Architecture for Humanity - SF
Friday, February 27, 2004
Portland today has gone as far as to give homeless encampments campground status, where they can elect their own councils, and self-govern Tent City.

“The 60 residents of the area, called Dignity Village, have battled for four years to gain legal recognition for their encampment of tents, scavenged planks and cardboard boxes, all of which violate the city's zoning codes if defined as housing."

Examine that on a global scale, where refugees gain new status, a legal protection from the displacement of civil war, ethnic cleansing, and the limbomania of dual and non-citizenship. Imagine even Mexicans on the border as well as Kosovians in Europe. From Tent City to a City from Scratch.

Deborah Gans and Matthew Jelacic began analyzing refugee settlements and experiences in 1999, when they entered an Architecture for Humanity competition that called for low-cost quick-assembly alternatives to the white tent in response to the crises in Kosovo and Bosnia. The request for proposals specified that the structures be capable of withstanding two years of weather and use; in other words, the design was to be a temporary solution to what the organization saw as a temporary problem.”

And I just came across this, The Berkeley Prize 2004. Precisely the type of dialogue we need to be having, shared by an array of different voices. Read these essays, really, I think they articulate sort of where we are in our own endeavor, but also outline the committment to activism that is fundamentally rooted in design, extending architecture to a degree of pure human response to crisis and new notions of liveability and dignity.

“As future architects we want to know if those with our professional skills as designers and planners could be of use to local governments, institutions and private groups in meeting the needs posed by these disenfranchised populations. To find out, we are obliged 1) to understand the issues first hand and 2) to understand that solutions to these problems must be interdisciplinary.”
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

S.F. city attorneys still fighting for Care Not Cash: Appeal asks state court to toss supervisors' alternative plan. And the negotiations at City Hall continue with a battered Prop J lurking on the horizon. Newsom has disbanded the Mayor’s Office on Homelessness to Free $400,000 for Direct Funding of Services, which is better than pinching the poor directly. Now we watch the developers sweeten The Tenant Buy Out offer at Trinity Plaza, Dufty is predictably swayed in reverse of his previous vote and now against Dal'y anti-demolition ordinance. Newsom, no comment yet, could veto legislation. Even though, “Representatives of the city attorney's office at the supervisors' meeting questioned whether that offer was legal under state law and said that, regardless, Sangiacomo's promise would not be enforceable by the city.”

While this Church Bus Provides Shelter the homeless in Contra Costa County are kept Under the Radar . So Oakland becomes the first city in Northern California to adopt a law allowing the city to force private landlords to evict tenants arrested for drugs, weapons or other crimes. Some obviously fear people will be targeted, innocent displaced, and homelessness to increase.

More Attacks on Potential Wal-Martization of the Bay Area. Rep. George Miller "released a 22-page report by the Democratic staff of his House committee detailing how nonunionized Wal-Mart, the largest employer in both the United States and Mexico, allegedly imposes financial burdens on local governments. A certain percentage of its workers must turn to subsidized medical care, free school lunches, housing subsidies and other taxpayer- supported welfare services, Miller said. "

This article on Rincon Hill, ArchNewsNow talks about the 'Vancouver' in the project, or the lack of it.

And here's a link to SF GOV’s Better Neighborhoods’ Program

“The Planning Department is taking a fresh approach to neighborhood planning.established in 2002, The program is two-tiered. Citywide, it aims to encourage housing where it makes sense and to strengthen neighborhoods. Locally, the program uses intensive community-based planning to refine citywide goals to the needs of the neighborhood. Above all, the program builds on the positive aspects of San Francisco's quality as an urban place.”


New York City launches a City Wide Homeless Count with thousands of volunteers fan the streets over night. When on the other coast Worthless Housing Vouchers are issued to poor In LA. Under watch, and seemingly with compassion, Key West plans careful eviction of homeless camps .


Louisa Stark, executive director of the Community Housing Partnership, a non-profit organization that provides housing for the poor and disabled, is the 2004 recipient of the Joan and David Lincoln Award for Public Virtue.

Shigeru Ban, winner of previous AFH Competition, takes Paris Like a Rock Star.

Helmut Jahn Designs Homeless Shelter in Chicago

"In the last decade, the Near North Side neighborhood around Clybourn Avenue and Division Street has become a laboratory for rebuilding urban landscapes by putting the rich and poor side by side. Now, pending financing and final city approval, a new element will be thrown into the experiment with Jahn's housing project, a sleek five-story, rectangular structure that is a far cry from the dilapidated SROs and shelters where the homeless usually find a roof.

'I think this is a very spirited time,' Jahn said. 'They're trying to push the edge and they're trying to go as far as you can go with very few means. I actually like the challenge of being kind of forced to do something of equal quality--not the same quality--a different quality with those means and of a high standard.' "

While AFH is doing all it can to help those leftover from the refuge of Bam, the UN admits it Cannot Cope With Rise in Homeless Due to Israeli Demolitions. And for those now in Morocco, ‘Many survivors were heading into another blustery night in makeshift tents fashioned from plastic sheeting. Military officers, helped by local residents, put up hundreds of tents in and around Al Hoceima. The interior minister said that 1,300 tents had been distributed and two camps for survivors were in place and three more were being set up.“

Sunday, February 22, 2004
Join Supervisors Matt Gonzalez and Jake McGoldrick as they host the first community workshop of the Housing and Land Use Seminar Series sponsored by the San Francisco Green Party and the Center for Education and Social Action at New College of California.

This is the first workshop in a monthly series that will be a great opportunity to educate yourself, share your thoughts, and get involved with local advocacy groups trying to create a better San Francisco. The series will take place on the last Thursday of each month at New College, located at 777 Valencia Street. The first workshop features Matt Gonzalez, President of the Board of Supervisors, and Jake McGoldrick, chair of the Board of Supervisor's Land Use Committee, in a panel discussion entitled, “Does Anybody Have a Housing and Land Use Plan for San Francisco?” Audience questions and involvement will be encouraged.

The seminar series will include a diverse range of topics and speakers--Supervisors, activists, attorneys, developers, nonprofit builders and city planners-- policymakers and advocates from all sides of our housing and development battles. Here’s a chance for you to consider diverse, frequently contradictory opinions, and make up your own mind on important issues facing the city. The seminars should prove informative, lively and entertaining.

What: Green Party Housing and Land Use Seminar Series, co-sponsored with the New College Center for Education and Social Action
Who: Supervisors Matt Gonzalez and Jake McGoldrick, and you with your difficult and probing questions.
When: 7pm, Thursday, February 26
Where: New College, 777 Valencia Street, near 19th Street


This came to me from a dedicated soul in Williamsburg, VA, who has been challenigng James City County for too long now to recognize her efforts to build and manage a state-sponsored homeless shelter. In talking with Patti, I want to help her beat James City County and force them to deal with their homeless problem. I will fill you in more as this develops.

"In theState of the Union speech, as many recall, President Bush stated "In the past, we've worked together to bring mentors to children of prisoners, and provide treatment for the addicted, and help for the homeless. Tonight I ask you to consider another group of Americans in need of help. This year, some 600,000 inmates will be released from prison back into society. We know from long experience that if they can't find work, or a home, or help, they are much more likely to commit crime and return to prison. So tonight, I propose a four-year, $300 million prisoner re-entry initiative to expand job training and placement services, to provide transitional housing, and to help newly released prisoners get mentoring, including from faith-based groups. America is the land of second chance, and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life." But, in todays society, people like me are forced to become a criminal to help those that God and our President say to help, as a Christian and Citizen.

My name is Patti McKenzie and I live in Williamsburg, VA. My husband and I have lived here shortly over a year. Prior to moving here, we lived in Greenville, SC. For several years in SC, I worked on my own with the homeless to help assist them to better their life. This is a calling that I have had in my heart for many years and God brought us to Williamsburg, for that same reason. Although I understand the love people have for historical areas, I have become frustrated with the local County Officials in this town. Sadly enough, this town was built on one another helping their fellow man to be able to break free from the control of Britain's rule. Yet, today people prefer to ride on the coat-tails of our fore-fathers, as if they did their good deed to another, instead of helping a man up.

When we moved here last year, I again wanted to continue my work with the homeless. I was shocked when I found out there was no homeless shelter in Williamsburg. There is a shelter for battered women and children, but not for men or families. Typically in our area when a man who is homeless needs shelter, they are shipped 40 minutes away to another town to be their problem. If it is a family, the woman and children are placed in the shelter for battered women here and the man is shipped away from his family to the shelter 40 minutes away. Because of my love for the homeless and God, I started assisting them with shelter in my home, making sure they have 3 meals a day, clothing, transportation, friendship, jobs, and devotions. I lost my home we were renting because the neighbors, although they claim they are Christians, had us removed by our landlords. Throughout this time, God gave me a mission to establish a shelter. Each place I found, the County fought me and denied a permit.

We relocated to another rental house where we are on 3 acres of land, have a 2500 sq. ft. home and another 1200 sq. ft. building. This time, our new landlords didn't have a problem with us wanting the homeless to live with us (and several are prisoners who were just released with nowhere to go.) We tried again to get permits and the County told us we could not have the homeless at our home for any services and we could also not have Bible Study with them. Yes, this is against my Religious Freedom.

Although we are considered a faith-based ministry, we get requests to help people who are homeless from United Way, Salvation Army, Social Services, the local police agencies and concerned citizens in the community. Currently, we have 14 people living with us: we have a single mother and her 3 daughters, a singla man and his son, and 8 single men. We provide 3 meals a day for each person prepared by my husband or myself, sit down for meals as a family on a daily basis, and we do all the funding out of our pocket. We do get some small help through churches for food, people in the community donate old clothing and bedding. We assist them in medical needs, transportation, laundry facilities (at no cost), ID's, social skills, home-placement and continued friendship. Financially, we are on our own and God's Grace (monthly for rent, power, supplies and meat to care for our guests it averages $3500 a month.) We do have a donation button through PayPal, yet, to this day, nobody has used it. Since March of last year we have paid out of our pocket almost $22 K for the homeless and a total of $800 donated.

Even this past week, the Commonwealth of Virginia called and requested for me to take a gentleman into our home. He is here on a Green-Card from Albania. He has worked here for 14 years, paid taxes to the IRS and loves our Country. Unfortunately, in Dec., a man had a heart attack and died at the wheel of his car and crushed this gentleman in his vehicle. He has extensive medical bills, just came out of a body cast, no memory of the accident, no family locally and with no money left, he was put on the street with much medical needs. The Commonwealth can't offer assistance because he does not fall under any programs. Now with a $300,000 medical bill, long-term treatment and no chance for work in his future, he lives with us. But, of course, their was no funding sent for room and board.

My whole point to this letter is that it has become sad that even when a person loves the homeless and wants to help, people fight against them. People try to blame the government, yet forget it is a Christians' responsibility to help the homeless (thus our motto "Remember, Jesus Was Homeless.) I am not asking for government funding because I know God will provide. I am asking for a shelter. I am asking to do what God has called me to do. Also, even my President has asked for me to do it and people still want to fight against me. Thus, people are wanting me to go against God and the President of United States. Please help me to be able to help others. You can help us by posting and letting others know what we do. It is hard for me to post that we take people into our home because people in our area read our website and fight against us. I do not like risking people being put onto the street. Thanks for your help, support and concern for the homeless."

Sincerely In His Name,
Patti McKenzie




I will be getting more involved with this group if anyone else is interested, RIGHT TO A ROOF! HOUSING WORKGROUP OF THE COALITION ON HOMELESSNESS with James Tracy: “RTAR advocates for the creation and preservation of affordable housing, open to very low-income people in San Francisco. We advocate including cooperative housing in the City's overall housing strategy. We organize around federal housing programs, and budget cuts and their effects on the housing crisis in San Francisco.”

I sat in last Wednesday Night on this meeting SOMA Leadership Council, led by Jim Meko. Daly and Planner Commisioner Lisa Feldstein were guests, Elberling was there, and lots of other lead activists and developers, a mixed group dedicated to SOMA development. But most interesting comment of the evening was Feldstein who told me that the city could be sued by the people if it can't meet the housing growth needs of any bracket as set by the housing element each year. I had asked her why is there no penalty drawn into non-accumulative failures over years to meet the needs, limiting market rate growth until low in come is satisfactorily met with equal development. Spawned a good conversation about the lack of tools and methods for accountability. Granny flats were talked about in Santa Cruz, innovative approaches to building codes. Great night, I will go next month.


Realities for homeless in L.A., POOR Magazine reports on an encampment demolished.


Kenneth Caldwell talks about Affordable Housing Development in the Bay Area: “But with few sites, high land costs, historic preservation issues, reduced federal welfare and housing subsidies, and frequent community resistance, architects are struggling to find new paths to address old problems. The overarching trend toward locally-based solutions includes innovations in financing, mixed-use development, community participation, the use of small infill sites, and sustainable design. However
Home sales are sizzling, January transactions hit 15-year high; prices up 12% in Bay Area.


“One of today's toughest problems is housing that is both livable and affordable. Donald MacDonald Architects have consistently explored the options and found ground-breaking, workable solutions-for projects from three units to hundreds.” The Sleeper.

And this book written by MacDonald sounds worth a read: Democratic Architecture

"MacDonald challenges our traditional notions of how to house the people who live on the streets and can't seem to find a place in conventional homes, apartments and shelters. His book lays out a challenge for everyone involved in housing including architects, builders and city officials. He confronts those who say that ignoring the homeless is the only solution, but he also challenges those who say we can build enough conventional housing for all of the homeless. MacDonald also confronts homeowner and community groups who oppose housing projects.”

- San Francisco Examiner, November 17, 1996


Another good HOMELESS research resource.
Sunday, February 15, 2004

'Real Housing, Real Care’ is Supervisor Daly’s compromise re-draft of ‘Care not Cash’, and is moving forward this April with more supportive housing stock in exchange for welfare cash reductions. Daly wants a guarantee of more than just a shelter-shuffle, Newsom approves, but some still warn that for San Francisco it is really a social experiment at this stage and must be continually monitored for its effectiveness.

“It appears that the Bush Administration’s policy on affordable housing is to make the affordability crisis worse for those who can afford housing the least,” NLIHC President Sheila Crowley said after reviewing the budget released today. “The President has taken the country into an ever deepening deficit with reckless tax cuts, and now he wants to start digging his way out by making life harder for those who have the least. Outrage is the only rational response.”

The Institute for the Study of Homelessness and Poverty, a project of the Weingart Center, is a non-profit, non-partisan, research and policy organization serving the research and networking needs of academics, government, community based direct service agencies, policy-advocacy organizations, the media, philanthropic organizations, policymakers and other members of the community involved with the issues of homelessness and poverty.

Marcia has pointed out this street publication to help emply homeless people, The Big Issue, which is one of many in this International Network of Street Papers (INSP) , which unites street papers sold by homeless people from all over the world. INSP is an umbrella organization, which provides a consultancy service for its partner papers and advises on the setting up of new street papers and support initiatives for marginalized people.

This Gov Report / Homelessness in San Francisco, released May 2002, provides essential background material for public education.

Keep checking this site, Interagency Council on Homelessness (periodically under construction -) is the source for municipal collaborative findings, research regarding other state 10-year plans which have been successful, and critical advocacy/policy discussion bringing a lot of different groups to the table.

* Some more reference sites: Spare Some Change (Great Homeless Search Engine) / KnowledgePlex® offers best practices, discussions, research and more for professionals working on affordable housing and community development.


Oregon finally OK’s Granny Flats, and hopefully SF is soon to follow. Read about Supervisor Peskin’s Secondary Unit Legislation Proposal .

I haven’t heard any update recently from these guys, but Public Architecture is developing an ADU prototype, along with some other socially provocative projects merging design and activism, check them out.

Architect Greg Cowan writes an interesting paper on the historic symbolism of “tent architecture”, NOMADIC RESISTANCE: TENT EMBASSIES AND COLLAPSIBLE ARCHITECTURE - Illegal architecture and protest

Here is an interesting thread on Design Solutions for the Homeless.

This article in the Chron talks about an eccentric cafe project and community approach on 'how to make a street corner come alive'.

These grad students have started an Urban Bamboo Farm in the city to help de-contaminate industrial lots while producing strong sustainable building materials at the same time.

Two Competitions worth looking at recently, Pittsburgh Land Use Competition which examines creative developments for parking lots, and the New Housing New York Competition just announced their winners which aimed to provoke innovative designs for different affordable housing projects needs.
Thursday, February 12, 2004
SUNDAY AFTERNOON I am going to visit JIM REID, former 4 time SF Mayoral Candidate, at his house where he will show and discuss his project ShelterOne. I bumped into Jim at a high noon rally for Daly’s anti-demolition last Monday, where he told me he is in the process of being evicted. Habitat for the Homeless has been Jim’s battering ram at City Hall for years now trying to promote solutions that empower homeless people directly, through building. He will have much to tell of his life in the trenches and his grassroots attempts to mobilize a shift in City Hall’s thinking.

Speaking of Homelessness, Alioto is getting to work on assembling her own committee, of which I am still trying to hustle an interview for myself. She is preaching diversity, and I would like to think I might be able to help here fulfill that obligation.

REMINDER, next WEDNESDAY 02.18 / couple more events I have scheduled for us. At 4PM we will meet the architects for another TNDC WALKING TOUR, the 8th/Howard St Project . They will show us one of the nicest mixed use affordable housing project s recently built in the city and answer all our crazy questions. The work of our own Factory1 is displayed in the building as well.

and FOLLOWING the Walking Tour, I will hop BART out to the East Bay for this Lecture Event: UC BERKELEY SPRING 2004 ARCHITECTURE LECTURE SERIES - Teddy Cruz () 7:00 PM 112 Wurster Hall, UC Berkeley Campus.


I spent my mini-vacation attending meetings and focusing on the Trinity Plaza debate.

Board of Supervisors’ approve Anti-Demolition Ordinanace. Some say this is Chris Daly speaking at his all time best. And whether you agree with him or not this is the type of legislation that is stirring the debate in this city that has been overshadowed by much profiteering between developers and the government for the last decade.

Land Use Committee hearing on Trinity, great public testimony from Randy Shaw & Ted Gullicksen, and about 75 others.

John Elberling puts his bargain on the table.
Sunday, February 08, 2004
AFH makes some NEWS:

Oregon Live catches up with Cameron in a cafe with his laptop, architecting his network for Humanity. Kate Stohr (AFH's other co-founder), wrote this article for the NY Times about the ironic shrinking of the world's cities 3 to 2 while others continue to grow. See the Shrinking Cities Project Here.

And this is the latest on the 'OUTREACH' DESIGN DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOP in South Africa.


Angela Alioto is readying herself to be the Chair of the Task Force to End Homelessness and "Head of Special Projects". This is a good interview with her and the city's 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness here in SF.

Darren Noy is a PhD student at UC Berkeley in the Dept of Sociology, and has prepared this website report: Homelessness in San Francisco - Understanding a common vision that will build a homeless policy that works.


SF Architect David Baker has written on zoning studies, architectural strategies, and community design. Scroll down to his WRITINGS section.

There is an interesting discussion on the Dwell Discussion Boards: "What is Affordable?”


California Assemblyman Leyland Yee wants to legislate an influence of Feng Shui into California urban planning. But some critics think it is a sign of California's laziness to practice good design already.

Urban Action is a publication put together by students in the Urban Studies Dept. at SFSU, combining research papers, interviews, photo-essays, and other quality related material.

While Supervisors Ammiano and Duffy are trying to heavily restrict and ban Wal-Mart supercenters in SF, Contra Costa County next month will vote on Measure L and to ban Wal-Mart Supercenters.

"Local government should have a right to plan where and how big-box stores come into their communities and not leave it totally up to the developer,'' said Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond. "This is a battle in a larger war over who controls development in a local community.''

And here is more on Daly’s Anti-Demolition Ordinance, McGoldrick wants to make it buildings of 6 or more sound units.
Thursday, February 05, 2004

This is an article from 2002, but a good one, with Sam Davis (former Chair of Berkeley's Arch Dept.) who talks about recent policy in the Bay Area and his work researching and designing for homeless shelters.

"First, I think that part of the responsibility of teaching at a university, particularly at a public one, is that you have to deal with social issues. One could say that every kind of architecture has social implications, and that's probably true. But I've always felt that housing, among all the kinds of buildings, has the most social context and requires the greater sense of social responsibility."

Found this link on Archinect not long ago: UC Professor Gary Black proposes a lightweight durable straw bale, steel bar and concrete solution for housing reconstruction in the Mid East. And another local firm specializing in straw bale is Dan Smith & Associates who have been pushing this material for years now and have developed some notable prototypes.

And looking at shelter as a part of us a-matter offers Body Architecture : Lucy Orta now makes bodysuits that can be transformed into tent-like rooms or sleeping bags and then coupled to each other in order to create an ad-hoc community, i.e. fast small housing for mobile elements of society such as refugees, asylum seekers or the homeless.

And this friday night 02.06.04 at The Castro: My Architect is playing. This ‘Best Documentary’ nominee explores the life of Louis I. Kahn, who died in 1974, one of the most important architects of the twentieth century. His dramatic death—alone and bankrupt in the men’s room of New York’s Penn Station—revealed a triple life: in addition to his wife and daughter, Kahn left behind two illegitimate children, by different women with whom he had long-term relationships. MY ARCHITECT follows the five-year odyssey of Kahn’s only son, Nathaniel Kahn, as he travels the world to discover who his celebrated father really was.
Wednesday, February 04, 2004
Gavin Newsom yesterday convened the first of many promised meetings of his new "Homelessness Cabinet," made up of representatives from roughly 10 city agencies wrestling with the problem. And just down the road Santa Cruz rebuffs their regional homeless efforts by exploring a new Intelligence Program: the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS).

While HUD is proposing changes to the continuum of care planning process in a Homeless Consolidation Concept, shouldn't we be paying more attention to The Bringing Home America Act which is co-sponsored by 38 congress people, and represents the most comprehensive data inquiry and legislative proposal to ending modern homelessness in the US?

This week Matt Smith tells us A Tale Worth Telling about an elderly german man worth millions who left money to the city to help the poor. Now that City Hall has moved forward with a supportive housing project for the elderly in the western addition the NIMBYism again points out the ideological paradox of neighborhood anti-development activism.
Tuesday, February 03, 2004
This study, which compares the cost of housing mentally ill homeless persons and expenditures managing them on the streets, has helped Columbus to frontier new efforts to house the chronic homeless for just a $1000 more annually per person.

Meanwhile Berkeley Mayor proposes United Front for Problem of Homelessness, hoping to help secure federal funds for a solid 10 year plan to fight homelessness. Can Mayor Newsom rally a broad base of support and a plan for a 'supportive housing boom'? Though some say there are still plenty of resources available if we focus on existing renovation projects.


Homeless & Disabled in Alabama (blog)
Vermont Homeless Journal Essays
Williamsburg's Homeless & Indigent Blog
Norsehorse's Home Turf (blog)

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