#architalks 42 “designing for others”

Designing for Others
This post was a little difficult for me to grasp because I feel like I am always designing for others and not for myself. 


It's Labor Day, which is supposed to be a day off from working, right?  
But here I am, the night it is due, technically 12 am, CST on the 4th

and I am writing a blog after being at a Labor Day/Going Away Party for my friend's daughter Shannon who will be moving to Australia to be with her Australian Boyfriend, 
Such is the life of a 28 year old... I wish her Safe Travels and a wonderful Future!!!

So I dragged myself out of the pool to get home to write and post...

Even in school, I tried to look at who the project was for and design what they would want to suit their needs with a concept that I felt interpreted their wants and needs with a concept that wedded my architectural concerns with theirs. So to talk about “designing for others” seems repetitive as I feel like I am always designing for others. Even an addition to our own home now is designing for circumstances beyond my own needs and not really what I wanted for the "five year" house.

But let’s say for the sake of posting I think that the we should always be designing for others, be a tower for a major corporation or micro housing for the homeless.  We are still designng for others.  

So, most recently, besides designing single familyi residential projects, being an appointed Planning Commissioner for my city,and being the Chair of AIA San Diego Custom Residential Architecture Network (CRAN),  I was asked to be on a committee for the AIA California Council (now renamed and rebranded AIA California) for a Housing Forum on Affordable (Attainable) Housing, so I attended a five hour meeting in Sacramento and we brainstormed on what we are going to do about this "Housing Crisis" which seems to not only be a problem in our state, but also a problem nationwide.  How do we provide housing for the people who live in our cities? How do we build housing that is affordable/attainable for not only the very low and low income population but the "Middle: Workforce Housing" which is also suffering?  So, I became the Chair of the Housing Forum Committee also, which the Housing Forum will be taking place on Friday, November 30, 2018 in Newport Beach at the Community Center.  

Now, for many architects and people in urban, suburban and rural communities, we may be living in a housie, an apartment, a condominium home ownership sitiuation and we are fine.  I live in a single family home.  It isn't the one that I thought that I would have at my age, but it is a home. And some people maybe we want to move up to a nicer house or townhouse or vacation home or downsize.  

And that is fine, I am not going to put down the person who lives in an area where this is very feasible and they work hard for their money and this is what they want..

No, what I want you to imagine is what about the people who do not have a place to live, 
I want you to think about the person who cannot afford to live in a one bedroom apartment with their two kids even though they are working two jobs in the medical profession.
I want you to think about the person who is a veteran and cannot afford or should not live by themselves.  
I want you to think about where your children are going to live after they graduate college and get a full time job but can still not afford to get a place to live (besides your abode).

I want you to think about where your children are going to live after they graduate college and get a full time job but can still not afford to get a place to live (besides your abode).Now, as a planning commissioner, I hear a lot about, "you're going to take away my single family house"

In my city, I can definately tell you that I am not trying to do that.  I don't think anyone is trying to do that.  But what we are trying to do as architects working for developers, because they are the ones with the financial wherewithall to do most of the buildings we design   

In fact, by looking at the map below, one can see that all of the white to yellow areas are single family homes.  In nine square miles, we have a lot of single family homes.  And in that nine square miles, I have only designed additions to maybe 10 of them.  I designed for others who wanted their addition to their single family home.

However, in California we have certain rules and one of those rules is that each city has a General Plan and within that document, there are Zoning Maps, Specific Plans,, etc, etc and a thing called a Housing Element.
and cities to turn in these documents to them every so many years.  We have a Housing Element that includes that we have so many people moving into the area and we must have land that we can allocate for building housing for these people.  Now these aren;t even all people moving into the area from other places, these also include people who live in the area and would like to someday live in another housing unit.  

Now what has occurred over the last decades is that we are behind in housing,  to the tune of about 100,000 units per year.  

California's housing crisis reaches from the homeless to the middle class — but it's still almost impossible to fix

Why are we behind? 

Because some people don't want housing built. Now I say some people because I doubt that the people who are struggling to find housing are showing up at these meetings and saying that they don't want it.  How could they show up because some of them are working, but some of them are doing their homework and haven't been coming to these meetings because they are our children who will have to move to a different state in order to find a job in a place that they can afford to live. 

Also, It takes a lot of money to build housing units, in fact even very low and low income units cost about $600/sq.ft. to build here, including the acquisition of the property, the architects and consultants' feel , development fees, construction fees, etc.  So we need to find ways to streamline development fees on the permitting side and try to find ways to construct housing units for a lower cost or we have to find another solution to the financial problem of building housing.  

And then there are the people who don't want any housing built in their neighborhood, even when the zoning is for multi-family housing and sometimes even for single family housing where people could move up to this housing and people could move into entry level housing.  We need to reexamine zoning in order to supply this need by designing for others. 

We need to look at different housing types that can provide housing in non-typical ways, Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU), Micro-housing, Co-housing and other housing types. 

What we are hoping to explore at this Housing Forum is how do we look at the current regulations,  
the current housing that is meeting these needs and the current housing needs that are not being met, and how do we as AIA California Architects as well as all other architects, design for others.

Another thing that I hear at planning commission meetings from concerned citizens is that "Well, I know that we have to have housing fo r"those people" and I can see that "those people" need help, but I usually ask City Staff to give the "low income and very low income thresholds and I believe that many people are pretty surprised to hear that the income levels are above what they make.  In La Mesa, "low income" is a family of four making $75,000.00 or lower per year, very low is $35,000.00 or lower per year.  It is the father with the stay at home mom with two young children, it is the two income minimum .wage and a little higher with one kid and a grandmother.  It is the college graduate and the college student with two kids.  

I always see it as this, we must be empathetic towards "others" because those "others" could someday be us.

I am now offering sponsorship opportunities and I am grateful for that. Please contact me via my website below for more information.

This is my take on "designing for others", If you would like to read other architects' takes on it, follow the links below...

-->Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
designing for others – how hard could it be?

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
"designing for others"

-->Jeffrey Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
How To Design for Others

-->Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Just say no

-->Jim Mehaffey - Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Designing for Others

-->Mark Stephens - Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Designing for others

-->Steve Mouzon - The Original Green Blog (@stevemouzon)
Planting Seeds of Better Design

-->Anne Lebo - The Treehouse (@anneaganlebo)
Designing for people


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