Pandemics and Land Planning Article

The following article comes to us from the New York Times. Pandemics have been a part of human history for as long as there have been humans. There is a green light after the red…

Can City Life Survive Coronavirus?

Cities are epicenters of capital and creativity, designed to be occupied collectively. Pandemics are anti-urban, preying on our human desire for connection.

The empty business district of La Defense in Paris, on Monday.
Credit…Andrea Mantovani for The New York Times
It’s becoming harder by the hour to find the new normal.

We need each other in a crisis like this, but we rightly fear congestion. France and Spain have ordered all cafes and restaurants shut down. In New York, it’s the same, with museums and Broadway theaters on hiatus. Mosques have closed in several countries, churches have canceled masses, and the pope prohibited the public from Holy Week celebrations.

Traditionally, we seek solace in religion, sports, entertainment and in the promise that modern science and societies provide all the tools needed to solve any problem.

particular, urban life. Historians tell us that cities emerged thousands of years ago for economic and industrial reasons — technological leaps produced a surplus of agricultural goods, which meant not everyone had to keep working the land.

Still, cities also grew, less tangibly, out of deeply human social and spiritual needs. The very notion of streets, shared housing and public spaces stemmed from and fostered a kind of collective affirmation, a sense that people are all in this together.

Pandemics prey on this relentlessly. They are anti-urban. They exploit our impulse to congregate. And our response so far — social distancing — not only runs up against our fundamental desires to interact, but also against the way we have built our cities and plazas, subways and skyscrapers. They are all designed to be occupied and animated collectively. For many urban systems to work properly, density is the goal, not the enemy.

Of course, we now have teleconferencing and an abundance of social media and other forms of remote, digital interaction. We had already drifted toward a kind of social distancing by living increasingly on our phones and in virtual communities, bingeing on Netflix.

Alexanderplatz, a large public square in the center of Berlin, on Sunday.
Credit…Emile Ducke for The New York Times 

The technology we consume today increasingly consumes us, for good and ill. It is escalating our anxieties with unending access to information and misinformation alike. But technology is also allowing many of us to carry on with certain kinds of businesses and act globally in ways we couldn’t have imagined a generation or two ago.

Even so, we still need one other, not just virtually. Ezra Klein in Vox raised the prospect of social distancing causing a “social recession,” a kind of “collapse in social contact that is particularly hard,” he wrote, “on the populations most vulnerable to isolation and loneliness — older adults and people with disabilities or pre-existing health conditions.”

There is evidence for this. Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist at New York University, wrote a book about a heat wave in Chicago in 1995, during which 739 people died. That event proved lethal among elderly Chicagoans living in poor, segregated neighborhoods that afforded residents little social contact.

But older Chicagoans living in similarly poor, crime-ridden communities who had access to what Mr. Klinenberg calls a robust “social infrastructure” — a network of “sidewalks, stores, public facilities and community organizations that bring people into contact with friends and neighbors” — died at a markedly lower rate.

Now those very forms of social interaction put people at greater risk. That’s one reason affluent New Yorkers with second homes in the countryside have been quitting the city in recent days like medieval characters in Boccaccio’s “Decameron” facing the Black Death.

During the last century, millions of urban-dwelling Americans fled to the suburbs. Cities cleared old neighborhoods and replaced them with giant housing projects in vast empty spaces, arguing that crowded urban slums had become petri dishes for disease.

But people have been moving back into cities even as technology has created myriad new ways of connecting remotely. Cities have become epicenters of new capital and creativity, because proximity breeds serendipity and strength, from which new ideas and opportunities arise.


The Great Court in the British Museum in London, on Monday.
Credit…Mary Turner for The New York Times 

Economists have talked about this urban migration in terms of dollars and cents. But the human value of shared space is ultimately incalculable. After 9/11, I visited the Islamic galleries at the Metropolitan Museum, where crowds had gathered. I asked some people there what brought them to the museum. They said they wanted to remind themselves of life and beauty and tolerance, and to seek strength in one another.

During the blitz of London, in World War II, the British Home Office ordered all theaters, concerts halls, movie houses and other public gathering spots shut, leaving residents to meditate on their grim fate at home.

The exception was London’s National Gallery, whose director persuaded authorities to let him keep one painting on public view (the picture was periodically changed, so people had reason to return). The gallery also organized a series of lunchtime classical music concerts.

Going out meant risking life and limb. But Londoners waited in lines that stretched out the front door of the gallery and across Trafalgar Square, hoping for seats. When a German munition fell on the gallery shortly before one concert, the audience and musicians relocated across the square to South Africa House. A few days later, when a 1,000-pound unexploded bomb was discovered in some rubble outside the gallery, the event was moved to a distant room and no one budged when the device was detonated during a Beethoven quartet.

The war shook the confidence of free and open democracies to survive a grave global threat. Modest though they were, the concerts gave Londoners hope, reminding them why they lived there and together.

Today’s threat is altogether another sort of challenge to solidarity and our way of life. It is not a heat wave or a blitz. It can’t be mitigated by going to concerts or museums. It requires isolation.

We will need to figure out a different approach, together.

SDSU Snapdragon Stadium Update

The Project Design Consultants (PDC) team continues to provide a variety of high-quality professional civil engineering, landscape architecture, water resources, and land surveying services for the development and construction of the new San Diego State University (SDSU) Snapdragon Stadium.

Recent and upcoming milestones include:

SDSU Snapdragon Stadium received a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (July 8, 2022).

The fully approved Certificate of Occupancy is slated for August 1, 2022.

First event is the SDSU scrimmage game (August 20, 2022).

Opening Day features the hometown Aztecs vs Arizona (September 3, 2022); the game will be televised on CBS.

Take a look at the SDSU Snapdragon Stadium Fly-Over (courtesy of CBS San Diego Channel 8 and YouTube):

PDC will continue to support both SDSU and the other components of future site development for the next decade. If you can, get out there for some of the upcoming events – it will be quite the experience.

San Diego Tailgate Park Project

Project Design Consultants (PDC) is pleased to be a part of the team redeveloping Tailgate Park. The following article appeared in the San Diego Union Tribune.

Padres offer $35M for Tailgate Park
Team and partners to purchase land, build $1.5B residential project
The Padres and a team of developers plan to redevelop Tailgate Park into a residential project as seen in this rendering. (Gensler)
By Jennifer Van Grove
After 14 months of negotiating, the city of San Diego and a development team led by the Padres have reached a deal on sale terms for a four-block, East Village parking lot known as Tailgate Park where the Major League Baseball club and its partners now want to build 1,800 apartments.
Wednesday, San Diego’s Economic Development & Intergovernmental Relations Committee will consider sending the deal to the full City Council for approval in April. The city and Padres are racing against the clock — because of state disposition laws, the transaction must close escrow by Dec. 23 or it will be aborted altogether.
The proposed transaction includes a $35.1 million purchase price for the land, requires the Padres’ development team to create a 1.3-acre community park, and mandates that 15 percent of the planned residential units, or 270 units, are deed restricted for low- and middle-income families.
Although there is no public subsidy, the city’s appraisal arrived at a fair market value that includes $42 million worth of credits because of site building restraints and a financial obligation associated with the existing long-term lease the Padres have for the site.
“We think this will continue to revitalize the area around the ballpark, make it a vibrant area and do that in a way that provides much needed housing, including housing that is market rate and affordable,” Padres President Erik Greupner said in an interview with the Union-Tribune.
“We think it’s going to be a really good thing for the neighborhood, a really good thing for the San Diego region, and ultimately the fulfillment of that vision and promise when the ballpark was built of what that area around the ballpark can become,” Greupner said.
Bounded by 12th and Imperial avenues, and K and 14th streets, Tailgate Park is currently leased to the Padres through 2044 for use as a parking lot and special event space. The 5.25-acre site has been a city-owned asset since the formation of downtown’s ballpark district. It is governed by a complex set of state regulations because the parcels were transferred to the city after San Diego’s former redevelopment agency was dissolved in 2012. The land has since been on a California Department of Finance list of properties that must be divested.
San Diego marketed the property for sale in December 2019. In September 2020, it selected the Padres development team , which includes Tishman Speyer and Ascendant Capital Partners, to redevelop the property. Shortly thereafter, the parties entered into an exclusive negotiation period that was protracted by the pandemic . The site was used as a COVID-19 vaccination center in early 2021, which delayed the group’s subsurface investigations. The seismic analysis revealed active fault lines, reducing the total buildable area to 3.66 acres, the city said in a staff report prepared for council members.
The property was appraised at $76 million, but its fair market value was determined to be $34 million, said Christina Bibler, who is the city’s director of economic development. The city, she said, is obligated to credit the developer for the cost to replace 1,060 parking spaces, per the terms of its current lease with the Padres.
“The value estimate reflects uncertainty regarding the future potential cost and feasibility of contaminated soil remediation, the extent of earthquake fault lines crossing through the property and their impact on future redevelopment potential, and the costs of the 1,060 parking spaces replacement requirements pursuant to the existing lease,” the staff report says.
The latest iteration of the project, called East Village Quarter, differs greatly from the original vision. Instead of an office campus, the $1.5 billion project centers around 1,800 residential units spread across three residential towers — between 350 feet and 500 feet in height — with 1,620 underground parking spaces.
On the northwest block, which was deemed unbuildable in the seismic analysis, East Village Quarter now calls for a privately owned public park, to be paid for and operated by the developers, that will be designed in a future process. On the southeast block, the group is planning a 1,200-space parking garage to replace the existing surface spaces and accommodate baseball fans.
The project is tied together by 50,000 square feet of storefronts along a street that bisects the site and leads toward Petco Park.
“The pandemic really threw us a curveball in the sense that the work-from-home and hybrid work environments that were put in place … have abated some of the demand for office,” said Paul DeMartini, who is an executive with New York-based real estate developer Tishman Speyer. “We thought that, based on the city’s housing needs and based on the demand that we were seeing for housing in the market, that it was more appropriate to meet that market demand to get this project into production and make it a reality sooner.”
The units will be constructed in two phases, with start dates and completion timelines to be memorialized in what’s known as a Disposition and Development Agreement, or DDA. The schedule is designed to ensure that the residences, particularly the ones that are deed restricted, are constructed in a timely fashion, Bibler said. The developer is required by the agreement to start the first phase of construction within 18 months of the close of escrow and complete 900 total units within 45 months. The entire project must be wrapped up by December 2035.
Ten percent of total units, or 180 units, will be restricted by covenant for households earning up to 60 percent of the area median income, and 90 units will be reserved for households earning up to 150 percent of the area median income. Currently, the median income for a family of four in San Diego is $95,100.
The percentage of affordable units is greater than what is required by the city’s inclusionary housing laws but less than what is being required of developers proposing to redo the city’s sports arena site in the Midway District.
“This is a significant number of affordable housing units … 270 units is larger than what downtown has anywhere else,” Bibler said. “We evaluated the (developer’s financial model) and this is what could pencil without any reduction price (to the purchase price).”
The Tailgate Park transaction has been shielded from the state’s stricter disposition laws for surplus land because the parties were under contract before December 31, 2020. However, the new rules, enforced by the California Department of Housing and Community Development, dictate that the city must close escrow on redevelopment land by the end of the year to remain exempt from the statute.