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UC Berkeley urban design students study SF's Mission, Japantown neighborhoods, will offer design and planning solutions
01 June 2001

By Kathleen Maclay

Berkeley - Sometimes it takes an "outsider" to size up a problem and see the solutions.

Next Friday, June 8, some 30 students from Berkeley, Japan, Italy and Copenhagen - participants in an intense, two-week international workshop in the master's degree program in urban design at the University of California, Berkeley - will critique two longtime San Francisco neighborhoods.
At 4 p.m. at the Pacific Energy Center in San Francisco, they will present ideas to solve central design issues facing the Mission District and Japantown.

As part of this workshop, which ends on June 8, the group is exploring various community issues through classroom discussion, studio work with graphic design, aerial photos, maps and traditional photos. They also have met with local residents and done work in the individual neighborhoods.

In the Mission, students are looking at the conversion of once-industrial property into residential lofts and its impacts on the community, said UC Berkeley professor Peter Bosselman, one of the students' leaders. Students are interested, he said, in improving the types of buildings constructed in the Mission in the future.

For example, they're analyzing how the neighborhood will maintain adequate public and private open space for its growing population and how it can make its streets more livable for local residents and most effectively deal with traffic.

In Japantown, how should the city repair the urban fabric shredded by urban renewal in the late 1960s? Students are asking this question, as well as exploring how the aging shopping mall should be reconfigured to improve the adjacent neighborhoods on both sides of the Geary Expressway. They will evaluate ways to bolster the sense of community in a neighborhood split by this wide and bustling boulevard, and explore new transit options that might allow less neighborhood disruption than conventional planning for lots of cars and lots of parking spaces.

In addition to Bosselman, UC Berkeley professors Allan Jacobs and Richard Bender are leading the workshop, along with colleagues from Italy and Japan.

The students have invited to their critique next Friday members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, community residents and other representatives, along with San Francisco city planners. They said they hope to stimulate discussion about the need to better direct physical change in San Francisco, especially in these two neighborhoods.

An inspiration to these graduate students is Bosselman, a professor of architecture, landscape architecture and city and regional planning. He has a long list of professional projects to his credit that include the San Francisco Downtown Plan, New York Times Square urban design controls, a neighborhood preservation and transportation plan for East Sacramento and downtown Toronto Sun, Wind and Comfort Study.