet spot, mindful that the sweet spot itself might be in flux, and would require continued experimentation.

Too often, cities seem locked into existing infrastructures, conventional wisdoms, and mindless habits: you can't build a 6-story building next to a bunch of 2-story buildings (or a modern one next to a traditional) because it would be "out of context", congestion is bad for a city, or prescribing traffic movement via signs and paint rather than through interaction ensures greater safety.

Something like closing a street to cars for a day is so easy and cheap, and the opportunities it provides for shaking citizens out of ingrained and cliched modes of living is so visceral. Oakland would do well to take Crimson's advice and walk it out.


Oakland City Green

On Monday Becks had a post listing several ways to become engaged in politics this week. Though some day I hope to get to a Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting, it will have to wait for another month. Because also tonight is a public hearing for the discussion of proposed green building requirements for private development in Oakland.

According to the flyer, Oakland is "considering mandatory Green Building requirements for private development. Green Building refers to a whole systems approach to the design, construction, and operation of buildings."

Now that sounds suspiciously like architecture to me. I'm hoping to learn more at the meeting, but my first reaction is one of skepticism. Aside from the fact that this may not be the right time to be ladling additional requirements onto an already decimated building sector, the system on which the proposal is based is cause for concern.

This system, known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in 2000 and employs a checklist to determine if a project is green, with points awarded for each criterion satisfied. The problem with LEED is two-fold. First, it seems to be developing into a bureaucratic, rigid system which rewards rote thinking at the expense of innovative design. Second, and more importantly for Oakland, is that it is essentially anti-urban, or at the very least fairly urban indifferent. And as anybody who has been following along knows, if you want to be green you can't be urban indifferent.

For example in the Sustainable Sites section of LEED NC (New Construction) there is a credit known as Development Density & Community Connectivity. This can be met by the "construction or renovation of a building on a previously developed site AND in a community with a minimum density of 60,000 sq. ft. per acre net. (Note: density calculations must include the area of the project being built and is based on a typical two-story downtown development.)"

Now 60,000 sq. ft. per acre is almost laughably suburban, amounting to a floor-area ratio (FAR) of less than 1.5, which probably isn't quite dense enough for a typical residential corner lot in Oakland, let alone one in a commercial district or downtown.

Another example is the recently built Margarido House which is slated to be the first LEED H (Homes) platinum-certified custom home in Northern California. Certainly it is well-located close to Rockridge BART station and the shops along College Avenue, and the architect and builder have obviously thought quite a bit about ways to make it greener. But it is over 4600 sq. ft. for a single family, which is a distinctly suburban conception of spatial needs.

All the low-VOC paint in the world is not going to save our planet unless we make incursions in to the mindset that we need that much space. I am certainly not one to believe that we all must live at NYC densities to be green, and there is something to this post from a while back over at Oakland Streets. There is plenty of room for detached single-family homes in a green lifestyle, they just need to have a small apartment building at the corner of the block and some mixed-use buildings within a few minutes walk. Though the Margarido House is nearly located within such a place (though its Walkscore is only 49, hmm?), most people living in houses that big will not have that kind of urban, green lifestlye available to them.

I don't want to disparage LEED too much here, it certainly has done some great things in raising awareness, codifying progress and processes, and certifying what had been becoming simply a marketing phrase. And it is getting better, with the LEED ND (Neighborhood Design) pilot program begining to incorporate more urban, green ideas. But it is unfortunate that Oakland is looking to LEED, because as currently conceived it is just too suburban a model for a place like Oakland. There is space in the green certification "marketplace" for a more urban conception of what green building could be, and one I think Oakland would do well to exploit. Certainly this would be more expensive, but one I think could also reap huge benefits.

The meeting is tonight from 5:30 - 7:30 in Hearing Room 1 of City Hall.



Postings will remain light as I head out of town for Presidents' Day weekend, so this one is simply a way to have another beautiful image at the top of the blog. Pictured above is the Netherlands Institute of Sound and Vision, again by Neutlings Riedijk Architects. In it they have created one of the most important new buildings of the decade.


Forage Oakland

The Monday edition of the SF Chronicle featured a piece on Oakland blogger Asiya Wadud, who writes Forage Oakland. Though I had discovered her blog shortly before, I really didn't start checking it out regularly until V Smoothe reminded me in a post a couple months back. If you happen to live in North Oakland or South Berkeley and have excess fruit, veggies, greens or herbs you can donate to Forage Oakland, and maybe even receive something in return.



On Monday night as part of the UC-Berkeley Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning 2008-09 Lecture Series, Julie Bargmann of DIRT Studio will give a lecture entitled No Sissy Landscapes. Over the last decade, Bargmann has been a leader in the research and development of regenerative landscapes in which natural processes are used to heal contaminated sites.

DIRT Studio's proposal for the Menomonee River Valley (image above) in Milwaukee was developed just a couple years after the studio I took with Aaron Betsky (more info in the previous post) focused on the same site. Unfortunately DIRT lost out to a far less innovative proposal. The lecture is on campus at 7:00 pm in 112 Wurster Hall.


Betsky @ Mills

Kicking off just before the Super Bowl is a lecture by Aaron Betsky entitled Blob Utopia: Digital Destiny or Aesthetic Escape?, part of the Art Lecture Series at Mills College. Betsky taught the visiting professor studio at UWM School of Architecture and Urban Planning (SARUP) I took back when he was the Curator of Architecture, Design and Digital Projects at SFMoMA. The studio was a refreshing change from the dominance of New Urbanist thinking prevalent within SARUP at the time. Betsky challenged us to view the suburban landscape of sprawl not as a spatial condition that needed re-form, but as the physical manifestation of modernity and the milieu to which architects must give meaning and coherence.

After SFMoMA, Betsky went on to head the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam. A few years ago, he became director of the Cincinnatti Art Museum, likely in large part because of the opportunity to build a new museum. Since then, the museum sponsered an invited competition and hired Neutelings Ridijk Architects (Rotterdam Shipping and Transport College building pictured above) to design what will be their first U.S. building.

Betsky is also the author of numerous architectural monographs and books on design, the best of which is False Flat: Why Dutch Design is so Good. The lecture is at 3:00 pm on Sunday, in the Danforth Lecture Hall of the Art Building at Mills College.


Bay Model

Every 6-10 months I come across the Bay Model and then forget about it before I have a chance to visit. For those who don't know, the Bay Model is a 1.5 acre working hydrological model of the Bay Area, which according to the website is "much smaller than the actual San Francisco Bay and Delta."

The Bay Model was built in 1957 and used by the Army Corps of Engineers to study the effects of interventions like dredging shipping channels and accidents such as oil spills. Though retired as a research tool in 2000 (presumably the Corps now uses computer models), the model continues to operate as a public education center.

The Bay Model Visitors Center is located in Sausalito at 2100 Bridgeway, and is open Tuesday through Saturday in winter and on Sundays as well in the summer. But this Saturday from 11:00 to noon, there is a special walking tour of the model entitled "Back in Time on the Bay", which explores changes (both natural and unnatural) to the Bay from pre-historic times to the present. If you (like me) can't make it this Saturday, the tour will be offered again on Saturday 21 February.


Solomon v Goliath

My first urban design studio in architecture school was a beta test of a plan put together for the redevelopment of the Beerline B. This rail line along the Milwaukee River served the Blatz, Pabst, and Schlitz breweries, importing barley and hops and exporting beer to the nation as the industry consolidated heavily at the beginning of the 20th century. By the end of that century though, the line had been abandoned and the land surrounding it gone mostly fallow.

The original plan was put together by San Francisco based architect Dan Solomon, who had an op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle on Friday discussing the possibilities and challenges in reorganizing our built environment for a post-petrol world.


Columbo Club History

Today at the Temescal Library is an opening reception for the exhibit, Italian-Americans in Temescal: The History of the Columbo Club. I learned about this last month at the Temescal Library Reception from Giovanna Capone, who had put together a preview from the "archives" (a bunch of stuff in boxes in some back room) of the Columbo Club (careful, that link has music).

The event will feature a speech by Temescal historican Ray Rainieri, who also conducts a wonderful walking tour of the neighborhood through the Oakland Heritage Alliance. In addition to her work cataloging the Club's historical documents and photographs, Capone has assembled an oral history video of some of the its senior members.

The Columbo Club is the oldest Italian social club in Oakland, and one of the largest still in existence in the U.S. Founded in 1920 by 34 Piedmontese immigrants, it currently has a waiting list of several hundred. On Sunday mornings, the Club is open to allow patrons of the Temescal Farmers' Market to use its restrooms, which is something I highly recommend. The photos and memorabilia on the walls, as well as the general decor, is like stepping back decades.

The event today is from 3:00 to 5:00, and the exhibit will be open at least through the end of January. The Temescal Library is located at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and 52nd Street, where Claremont Avenue meets Telegraph.


Fourth Bore No More

This morning the San Francisco Chronicle reports that funding has been halted for the fourth bore of the Caldecott Tunnel. Though, it is unfortunate California cannot start a massive public infrastructure project at the precise time when it both would get better deals on construction costs and our economy could use a boost, this is a terrible project. Anyone who wants to understand why California has such a huge budget problem, while having relatively high taxes and still continuing to educate its children trailers and postpone the repair of its crumbling infrastructure, need look no further than this project.

Leaving the environmental considerations aside (which we shouldn't), this project is just completely unnecessary. At nearly half a billion dollars, it is expensive in and of itself. But the larger problem is that a fourth bore would exacerbate the region's suburban sprawl, which is in itself a hugely inefficient enterprise, requiring massive expenditures on the duplication of infrastructure. If California ever wants to get its financial house in order, it will have to rethink the amount and focus of the money it spends on transport and infrastructure. Here's hoping that we begin that process during the upcoming economic downturn, and before the fourth bore is ever built.


SHPR: Blue Bottle Coffee

Over the holidays, a real-life conversation with the folks who write two of my favorite local blogs, Living in the O and City Homestead, as well as recent posts at each site, reminded me of something I've wanted to do here at OSA for a while now - SHPR. Basically, SHPR will feature local businesses that I like, support and frequent, ones I think you should as well. Mostly these will be based in Oakland, but sometimes I'll venture further afield, to Berkeley, Emeryville, or San Francisco, and perhaps even occasionally the surrounding hinterlands.

And for the first SHPR, I've chosen a business that, though based in Oakland, has a much stronger identity in San Francisco, which frankly is a situation I'd like to see changed. Oaklanders in Greater Temescal may know Blue Bottle Coffee from their presence Sunday mornings at the Temescal Farmers Market, where a line often 20 deep waits for an individually-brewed cup of coffee. And apparently you can visit what I assume is their roasting facility in Oakland to pick up beans. But several years ago, they opened "an odd but convivial" kiosk in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. It is located at 315 Linden Street (essentially an alley) in a former garage (image above). And it combines several things I love: crisp, modern design; glutonous coffee; and the reuse of urban space previously dedicated solely to automobiles.

That is still a functional laneway you see above, with access for cars, but because of Blue Bottle, it is now so much more - it is a place. And this kind of place-based thinking is something I would like to see more of in Oakland. Though there are few areas of Oakland where this exact type of thing could occur (we unfortunately don't have many alleyways), there is lots to emulate here without copying directly. One could easily see a similar business on a side street adjacent to a commercial High Street (a British term I love) in Oakland, provided the local zoning would allow it (and if it wouldn't, why not?).

More recently, Blue Bottle opened a cafe at Mint Plaza in San Francisco. I haven't yet been to the cafe, but Mint Plaza on the whole is a weird place. The landscaping is fairly nice, but overall it has a festival marketplace feel similar to Jack London Square, though a touch more sophisticated and far better designed and executed. This weirdness is largely due to the anti-market nature of the surrounding buildings, most of which were redeveloped by a single organization, Martin Building Company. Its an odd choice, Blue Bottle locating at Mint Plaza, because it seems they would do better in a more market-like (what materialist philosopher Manuel De Landa would term a "meshwork") setting, where their competitiveness and creativity would shine. Which is why I'm hoping that, for their next venture, Blue Bottle Coffee will open a kiosk or small coffee house somewhere in Oakland, and why I've made them the first SHPR.

In some ways it would have made more sense to introduce SHPR before the holidays. But I imagine many of the businesses that will end up being featured aren't necessarily places you'd go to get a gift anyways. Many of them will just be little places I frequent, or odd shops I go into. I'm also open to suggestions, so feel free to email me a favorite place of yours. I'd love to check it out and do a write up if it fits the bill.

Originally I thought of this as sort of a weekly shopper but I don't want to commit to that level of frequency, especially since I'd like to better cover general development issues in Oakland while V Smoothe is away (there is a lot of slack to be picked up). But I plan to feature SHPR as often as possible. Unfortunately, there will likely be lots of local businesses closing this year, which makes it all the more important to keep supporting the places that help make Oakland special.


Finnish Paradise

The chilliness of the last few weeks has me thinking of summer. And fortunately for those who love architecture, or those who need to learn about it, the American Institute of Architects San Francisco chapter has been thinking similarly. The current exhibit in their gallery, which closes this Friday, is My Paradise: A Hundred Years of Finnish Architects' Summer Homes. The gallery is located in the historic Hallidie Building just a few blocks from Montgomery Station, at 130 Sutter Street on the 6th floor, and is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, again through Friday.