Archive for September, 2010

San Francisco School District Releases Boundary Map and Delays Middle School Feeder Plan

The public hearings are over, the feedback has been heard, and all that is left is final approval to the  school assignment  changes on Tuesday September 28th.

From Jill Tucker at The San Francisco Chronicle

How students are assigned to schools is historically the most controversial issue related to the city’s public schools, and this new plan is no exception.

Parents for years have called for a replacement for the current system, one that would be easier to understand and give them a fighting chance to get in the school down the block or to one attended by an older brother or sister. The new plan was a compromise that will to do just that.

It also will provide a greater opportunity for children living in census tracts where test scores are lowest to attend a high-performing school. At the same time, district officials hope that eventually it will increase diversity in schools in a city with stark residential segregation. [More…]

So, how’s it going to work?

Assignments to high-demand schools would be determined using this  order of preferences:

Elementary schools

— Students with older siblings in the school.

— Students who attended a San Francisco Unified School District preschool in the school’s attendance area.

— Those in census tracts where test scores are low.

— Those in the preferred school’s attendance area.

— Those in attendance areas where the number of students exceeds space in schools.

— All others.

Middle schools*

— Students with siblings in the school.

— Those in census tracts where test scores are low.

— All others.

High schools

— Students with siblings in the school.

— Those in census tracts where test scores are low.

— All others.

*For those participating in choice process

I know what my friends and clients are saying, they are concerned about the middle school feeder program (which is being postponed for a year) they worry about keeping their children in the same schools, and they wonder how this will affect their property values.  Certainly in other areas, values are affected by what schools the area feeds into and how those schools perform. There is also a concern about fairness.

Some say the school boundaries are unfair; others complained that the system still fails to guarantee access to their neighborhood schools; still others say the system will actually increase segregation.

Parent John Somoza said he doesn’t think it’s fair that some families assigned to a low-performing school will have a greater chance of getting into a better school than others who live perhaps a half-block away.

Somoza lives within the Cesar Chavez Elementary attendance zone. But his is the only census tract in the school’s area where the children don’t post low test scores. That means Somoza and his nearest neighbors won’t have any priority if they want their children to attend other schools, like everyone else assigned to Chavez, which is among the lowest-performing schools in the state.

“It has some of the lowest (test) scores in the city,” said Somoza, who has a 2-year-old son. “But it’s also just a matter of fairness that everyone else in that attendance area can leave and we can’t.”

That might not seem fair, but district officials said they applied consistent strategies in creating the attendance zones. Even so, they said, trying to balancing high- and low-scoring census tracts couldn’t be done given residential housing patterns.

Instead, district officials considered student population in neighborhoods around schools as well as topography, highways, bus routes and parks, said Orla O’Keefe, the superintendent’s special assistant for student assignment.

Will this cause parents to be more active in their children  school, to work for improving the individual schools?  I wonder.  But the lottery system has been hated by many for so long, it will be interesting to see how this plan plays out.


Sausalito Floating Homes Association Present The 2010 Tour this weekend!

Always been curious about the houseboats in Sausalito?  Here’s your chance for a glimpse into this unique living situation and community.

The 25th Annual Floating Homes Tour will be held this Saturday, September 25th  from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm.

Approximately 19 homes will be shown on the Tour.  I understand that this event usually sells out so  buy  tickets early.

Ticket prices are $35 for advanced purchase and $40 at the door.

There will be a fair amount of walking involved and you are unlikely to see all the homes in one day, but there will be docents to answer your questions  and you will be treated to local musical groups throughout the day!  It sounds like a great way to spend a day!

You can see  Myles Cameron’s floating homes tour on Youtube.

Or view images from previous tours.


Mid-Market Mall Plan Continues to Move Forward

Downtrodden mid-Market Street is on the road to renewal after a five-story mall development survived a challenge Tuesday by groups who favor polices encouraging public transit, walking and bicycling over driving vehicles.

The Board of Supervisors voted 9-0 Tuesday to reject an appeal of the project’s environmental review, drawing praise from supporters who say the glass-fronted mall, known as CityPlace, is exactly what’s needed to transform the area plagued by crime, empty storefronts and ­homelessness.  

The proposed CityPlace is a five-story, 90-foot-tall building with 375,700 gross square feet, of which about 260,000 will be used for retail, at 935-965 Market St. between Fifth and Sixth streets.

“The Board of Supervisors did the right thing for the Central Market neighborhood and for our entire city by rejecting the appeal of the CityPlace environmental review,” Mayor Gavin Newsom said in a released

“By approving CityPlace today, San Francisco took another major step toward transforming the Central Market neighborhood and restoring Market Street to its original role as our city’s ‘Main Street.’”


September is Architecture Month!

Well, that’s how I like to think of it.  September is the month that the San Francisco Chapter of American Institute of Architects puts on the nation’s largest architectural festival with showcase tours, lectures, films and more.  Really, it’s the 8th annual festival and it’s called Architecture and the City.

I think my favorite event is the home tours.  For a whole weekend, you get to step into homes designed by some of our top or up and coming architects.  You’ll see new looks and finishes, and eavesdrop on design and architect fans as they tour through as well.  You don’t know the addresses of the homes until you’ve paid for the tickets, but I’ve enjoyed the tour every time I went!  You can also sign up to do the tour by bicycle.

There’s many other tours, including walking and food tours.  Or stop by Stable Cafe for tour tickets, a walk around the collective and maybe a coffee  at the cafe as well. There’s lots of films, lectures, family and special events.

Oh, today’s column in the Chronicle written by Tracey Taylor has some sneak previews of the homes that will be featured:

Mission House

Mission District – Interstice Architects The home of architect Andrew Dunbar and landscape architect Zoee Astrakhan, husband and wife and partners at Interstice Architects, is a laboratory as much as a place to live. The 2,200-square-foot building, originally an early 20th century retail space that they bought in 2000, has been as much a place to experiment with materials and sustainable techniques as it has been an office and dwelling in which to raise two kids.

Witness the facade, a mosaic of reclaimed glass panes that acts as a modern take on traditional shingle, centered by a robust, contemporary Dutch door. The street-level open-plan interior, with its “indestructible” steel-plate floors, was used as a work space until Interstice grew too big and moved out. Now, Dunbar says, it’s where the kids let their creative juices flow, but one day it may be commandeered as a master suite.

The use of cheap thermal plastic to cover the rear facade is typical of the couple’s approach: a willingness to try unorthodox solutions, tackle the labor themselves and be sensitive to budget. (The wall cost a mere $800.) Other examples: the cast acrylic plastic used as room dividers, customized Ikea cabinets in the kitchen and living room, and the giant sliding roof above the bathroom, which allows for passive cooling and the odd drop of rain on the tile when someone forgets to close it.

Screen House

Excelsior – A+D Architecture + Design

What began as a remodel ended up as a new home for a multigenerational family whose roots lie in El Salvador and who were all closely involved with the home’s design. When the people at A+D Architecture took a close look at the one-story house they had been asked to rework, it was clear that a more efficient solution was to start fresh.

The two-story, 2,100-square-foot home they built offers the large living spaces, natural light and cohesive design the original home lacked, as well as two extra rooms and a garage. The absence of dry rot, fungus and termites is also a welcome change for the client.

On a modest budget, the designers managed to integrate the latest green technology, in particular by managing construction waste of the original home and using pre-assembled panels to construct the new one.

The finishing touch was a custom-made steel screen that is affixed to the facade, providing dappled shade for the interior stairwell. Inspiration for its design was found by studying Salvadoran textiles, and several family members worked on its design and creation.

Mission Walk

SoMa – Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects

Mission Walk, a total of 131 condos and townhouses in two buildings, is the first sustainable, low-market-rate housing in the Mission Bay redevelopment area. Aimed at working families that want to live close to their jobs and transit, they have been designed, says architect Richard Stacy, with the rhythm of San Francisco’s historic backstreet commercial buildings and Channel Creek houseboats in mind.

The facades steer clear of big-box uniformity. Balconies and bay window projections are arranged somewhat at random, Stacy says, to provide variety. And the occasional intense color accent on recessed balconies breaks up the muted tones of the siding and concrete plaster. Views of Mission Creek were a priority where possible, Stacy says; thus the homes closest to the waterway are set in a U shape facing the water, and there is a vista of the creek from the two-story lobby of the building farther away.

Care has been taken to integrate the buildings into Mission Bay’s master plan with its urban streetscapes, pedestrian walkways and park, and the scale of the project is livable rather than intimidating.

Inside, the one- to three-bedroom flats have above-average-height ceilings and large windows, giving them a loft-like feel. Some open onto water, others communal courtyards. A host of sustainable features has earned the project a LEED Silver Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Nob Hill Residence and Guesthouse

Nob Hill – Kuth/Ranieri Architecture

The site of this home played a big part in its design. It is on a narrow alley, straddling the line between the San Francisco grid and the organic nature of the city’s landscape, and offers views that include Pacific Heights, the Golden Gate Bridge and the hills of Marin.

The facade takes the traditional elements of a San Francisco home and gives them a sleek, contemporary interpretation. The bay window, entry, front-facing garage door and street-side roof terrace are folded into a sweep of clear-sealed mahogany panels and ledges.

Inside, all the rooms were created to take maximum advantage of the vistas, with the central living spaces bracketed by perimeter cores. Cabinetry takes the place of many of the home’s walls, providing storage, stairs and even baths.

The guesthouse was designed to blur the identity between domestic and display space. Many of its walls are given over to art and what the architects refer to as “hybridized” objects whose forms, images and scale challenge their role and relationship to the building.

Read more:


Labor Day Weekend Sale at Flora Grubb Gardens

Vertical succulent garden

Perhaps you were looking to pick up some succulents or native plants for your garden this week. Or you wanted to start your own vertical garden.  Well, perhaps a trip over to Flora Grubb Gardens is something to put on your list for the long weekend activities as they are having a sale.

So stop by, have a cup of Ritual Coffee and see what’s new at the gardens! With discounts of 20% off all plants. 50% off clearance plants. 10-40% off clearance pottery, you may find the right item, or just enjoy your time there.