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Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission Votes to Save Googie Design at Norms

norms googie design la cienega los angeles 2

An original Googie-style building, Norms La Cienega, in Los Angeles, circa 2011.

On March 19, 2015, the Los Angeles City Cultural Heritage Commission voted unanimously on the nomination to designate Norms’ Googie-style building an Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM). 

For months, the La Cienega location has been a topic of debate between Googie design fans, the Los Angeles Conservancy, and the property’s new owner, who has “no current plans to demolish” the building, a spokesperson at the hearing said.

The fight isn’t over quite yet, though, as the decision will now go to the City Council before the property can receive the full protection.

One of the structure’s supporters, L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz, will undoubtedly be on Googie‘s side. “We have torn down too much of our history,” he said at Thursday’s meeting. “One by one, we’re losing all these great institutions.”

Seattle Hacktivists Dream Up New Transportation Apps

Seattle’s new floating bridge, right, will have six lanes and is expected to open in Spring 2016. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Over the weekend, 70 web developers and engineers, designers, data analysts, transportation advocates, traffic engineers, and bureaucrats holed up in the downtown Seattle offices of marketing software company MOZ for an event called Hack the Commute. The city-sponsored civic hackathon’s objective: Take a huge trove of public and private transportation data and use it to create or improve apps and produce data analysis and visualizations that make it easier to travel in Seattle.

In his opening remarks on Friday, Seattle Department of Transportation Director Scott Kubly told the experts gathered, “[governments] create a wealth of data. It’s really helpful to have folks like you who know what to do with that data.”

Attempting to improve Seattle’s terrible transportation problems is a worthy endeavor. The city consistently ranks in the top 10 worst U.S. cities for gridlock. Budget shortfalls at the Metro, the county transit agency, have led to service cutbacks at a time when more Seattleites are riding the bus than ever. Seattle’s Bicycle Master Plan implementation has been chronically underfunded since its adoption in 2007.

Adding to the challenge, the city is bordered by two huge bodies of water and bound by a strict urban growth boundary, so opportunities for more right-of-way are extremely limited. As the fastest-growing major city in the U.S., Seattle’s transportation problems are going to get far worse if big improvements aren’t made.

A weekend of brainstorming and programming is, of course, not going to fix a city’s biggest systemic transportation problems. But, Hack the Commute project manager Candace Faber says the effort can help with smaller problems and start to chip away at the bigger ones.

“While there’s only a small set of problems technology can solve, often it can help illuminate where gaps are in the existing system … . By breaking down problems and looking at data in more depth, we can see which areas are underserved and also get some ideas for ways we might create a better system for everyone,” she explains.

The event kicked off on Friday evening, and participants worked on 14 projects including better bike-share route finding, apps to help you decide what mode to use based on parking availability, accessibility and safety around bus stations, tools for advancing Vision Zero goals and more. Transportation experts from city, regional and state agencies and nonprofits served as mentors to the hackers, which Faber says was intended to help keep the projects realistic and potentially useable.

The teams worked morning and night Saturday and Sunday, pulling from over 150 data sets about city, county and state transit agencies, traffic, bike-share, ferries, emergency medical response, demographics, and more to craft their apps, websites, and data visualizations. After two days of furious coding and testing and tweaking, each team had five minutes to pitch their product to a panel of judges. Judges evaluated projects based on whether the project solved a real transportation problem, would serve either a wide variety of people or an underserved population, prototype quality, and if it could be implemented.

The judges chose three finalists.

Geohackers for Good created the Work Orbit web app meant to help new Seattle residents find a neighborhood to live in and the best mode for commuting. The product is based on the idea that new residents know where they work and little else about a city. Users enter their work address and how long they’re willing to commute (20, 40, 60 minutes). The app then shows them what neighborhoods are in that range; how long it would take to drive, bike or bus from a given location; and an estimate of each mode’s daily cost.

Slügg mobile app

Slügg is a mobile app intended to help solo drivers find would-be passengers to cut down on the number of single occupancy vehicles driving at peak hours. It is named after slugging, informal car pools in San Francisco and elsewhere where drivers pick up passengers on the side of the road near a bridge or toll road so they can take advantage of HOV lanes or reduce toll costs. There are many similar commuting apps already, but Slügg’s creators say they all suffer from a lack of trust, a problem they tried to deal with by connecting their app to users’ company emails.

Hackcessible is a mobile app focused on helping wheelchair users and other people with mobility issues better navigate Seattle. The app overlays a Google map with data about accessible bus stops, sidewalks closed for construction, broken elevators, stairs, sidewalk steepness and more.

The finalists have six weeks to continue developing their products before a final pitch round on April 29th in front of the Mayor and the Hack the Commute judges. Unlike corporate hackathons that often offer up cash and products to winners, Hack the Commute’s champions will receive only bragging rights and publicity that will, in the theory, help them launch their product into the world.

Faber hopes this weekend is a foundation for a sustainable model of drawing on the for-profit world to tackle public sector problems.

“Technology is something the public sector really struggles with,” she explains. “I’m interested in finding a better way to develop government technology and this weekend is proof of concept.”

Chicago Police Outpace New York’s “Stop and Frisk” Record

(Photo by Daniel Schwen)

Chicago police have a new “stop and frisk” record. Just a few weeks after President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing offered a list of 59 recommendations aimed at building community trust in police departments across the U.S., a new ACLU report notes that Chicago police officers are among the nation’s leaders in the use of the controversial tactic.

From ACLU’s the main findings:

(Credit: ACLU Illinois)

Although officers are required to write down the reason for stops, in nearly half of the stops we reviewed, officers either gave an unlawful reason for the stop or failed to provide enough information to justify the stop.

Stop and frisk is disproportionately concentrated in the black community. Black Chicagoans were subjected to 72% of all stops, yet constitute just 32% of the city’s population. And, even in majority white police districts, minorities were stopped disproportionately to the number of minority people living in those districts.

According to the report, there were more than 250,000 stops that did not lead to an arrest in Chicago last summer — a number the ACLU calls “shocking,” noting that “Chicagoans were stopped more than four times as often as New Yorkers at the height of New York City’s stop-and-frisk practice.”

“While most of the media coverage has suggested that the stop-and-frisk was a New York phenomena, its use is not limited to New York,” Harvey Grossman, the ACLU’s legal director, said in a statement. “And just like New York, we see that African-Americans are singled out for these searches.”

The ACLU suggests that better officer training and increased transparency are in order for the department.

De Blasio Offers Cash to Landlords Who Help Homeless

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Just yesterday, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio joined other city leaders in Boston to talk income inequality, noting that “the material reality is so harsh for so many families.” And while de Blasio’s big affordable housing gamble is still in its early stages, the Mayor’s taking baby steps too, when it comes to sheltering all New Yorkers.

According to the New York Daily News, de Blasio is robocalling New York City landlords with a plea to take in the city’s homeless. Real estate owners who take up the Mayor’s offer to house those in the city’s shelter program will receive a $1,000 “signing bonus” and funds from the city to cover the rent.

According to the newspaper, “the robocalls come at a time when the city’s homeless shelters are housing about 60,000 people a night,” and “the money for participating landlords is being distributed through the city’s new Living in Communities Rental Assistance program, which aims to move families out of the strained shelter system and into homes.”

“This call from the Mayor is part of our ongoing conversations and outreach to landlords,” a City Hall spokeswoman told the Daily News. “We want to remind landlords with vacant units that these programs are available, a safe business opportunity for them, and a way to help our city combat a huge affordability crisis.”

How to Channel Your Inner New Bohemian (17 photos)

It seems like every other magazine and catalog I’ve received this year is touting “new bohemian” style; I haven’t seen those words used so much since Edie Brickell & New Bohemians topped the charts with “What I Am” in 1988. Even the most buttoned-up brands like Great Britain’s Burberry…

U.S. Mayors Meet to Talk Transportation, Housing and Income Inequality

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Transportation, housing and income inequality are on the agenda in Boston today at the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Cities of Opportunities task force, which convened Sunday.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio were among a group that met at the University of Massachusetts Boston yesterday to address what their cities were doing about income inequality.

“This crisis of inequality now has taken on a form really unprecedented in this country,” de Blasio said. “The material reality is so harsh for so many families, that the notion of getting ahead is simply being able to pay the bills again, as opposed to having to decide among what bills you’re going to pay this month and what will have to wait until next month. … That shows you just how far off the mark we are.”

All of the meetings are closed to press, but the mayors are holding a press conference at 12:30 p.m. in Faneuil Hall to discuss the need for Congress to pass a long-term federal surface transportation law. They’ll urge the feds — as chambers of commerce across the U.S. also did recently — to localize spending control on projects.

Here’s what attendees had to say about yesterday’s panel.

“What we need is a natl urban agenda. We can’t do this without a reenergized federal govt.” @Mayor_Ed_Murray @usmayors #CitiesOfOpportunity

— Katharine Lusk (@KathLusk) March 22, 2015

Mayor @deBlasioNYC stating the crazy fact that over 800k NYC residents don’t have bank accounts. #bospoli #mayorsdo pic.twitter.com/TVpTJ4BPtE

— Brendan Little (@blittle86) March 22, 2015

@deBlasioNYC laying into federal inability to form a coherent policy to address income inequality and how mayors go it alone #mayorsdo

— Joel Barciauskas (@jbarciauskas) March 22, 2015

Big kudos to @marty_walsh for highlighting that #IncomeInequality is really just another way of saying #poverty #CitiesOfOpportunity

— Daniel E. Levenson (@DanielELevenson) March 22, 2015

On the market: Three-bedroom mews conversion in London W11

What do you get if you combine three individual mews properties? You get this three-bedroom mews conversion in London W11. That’s what has happened here, with three separate properties merged into one  house. Obviously that’s not just a case of knocking down a few walls. An architect has overseen the project, resulting in the stylish […]

80-Square-Foot Cabins in the Countryside Form an Idyllic Art Studio

The Observatory and The Study Project by Feilden Clegg Bradley

“We wanted them to be silhouettes that just exist on the landscape,” says Feilden Clegg Bradley and architect Charlotte Knight, who helped design The Study and The Workshop, a pair of mobile artist’s studios currently located in South Downs, two hours drive south of London. “They’re black and foreboding. In the distance, it’s quite striking.” 

 

Image courtesy of Matt Dunkinson.

When designing a space meant to inspire working artists, architect Charlotte Knight of British firm Feilden Clegg Bradley decided the best possible collaborator was another creative. As she and colleagues Ross Galtress, Mina Gospavic, and Lauren Shevills began formulating an entry for a contest held by the arts organization Space Placemaking and Urban Design last year, they tapped her old friend, Devon-based artist Edward Crumpton, as an artistic reference and creative catalyst. The resulting workspace revamp, dubbed The Observatory, consists of a pair of angular, 80-square-foot cabins. Knight explained the project’s genesis to Dwell, including the future of the mobile residency program and the joy of torching your own building material. 

Mayor’s Race Reveals Philly’s Strengths, Weaknesses on Multimodal Transit

(Photo by Dave Z)

Mayoral candidates gathered last Thursday in Philadelphia to discuss an increasingly multimodal city. This is the first election in which those vying for the executive seat have felt compelled to stake out positions on such issues, and everyone running (one sent a surrogate) showed up. Increasingly vocal urbanist political groups have placed non-car transport squarely on the next mayor’s agenda in the Pennsylvania city.

“There’s a very large contrast between the two elections,” says Sarah Clark Stuart, deputy director of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. “In 2007, transportation issues were not widely discussed as they are in this election cycle. There are just so many more people who are interested in bicycling and walking and making streets safer and issues like Vision Zero than there were eight years ago.”

The Sweden-originated Vision Zero approach to eliminating traffic deaths has spread far beyond early U.S. adopters New York and San Francisco. Seattle is the most recent big city to adopt such a goal.

All of the participants at the forum embraced Vision Zero. (Republican Melissa Murray Bailey went out of her way to note that she works for a Swedish company.) Candidate Anthony Williams’ representative, policy director Omar Woodard, promised “an interagency task force that will create an action plan that will reduce traffic-related mobility fatalities by half by 2020.” That’s the same target the Bicycle Coalition is pushing. (He also noted, correctly, that most pedestrian deaths occur in low-income neighborhoods.) No other candidate committed to such a concrete date, but all endorsed the concept.

Unfortunately, the panel moderator’s search for more specifics came up empty-handed. Former councilman Jim Kenney was the only one with anything to say about signal prioritization for city buses — he’s for it. Candidates Doug Oliver and Lynne Abraham clearly did not understand protected bike lanes. (Abraham, a former D.A., said she could not support a proposed protected bike lane on the exceedingly wide and busy JFK Boulevard because many elderly people lived there who “could be injured or even killed by a speeding bicyclist.”)

Abraham’s website offers no insight into her transportation goals. Williams issued a press release embracing Vision Zero, while Doug Oliver has told Plan Philly that his meeting with the Bicycle Coalition revolutionized his outlook on these issues. (“I think I was probably their worst enemy going in but I might be their best friend coming out.”) Kenney also counts himself among the converted. His campaign site is the only one that specifically names Vision Zero as a policy priority and one of the only ones, along with Nelson Diaz, to include an entry on transit: Kenney wants to extend a subway line, aid in the restructuring of the transit concourses below Center City and build bus shelters in neighborhoods.

Kenney’s presence and support of Vision Zero, protected bike lanes, and signal prioritization for city buses and (presumably) trolleys is probably the most telling. The Democrat sat as an at-large member of council for 23 years, and the crowd at the Better Mobility 2015 forum wouldn’t consider his record to be spotless on their issues. He voted yes on a 2012 law that took the power to create bike lanes from the mayor and gave it to city council. The move ensured implementation wouldn’t be part of a central plan but instead be dependent upon the whims of entrenched district politicians. When asked about the bill, Kenney stumbled through an excuse about Mayor Michael Nutter’s poor relations with City Council — but his opening remarks were revealing of the changing conversation around multimodal transit in the city.

“When the bicycle movement first began taking off I would consider myself Paul of Tarsus. I was not exactly a fan,” said Kenney. “I was one of those lifelong Philadelphians who resisted change. Over time I learned what it was about, these changes are very important to our city. It means that all these young people who don’t want to be married to an automobile and a parking space, will come and live in Philadelphia. When people complain to me about bike lanes now I say relax, the sidewalks and streets belong to everyone.”

Similar shifts have already occurred in other big cities. Many candidates in 2013’s New York City mayoral election railed against the transportation policies of Michael Bloomberg, who was strongly associated with elite-biased policy preferences. Progressive Democrat John Liu said he would likely close bike lanes in Queens and Brooklyn, while Anthony Weiner told Bloomberg the first thing he would do in office was “tear out your fucking bike lanes.” Even Bill de Blasio expressed reservations. But as the campaign wore on, the rhetoric changed as multimodal advocacy groups pushed their messaging forcefully. Today de Blasio is the nation’s leading advocate of Vision Zero and ordered– the construction of a few protected bike lanes of his own.

In Los Angeles, multimodal transportation has been on the rise as well. The city’s proclivity toward traffic jams had made residents especially keen for non-car alternatives. In addition to adopting Vision Zero and expanding bike lanes it is also one of the only big cities in the nation that is aggressively expanding its public transit infrastructure. In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel campaigned in 2009 on expanding bike infrastructure. Four years later Chicago has 100 new miles of protected bike lanes. Now Jesus “Chuy” Garcia is attempting to overthrow Emanuel, but he is not defining himself against the incumbent’s record on multimodal transit. Instead he is endorsing more protected bike lanes, where the community calls for them, and increased local funding for mass transit.

In Philadelphia, that bill stripping the mayor’s power over bike lanes passed unanimously. But last week’s mobility forum proves there is an active constituency around these issues and there is no better way to ensure a politician’s responsiveness than organized member-based groups capable of carrying out concerted pressure campaigns. It seems Philly’s next mayor will be well aware of that.

Shop Houzz: It’s Chip and Dip Time! (49 photos)

In honor of national Chip and Dip Day on March 23, we’ve put together a party-ready collection of serveware perfect for serving the must-have snack combination of chips and dip. From highly polished pieces by Arthur Court to styles that suit the mood of your gathering, the Houzz Shop has just