Thursday, March 24, 2011

Noodling About

Nood-ling (nōōd’lĭng) n. 1. Fishing for catfish using only bare hands, practiced primarily by crazy people who cannot afford proper fishing gear. 2. The intentional annoyance by bloggers who are skeptical of the news as it’s reported, as in “Noodling bureaucrats is more fun than fishing bare hand for catfish and a lot more surprising.”

The Shrinking Home Syndrome
The fact that new home sizes are shrinking is all over the news (at least for the few new homes that are sold). There seems to be an attempt to rationalize the decisions by the marketplace to demand “smaller” homes. I beg to differ. I think it’s a result of commodity prices increasing the dollars per square foot price of the home. The increase in steel costs, copper costs, shipping costs, etc. all drive up the construction price. The marketplace determines the price range of new homes– the size of the home is a direct result. I don’t believe the market wants a smaller home; the market wants a home they can afford. There is a difference.

The Home Buyer Wants a Green Home
The first amenity in any new home is “Price,” all the other buyer’s needs fall well behind this paramount demand. It has been my experience that the new home buyer will not pay more for a “green home;” they expect these amenities, such as solar, double/triple pane glass, and toxic free furnishings, as standard. They won’t pay the extra $30,000 for solar electricity, if the house (all other things being equal) across the street is $30,000 less without it, they won’t pay thousands more for wool carpeting over synthetic, they won’t pay for sustainable bamboo over traditional oak flooring. They expect these amenities to be in the home. It’s my take that it is more the builders not wanting to be left out of the garish marketing push to label everything they do as “green,” than the “buyer’s” need, (and don’t forget the requirements by cities to also feel good about these “sustainable improvements” by requiring these expensive extras in approved projects).

Neanderthal Art
My Neanderthal urban artistic thinking hopes that San Francisco will come to its senses and throw out the proposed design for the new signature sculpture for the Transbay Transit Center (see video) . It’s my fear that it may be confused for a debris dump and may accidentally be hauled away as landfill for a tech building in Mission Bay (see below). Without a doubt, it is one of the dumbest sculpture ideas ever perpetrated on the citizenry of a city in the whole history of art (hyperbole intented). It’s so out of context with the design it’s tragic. And while I’m at it, why does San Francisco feel it’s necessary to validate such drivel? San Francisco has some wonderful and less than wonderful art on its streets, some kitschy, some serious, and some just stupid. Why add this to the mix?

Transbay Transit Center Sculpture

Sculpture Around San Francisco

California Redevelopment

Again California’s local governments have come out brighter than the mothership. Jerry Brown has demanded that the 425 Redevelopment agencies be shut down, their income returned to better things, like the state. I’ve gone into the good and bad of the agencies in past blogs; sure there are some that stepped over the line, but there are many that have saved the urban hearts of communities and ignited growth and better times. The issues of state spending and balanced budgets are not going to be solved by literally stealing from Peter to pay Paul (that’s not a Peter, Paul and Mary analogy – it’s much bigger than that). State government has grown so large with so many overlapping agencies and requirements that it was a forgone conclusion years ago that this would happen. How many environmental agencies deal with approvals, how many prison boards and commissions, how many state agencies deal with welfare and healthcare. We can rationalize all we want, but at least there is local control over these redevelopment agencies that responds to the immediate needs and desires of the area (see Transbay Terminal above for a good example).

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