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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 Theater Redevelopment

The following article is from KPBS. Project Design Consultants (PDC) provided a range of professional services for Caydon including the following work efforts:

ALTA Preparation
Preliminary Review Preparation and Processing
Tentative Map Preparation and Processing
Final Map Preparation and Processing
Grading/Shoring Plan
Public Improvement Plan
Technical Reports
Pothole Exhibit / Support
Condo Plans

San Diego City Council OKs Redevelopment Of Historic Downtown Theater

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

By Andrew Bowen

The vacant California Theatre building is seen here in downtown San Diego, Ap...

PHOTO BY MATTHEW BOWLER

Above: The vacant California Theatre building is seen here in downtown San Diego, April 26, 2021.

Aired 4/27/21 on KPBS News

Listen to this story by Andrew Bowen.

The San Diego City Council on Tuesday voted to approve the redevelopment of the decaying downtown California Theatre building — which has been vacant since 1990 — into a new high rise featuring a reconstruction of its historic facade.

The 41-story project at 1122 Fourth Ave. is being developed by the Australia-based firm Caydon. It includes 336 condominiums, 190 hotel rooms, 3,686 square feet of retail and commercial space and 194 underground parking spaces.

RELATED: The Plight of the Historic California Theatrehttps://www.youtube.com/embed/5aVv1Juth4U?enablejsapi=1

REPORTED BY ANDREW BOWEN

The project was approved by the San Diego Planning Commission in February, but the hotel workers union UNITE HERE Local 30 appealed that decision to the City Council. Union organizer Rick Bates said the seven affordable units included in the project were insufficient considering the site is right next to a trolley stop.

“The opportunity for housing development this close to transit is extremely limited,” Bates said. “We believe that working families who rely on public transit should have a greater stake than seven affordable units out of 336 market-rate condos.”

Councilmembers had already approved an earlier version of the project in 2017, but that approval became mired in a lawsuit filed by historic preservation group Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO). The two sides ultimately reached a settlement that included the recreation of three of the building’s facades.

Photo caption:

PHOTO CREDIT: CAYDON PROPERTY GROUP

An artist’s rendering shows the redeveloped California Theatre facade.

But the concessions to historic preservationists, which the developer estimates will cost $30 million, also resulted in fewer affordable homes included in the project — down from 22 to seven.

Councilmember Stephen Whitburn, whose district includes downtown, said he wished the project had more affordable housing, but that the project’s pros outweighed those concerns.

“It provides much-needed investment and improvements to our C Street corridor,” Whitburn said. “It’ll activate and revitalize this downtown transit corridor that is used by our city employees, by our local workforce, downtown residents and visitors to our great city.”

Removal of Longtime Carlsbad Landmark Imminent

Project Design Consultants (PDC) has provided various planning, engineering, and surveying services on this site over the past decade. This article appeared in the San Diego Union Tribune.

400-foot smokestack to be demolished with Encina Power Station
Cyclists and traffic on Carlsbad Boulevard pass by the Encina Power Station, offline since December 2018. The plant was built in the 1950s and the smokestack added in the 1970s. (Charlie Neuman)
By Phil Diehl
Anyone who’s driven past the Encina Power Station, a coastal Carlsbad landmark since the 1950s, can’t miss the changes in recent weeks.
Demolition of the old power plant is finally under way. Scaffolding lines the seaward side of the boxy concrete building, and there’s more at the top of its distinctive 400-foot-tall smokestack.
“Preparation for the Encina stack removal is ongoing and will wrap up by the end of 2020,” Chris Rimel, communications manager for plant owner NRG, said Thursday.
“The stack will come down in the first and second quarter of 2021,” he said. “A mechanical breaker mounted on the top of the stack will break the concrete in a top-down circular pattern, dropping the broken concrete down the center of the stack until about 60 feet of the stack remains. The rest of the stack will be removed by excavator equipment.”


To some people, the smokestack is an eyesore, while to others it is a welcome sign. Sailors at sea and aviators approaching McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad use the tall concrete column for navigation. Many a weary driver on Interstate 5 sees it and knows that home is near.
Carlsbad resident Jim Strickland led an unsuccessful effort to preserve the chimney, if not the rest of the power plant, as part of a park or community building. He presented his ideas to the city’s Arts Commission, Historical Preservation Commission and the City Council, but to no avail.
“I thought it was a simple, obvious, sure thing for it to be designated as a historic landmark, but it wasn’t,” Strickland said.
NRG officials said there was no chance of preserving the stack. A contract signed in 2014 with San Diego Gas & Electric and the city of Carlsbad requires the utility company to remove the entire plant, including the smokestack.
Initially one of the tallest structures on the West Coast, the smokestack was built in the 1970s to replace four shorter stacks as part of a $110 million upgrade of the power plant. Six workers died when a 190-foot crane collapsed during the construction.
NRG Energy officially retired the plant Dec. 11, 2018, after the company built a new, more efficient plant nearby on the same property and it went online.
Fueled by natural gas, the new plant can go from zero to its full power of 500 megawatts in just 10 minutes compared to the hours required for the old plant. The quick response can help meet the widespread need for air conditioning on a hot summer afternoon or the sudden demand in a natural disaster such as an earthquake or wildfire that takes down transmission lines.
Also, the new plant is air-cooled, so it doesn’t need the seawater cooling system used by the old plant.
In November, the city approved a nine-month extension for the demolition project so that the plant’s seawater intakes could continue to be used temporarily by the desalination plant that also operates on the property. Poseidon Water, which operates the desalination plant, installed its own intake pumps earlier this year.
Now the demolition is back on track and about 25 percent complete, Rimel said.
The process includes the removal of the exterior panels on the power block building, all exterior structures and equipment, and the generation equipment from inside the building, including some materials containing the hazardous material asbestos.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was widely used for insulation in the 20th century. It was banned after doctors learned the airborne fibers were easily inhaled and can cause cancer and other diseases.
Any asbestos found at the plant will be packed in containers and shipped off for disposal under mandated guidelines, a process called “abatement,” before other work can begin.
“Demolition wastes are managed as recyclable and nonrecyclable materials,” Rimel said. “An estimated 34,000 tons of scrap metal will be recycled at a scrap metal facility, and 50,000 tons of concrete will be used onsite.”
Most of the crushed concrete will be used as fill to restore the site to its original grade before the plant was built.
“Batteries, used oils, and other wastes will be recycled when possible at approved facilities,” Rimel said. “Approximately 2,700 tons of abated asbestos and 1,500 tons of nonrecyclable materials will be disposed of at approved landfills.”
The project’s contractor, Brandenburg Corp. Inc., is a 50-year-old Midwest-based company that specializes in demolition and environmental remediation.
About 200 people are working at the site, including NRG personnel, most of whom are from San Diego County and the surrounding counties. Because of the ongoing pandemic, the company follows COVID-19 protocols consistent with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control.
“Personnel are temperature screened and respond to a health-check questionnaire before accessing the site each day,” Rimel said. “Personal protective equipment including masks are required.”
Demolition will completely remove the old building, smokestack and supporting structures and equipment, he said. The new SDG&E plant, the Carlsbad Desalination Plant and the Carlsbad Aquafarm all will remain on the site, most of which is owned by NRG. The Hubbs-SeaWorld fish hatchery that operates on SDG&E property on the north side of the lagoon also will stay.
What’s next is uncertain for the valuable piece of coastal real estate, which is designated as “visitor serving commercial and open space” in the city’s General Plan. A hotel, restaurants and a shopping center could be built under the existing zoning, but a decision is years away.
The site’s redevelopment depends on many factors including public participation, market conditions and the entitlement process, Rimel said.
philip.diehl@sduniontribune.com