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.

California and Sea Level Rise

The planners and engineers at Project Design Consultants (PDC) have been involved with various projects addressing sea level rise. These projects include the potential San Diego convention center expansion and sea level rise and adaptation strategies for the City of Coronado. This recent article from the San Diego Union Tribune/Los Angeles Times provides a summary of some of the current state legislation that is being proposed to address the complex set of issues associated with sea level rise.

Urgency over rising sea level prompts wave of bills in California Legislature
Often overlooked threat to state’s coastline receives greater political prominence
Homes in Pacifica, just south of San Francisco, were condemned or removed in 2019 because of coastal erosion.

Lawmakers say the state cannot ignore the consequences of sea level rise. (Carolyn Cole Los Angeles Times file )
By Rosanna Xia
In a year marked by record-breaking wildfires , extreme heat and unprecedented water shortages , California lawmakers say there’s another — seemingly distant, but just as urgent — climate catastrophe the state cannot afford to ignore: sea level rise.
This oft-overlooked threat is the focus of more than a dozen new bills and resolutions this year — a remarkable political awakening mobilized by years of research and piecemeal efforts across the state to keep the California coast above water.
There’s Senate Bill 1 — the very first measure introduced this legislative session — which confronts sea level rise adaptation head-on. Another bill proposes an innovative buyout program that sets the stage for a different, more proactive approach to the difficult choices that have long paralyzed coastal communities from taking necessary action.
These proposals are a paradigm shift in the way officials are now addressing the social, economic and environmental pressures looming over the state’s eroding coastline . Experts say this surge of political interest — and willpower — came not a moment too soon.
Across the state, rising water is already flooding homes. Major roads, utility lines and other critical infrastructure are dangling ever closer to the sea. At least $8 billion in property could be underwater by 2050, with an additional $10 billion at risk during high tides. In just the next decade, the ocean could rise more than half a foot — with heavy storms and cycles of El Niño projected to make things even worse .
Legislative analysts, in an urgent report , recently made the case that any action — or lack of action — within the next 10 years could determine the fate of the California coast. All told, more than $150 billion in property across the state could be at risk of flooding by 2100 if business continues as usual and global temperatures continue to rise .
“The future of California’s coast is in jeopardy. … Now is not the time to drown out scientists or put our heads in the sand,” said California Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, whose extensive measure, SB 1 , clarifies legal and bureaucratic obstacles that have often made large-scale planning a nonstarter.
The bill, supported by seven coauthors, also proposes a significant amount of money: $100 million each year for sea level rise adaptation, plus additional funding earmarked for coastal communities that are disproportionately burdened by industrialization and pollution.
“It’s easy to ignore the problem in front of you until it is a crisis,” Atkins said. “But if we don’t act now, taxpayers, homeowners, businesses, local communities and the state will face massive losses in just a few short years.”
But what exactly this action looks like — and who pays and who benefits — remains a tough balancing act. There are only so many ways to protect critical infrastructure, homes, beaches and entire communities from the rising sea, and each option comes with sacrifices and its own set of controversies .
Take seawalls , for example. While effective in protecting beachfront homes and infrastructure in the short term, they disrupt the erosion and natural replenishment of sand — drowning beaches until they narrow or vanish altogether.
Managed retreat — relocating properties and critical infrastructure far enough from the coast to make room for the next few decades of sea level rise — has also been fraught. This option often pencils out as the most cost-effective and forward-thinking — but the logistical challenges of translating short-term interests (preserving property values) into long-term planning (getting out of harm’s way before the water arrives) has been a political quagmire.
One creative idea that has recently emerged is a revolving-loan program introduced by Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica. Senate Bill 83 essentially proposes giving local governments the ability to buy up properties at risk of falling into the ocean in the next decade or two — and then rent them at market value to recoup the costs. When the time comes, the city could then demolish the property and perhaps restore the land as a public park or some form of natural protection from the sea.
This voluntary program would give homeowners the chance to move on their own terms — and to sell their beachfront properties while they still have value. Taxpayers, in turn, won’t be burdened with the shocking costs of cleaning up after an emergency. Studies show that society as a whole saves $6 in avoided costs for every $1 spent to acquire or demolish flood-prone buildings before disaster hits.
“We don’t want this to be a net loss to taxpayers. In some cases it could even be a gain. … The whole idea of this proposal is: It pays itself off because we’re getting on top of this early,” Allen said. “Think about the cost and lives that could’ve been saved if California had taken more action decades ago to better mitigate against the threat of today’s wildfires.”
Much of this is uncharted. Allen and his staff did not have any case studies to model this program after, so they consulted researchers at UCLA, coastal planners, as well as their colleagues in Sacramento — who helped refine the details of the bill through legislative hearings this year. The proposal so far has received bipartisan support and no registered opposition.
If passed by the full Legislature this month, the bill will head to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk for final approval.

Longtime experts in the climate adaptation field have been following these discussions with great interest. This year’s proposals mark a fundamental shift in the oft-held view that responding to sea level rise is a one-time action, rather than an ongoing process that requires bigger-picture planning with the community, said A.R. Siders, who has been studying managed retreat and its equity implications at the University of Delaware’s Disaster Research Center.
“How do you navigate that middle space where people don’t need to move today, but they will need to move eventually? So many places have been trying to figure out this transition,” Siders said. “That’s where everyone’s struggling — and that’s where I think this lease-back plan is a really interesting one. It has the potential to really help people figure out that middle space.”
Sara Aminzadeh, a commissioner on the California Coastal Commission, said all the legislation this year felt like a major turning point. For the last 10 or so years, the (relatively few) sea level rise bills that have popped up have largely focused on studying the problem, understanding the science and gathering more information to put on a central website.
Now, in addition to the buy-and-rent-back proposal and SB 1, which creates a framework for agencies across the state to work together on more unified goals, other bills this year include measures to improve regional planning , developing an early warning system for coastal landslides , and reducing costly barriers to nature-based adaptation projects.
There has also been much discussion with the governor’s office on how to dedicate more of the state budget to building coastal resilience.
“We’re seeing some really significant reforms. … We’re no longer merely trying to wall ourselves against the rising sea and saying: ‘How long can we stick this out?’” Aminzadeh said. “We’re thinking in a more fundamental way about the things that we care about as Californians — and how to ensure a future in which we still have beaches and coastal parks and access for all.”
Ultimately, the success of any of these proposals depends on the details — and whether they’re implemented in a fair and equitable way.
For Charles Lester, who has been pushing for more substantive sea level rise planning for more than a decade — first as the executive director of the Coastal Commission, and now as director of the University of California’s Santa Barbara’s Ocean and Coastal Policy Center — these increasingly focused discussions have been encouraging.
“The legislation shows that we understand that adaptation will cost a lot, but that it is an important investment that society needs to make,” he said, noting that many costs — and priorities on where to invest this new infusion of funding — still need to be worked out.
This is just the beginning, he said, “of what will be a huge undertaking for many decades to come.”
Xia writes for the Los Angeles Times.

Aztec Stadium U-TArticle

The talented team at Project Design Consultants (PDC) has been heavily involved in the transformation of the former Jack Murphy Stadium site to both the new Aztec Stadium and the surrounding development and riverpark. This will be a catalytic project for the San Diego region. PDC is providing civil engineering, water resources, surveying, and landscape architecture services for the SDSU project. The following article was in the 8-3 edition of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

New facility about to assume a more concrete appearance
The steel skeleton for Aztec Stadium was completed in July. Precast concrete pieces are coming and will transform the facade. (Kirk Kenney U-T)

The casual observer might assume all the concrete for a building — such as Aztec Stadium — is delivered by a steady stream of cement mixers.
They keep bringing it, and keep pouring it, until the foreman finally says, “Whoa.”
This was precisely how the foundation was completed for Aztec Stadium, although the exact words of the foreman that day were lost to history. Some 300 cement trucks spent a Saturday in December dropping off concrete to pour into the base of the structure.
There are 30,000 yards of concrete supporting the 2,500 steel beams, according to information on the website of Clark Construction, which is in charge of the SDSU Mission Valley project.
The last of those steel beams was placed July 14 during a topping-out ceremony at the stadium.
There are other areas, like stairways and concourse walkways, where concrete also is poured. Much of that work will be completed over the next two weeks.
But not all of the concrete is poured onsite.
Progress on the stadium now has reached a stage where the big, heavy pieces that need to be lifted into place by a 300-foot crane will begin being trucked 75 miles south from a facility in Perris, where they are being precast.
There will be 720 pieces of precast, each piece weighing up to 51,000 pounds. That’s 25 1/2 tons for one piece.
These include pieces called vomitory walls, walls used for tunnels and stairwells and upper bowl back walls, as well as tread risers, the concrete that will provide the base for attaching stadium seats.
Derek Grice, SDSU’s executive associate athletic director, Mission Valley development, said placing all those pieces will begin in mid- to late-August and require approximately 14 weeks to complete.
“The most transformative (stage in construction) is probably the steel and then the precast,” Grice said. “The steel creates the skeleton frame, but then the concrete is really going to make it feel like the stadium is coming together.”
So by about Halloween, look for a substantial change on the SDSU Mission Valley property.
“The upper bowl will be there for people to see when they drive by,” Grice said.
According to civiltoday.com, a civil engineering website, some of the advantages of precast concrete include time savings as well as better quality and improved durability.
The time savings comes because other aspects of a project can be undertaken while the concrete is being cast. In addition, curing, temperature and mix design all can be done in a controlled environment.
Precast placement for Aztec Stadium will begin in the stadium’s southwest corner and continue clockwise. That means the west (home) side will be completed first, then the north (student section), east (visitor) and south sides.
Milestones to watch for thereafter, Grice said, include installation of the video boards — located at the northwest and southeast corners — in November and December. The last month of the year is also when the first seat is expected to be installed at the stadium. Grice said the task of placing an estimated 33,000 seats will take until April of next year to complete.
There will be formal standing room areas for 2,000 people to reach the facility’s capacity of 35,000.
About this series
San Diego State aims to build its new 35,000-capacity stadium in time for the football team’s season opener against Arizona — Sept. 3, 2022 — which is now 396 days away. The Union-Tribune is doing monthly updates tracking the stadium’s progress.