Neighborhood Design on Steep Slopes


The talk is about Potrero HOPE SF Public Housing Master Plan and the Kirkham Project in San Francisco.  The Potrero HOPE SF Master Plan is a transformative project that will take recreate a 38 site with 606 public housing units that has been separated from the rest of the city  socially, economically and physically into a truly mixed-income and mixed-use community reintegrated into the urban fabric with up to 1,700 new homes including 606 public housing replacement units, additional affordable housing and market-rate development.  The Kirkham Project will transform an aging 86 unit, 6 acre property into a vibrant new community with up to 400 new units.  Both of these projects required a complete transformation of the existing conditions to create a place that is unique, vibrant and integrated into their urban environments and the neighborhoods around them.


6 thoughts on “Neighborhood Design on Steep Slopes

  1. What a challenge it is to create housing on a site with such a steep slope. I like the reconnection to the existing urban fabric. I do wonder why the long blocks in the Potrero project wasn’t arranged in the other direction (long in the east-west instead of north-south).
    The “skinny street” dilemma seems like it could destroy a lot of good intentions by the designer. I wonder if there was any thought put into adding bike lanes, which would be normally closed off to auto traffic, but allow for additional pavement when fire trucks need the accessibility. Or perhaps taking reference from other countries that have been able to build in narrower streets into their urban fabric without hindering firefighters.

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  2. The challenge of designing a new neighborhood in an effort to reconnect it to the larger city while trying to navigate the limitations posed by steep terrain has resulted in a proposal that has defaulted to the city grid. I think that there was an opportunity here to create a new identity for the region versus trying to blend the borders. While I am not entirely familiar with the limitations of code and regulation, I think that there was a missed opportunity here.

    It is probably because I am seeing this through the lens of a landscape architecture student who has not designed within a budget or real world constraints but the coolest feature of their Hope SF Potrero design was the park cooridor that ran up the ridge of the development. I would have been great to see that pushed further and renders of what it would be like to be in that space. I do appreciate that they had a L.A. involved in the design process from the beginning versus bringing one in after all of the big decisions have been hard lined. Their ultimate design was more focused on the number of units that could be incorporated in the space versus the richness of community layout but this is the direction that most of SF is headed and I am grateful not to see any proposed sky scrapers.

    It boggles the mind to see how long of a process it is to design and implement construction for such a site. This is probably due to the fact that it is a long process to engage and draw out the community to receive feedback, and to try and keep families on-site during the construction process. It was impressive and encouraging that they are undertaking such a large earth moving effort to regrade the site and create level planes for community gathering space.

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  3. Sensing started his talk with telling us about the demographics of North and South sides of Potrero Public Housing which I think was very meaningful since it was interesting to see how the project will accommodate both of those dramatically divided areas. It was inspiring to hear about some of the goals that the plan is trying to accomplish. I appreciated the fact that the project made it a priority for the community to get involved in the making of the new plan, but according to Chris’s comment later, not that many people came out to the meetings, which makes it hard for the plan to guarantee to accommodate everyones needs. It makes me question wether the organization tried to think of different ways to get the community involved or wether they went with the opinions of those people that did attend the meetings.
    I personally have been interested in planning for people with disabilities and it was shocking to me to hear that previously 5th and Kirkham had no handicap accessibility and there were basically no side walks. I would love for The Kirkham Project to change that.

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  4. I used to live in San Francisco on one of the steepest streets, it always make me question how accessible these streets are. That’s one particular topic that interested me in Chris’s talk. However, after attending the lecture, I actually got more out of it rather than just the accessibility part. Christ first explained the current condition of the Potrero Terrace and Annex site and how is it basically divorced, both physically and socially, from the rest of the city. It is very inspirational to hear that they want to reconnect the site back to the San Francisco urban fabric. One impressive goal of the masterplan is the amount of open spaces for the community as well as connecting to the surrounding neighborhood. Like James’s talk from the previous week, listening to the local people is very important. It is very interesting to see how the community is also engaged in the planning process, it is sad to see that not many members from the community are supporting getting themselves involved.

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  5. It was nice to hear another designer thinking in terms of developing communities and place-making. The community center of the new Portrero hill housing development provided a flat multi use space as well as a sense of place to the neighborhood. The design was informed through the integration of community outreach. Although not everybody from the community came to these events, Chris and his team tried to reach out to them in other ways to hear their input. It is crucial to not only listen to the community but synthesize their requests to come to a better design. Overall, it was a thoughtful design that because of constraints missed some great opportunities to connect to greener spaces just next door to the space.

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  6. This week’s topic is very interesting. I really like the idea of reconnecting to the existing urban fabric and creating a physically, socially, and economically mixed community. At first, I was curious about the potential opportunity of storm water management on the street which is a valley between watersheds. Later, Chris explained that, since the site is on the bed rock, it is not suitable for storm water retention. I was also interested in the two plans that are proposing high density development in terms of where the community amenities and services would be located relative to the open green space. The third interesting point is about the street diet, a trend in many countries for traffic calming and reclaiming more space for sidewalks, bike lanes, and landscape. It might be a worthy research topic to figure out ways to solve fire truck accessibility issues.

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