Monday, 13 May 2013

CHANCE : San Francisco's Chance for a Great Urban Transformation

"From new office and mixed-use developments like 222 2nd Street, Foundry Square, 140 New Montgomery, and 5M to the new residential developments rising on Rincon Hill, and, of course, the Transbay Terminal, vacant lots and former freeway off-ramps are being replaced by ever more dense and street-friendly projects that will accommodate the tens of thousands of people expected to move to San Francisco over the next couple of decades.

 San Francisco has an opportunity to experiment with a new model, one that balances density and development with public space and that encourages engagement, activity, and innovative thinking. The city can't expect developers to think beyond the pro formas of their respective projects but it can expect the tech-savvy, increasingly connected residents of the area to be part of the solution, rather than just another set of hurdles.

For most of San Francisco's history, SoMA has been a light industrial district, laid out in huge blocks with extra-wide streets to accommodate freight, factories and warehouses. With many of those intended uses now obsolete, SoMA has now famously reinvented itself as the new tech capital of the world, full of hot new companies like Dropbox, Pinterest, Airbnb and older innovators like Dolby, Autodesk and With SoMA office vacancy rates near zero, the tech-driven construction market is on fire. Though a significant share of San Franciscans might think we were better off before this latest influx, the people, funding, and the ideas that start in SoMA are a huge opportunity to reconsider what the neighborhood could become.

If the residents of San Francisco were keeping their eyes on the prize of smart development, they would take a fresh look at SoMA and its technologically-savvy businesses as a chance to do something remarkable. Imagine if the old paradigm of neighborhood development caught up to the speed of change that's actually happening out there. Why not help to re-invent the dominant 50+ year-old development model and rethink the city's neighborhood planning process? Why not encourage a new form of civic activism and engagement through new kinds of hyper-local mobile tools? Why not raise the bar on neighborhood design by creating a healthier dialogue between the world-class design thinkers who live in SoMA, the development community, and city government?"


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