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Visualizing smart growth through photo art

SF Public Press
 — Jul 9 2012 - 11:47am

People need realistic pictures to understand development options. Using photo-editing and 3-D modeling software, we create seamless photo simulations that realistically show how revitalized urban and suburban places might look. More images are available through the Urban Advantage website.

Starting with a photograph of existing conditions, we can insert buildings and trees into the view, improve conditions for pedestrians, place public transit infrastructure, and inhabit the view with people.

The results are before-and-after sequences: existing conditions photographs, two to three intervening step images, and final complete visions. The images in the sequences — existing conditions and transformed views — are designed to be in perfect registration so that changes between the steps are easily discernible.

A simulation of change from a static vantage point that morphs from before to after gives the viewer a deep understanding of the components of change — the impact of streets trees, the viability of transit, the significance of street geometry, and how the changed environment could better respond to human needs.

Also, the viewer can see how coordinated investments, both in the public right-of-way and on adjacent properties, can give benefit to both public and private interests. The viewer can also easily imagine the experience of being in the environment and assess the cumulative impact of development stages. And since the images are assembled in Photoshop, the components of the landscape — trees, buildings, street lamps, etc. — can be changed on their separate layers in response to community and designers’ input. In fact they can be working documents revisited and revised over weeks, months or years.

Read full coverage of Bay Area smart growth in the San Francisco Public Press Summer 2012 print edition, on sale at retail outlets around San Francisco and online.


By the way, all of this land was granted by federal grant to the railroads. The land was supposed to be for rail use only. Then the tracks were removed. What happened after that? The railroad created a real estate company and sold or developed the land. That land should have belonged to the people, not to Catellus. Now you'll be paying for it again by subsidizing the developers with your taxes so they can spend millions upgrading the sewer and water lines and building more apartments and condos that they sell or rent. Green!

It shouldn't be subsidized, but you'll have to provide evidence that it is. The fact is that there is a great deal of demand for housing and services in these areas, and so subsidies aren't necessary. Infrastructure upgrades are pretty cost-effective-- in dense areas like this, you only need a few feet of road or sewer line per apartment, while the tax revenues generated by the same are quite high. It's a different story where houses are further apart, and you need dozens of feet of utilities per house, while the revenues are lower.

Who is paying for this fantasy? The taxpayer...through schemes that sound good but bankrupt us. These apartment buildings would be subsidized with your taxes. Or should I say the taxes of the last few people who are working? The buildings are owned by for-profit developers who are the winners in this racket. Sure it looks nice--it should. You'll be paying for it for 40 years. Is that sustainable? Indebting future generations for some apartments near a non-existent train station?
For the truth about this take a look at Democrats Against UN Agenda 21 dot com

El Cerrito Plaza would be an even better example, as the existing businesses are less automobile-oriented, there is a complete street grid on all sides, and it is very close to a rapid transit station.