August 31st, 2004


architecture of the city

There's an interesting article on SFGate today about city planning in San Francisco, a review of an essay examining SF's resistance to ground-breaking architectural design. The essay accuses the city's planners and residents of being over-attached to the Victorian style and allowing urban design to stagnate as a result. The author of the article concedes this, admits to being guilty of the same attitudes, and wonders if it will be bad for the city in the long run.

I don't have many complaints about living in SF, but this issue is definitely one of them. There's a powerful, vocal contingent that seems to want the city to be a museum to 1973, and architecture is a big part of that. While I agree that some people (ahem*Willie Brown*ahem) are a little too devoted to progress for the sake of progress, I think an automatic "change is bad" reaction is just as problematic. In my opinion, not enough change is just as bad for a city as too much radical change. A vibrant city is one that attracts new residents, new businesses, new kinds of people, and I worry that SF is not that kind of place right now. It's a very suburban attitude, and so short-sighted. Everyone complains about the lack of affordable housing, then the same people fight high-rise housing projects because they "don't fit with the image of San Francisco." I don't know what the answer is. Currently, the city is searching for a new city planning chief; maybe they'll find someone to help us break out of this Victorian-shaped box.