Archive for December, 2009

Mills Act Passes in Oakland

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

On December 8, 2009, Oakland City Council voted unanimously to adopt the Mills Act historic property tax abatement as a permanent program. The program had been in a pilot phase for two years only open to residential properties while the City assessed the program. The fully adopted program has been expanded to also include 2 or 3 commercial properties per year. The new legislation allows for larger commercial buildings located in downtown Oakland to be eligible for the program and there is a provision for commercial buildings from other parts of the city if they get special permission from Oakland City Council.

Oakland Heritage Alliance, a local non-profit, lobbied heavily for the program as a way to kick start revitalization and give individual homeowners incentives to become stewards of their historic properties. At least four or five presidents of OHA, and dozens of board members, have worked for years to get this implemented.

Dea Bacchetti, Garavaglia’s Marketing Manager and current President of Oakland Heritage Alliance says: “OHA owes a huge debt of gratitude to JoAnn Pavlinec of the Planning Department and to Betty Marvin of the Cultural Heritage Survey, as well as to Eric Angstadt, Planning Director, for having continued to work on this idea over the past four years. JoAnn and Betty applied for the city’s original National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Johanna Favrot grant that got the pilot program started. It was great to have the Landmarks Board’s ongoing strong support, and the Planning Commission was enthusiastic as well.”

Vice Mayor Ignacio De La Fuente sponsored the legislation and it was supported by the local developers of the Oakland Builders Association, with John Protopappas of Madison Park Financial also putting in a supporting letter. The hope is that in speaking with property owners, realtors, and developers, folks will keep in mind that the best way to keep this program active will be to make sure there are applicants to use it. Spread the word!

Greenbuild 2009

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Garavaglia Architecture’s Chris Lutjen attended the 2009 Greenbuild conference. He writes about his experience in Phoenix this November:

After first attending Greenbuild 2007 in Chicago, I wasn’t sure what to expect. In my preparation to attend Greenbuild 2009 in Phoenix, the largest sustainable design conference in the United States, even finding a hotel a week before the conference near downtown was a breeze, as was registering at the brand new downtown convention center. Phoenix’s new light rail system provided convenient mass transit between the conference center, airport and hotel. The seminar topics were not as enticing and interesting as when I last attended:

A presentation on the Bus Rapid Transit system in Cleveland, OH demonstrated how folks from different entities could form partnerships to see a former main street in Euclid Avenue reemerge as a new main street connector in a shrinking city.

The late addition of Master Speaker Tony Gale executive Tony Gale confirmed the Starbucks’ pledge to for all stores to achieve a minimum of LEED certification. The core idea behind the coffeehouses is “to create a place where people want to stay,” a sort of third living room. The familiarity factor certainly contributes to that objective as these stores become ubiquitous in many American cities.

It was exciting to see some local Bay area projects represented, including the award winning Gish Family Apartments in San Jose. Serious windows, Integrity Block and Philips LED lighting were among the regionally located product manufacturers highlighted in this and other local projects.

My dizzying trek through the two matrices of exhibit halls confirmed that Greenbuild has definitely grown from modest beginnings to a well-funded and sponsored corporate event. There are so many vendors it was impossible to thoroughly visit each one in a full day, so some strategic planning was required. My search for sound technologies and products led me to green roof, permeable pavers, solar sunshades and recycled glass tile companies.

The conference was better organized and more highly attended than one in Chicago. And I am hoping that there is some return to basic design principles and a somewhat less focus on documentation and analysis for the next Greenbuild. Anyone planning on attending in Chicago in 2010 should register early and sign up for their preferred seminars as soon as possible. See you there!