Refining the task for USP514

Dear students, I have been mulling over how to clarify the tasks for the rest of the semester. The fact the Mountain View is seriously considering a sustainably-based transformation is very exciting. But for the remaining ten weeks, I need to set you some realistic parameters and then check with you about which parts to emphasize and which to let go.

Here is the basic template for your final project:
Each team will develop one chapter in a report.
The general template for the overall report is the North Bayshore Precise Plan.
If someone (Haley?) wants to work up a standard page-template, let me know ASAP.
My one requirement is that the report be formatted in LANDSCAPE orientation, so that individual pages can also be used as slide-show presentations. I also recommend that you have a standard page Header (and maybe also a Footer), which includes:
USP514: Sustainable Urban Development — SFSU
[the page number]
[the team name, which is also the chapter name]
It may make sense to develop and share a Google Doc standard format. If one person or a team would like to develop this, please let me know by Sunday at 4:31 PM. Otherwise I will impose the format.
So: North Bayshore Precise Plan is the general template, because we are proposing a revision of this precise plan towards sustainability. I don’t mean that we should reorganize the teams to match the chapter breakdown of the current Precise Plan; I think the teams we have are good. I just mean that our collective report should be aware of what is already in the NBPP. As for the content of your individual chapters, you might want to look at SPUR’s “The Future of Downtown San Jose.” SPUR is a civic organization which has been promoting urbanism for more than 50 years. They take an advocacy position that you might like to emulate. (Thank you Irene for bringing this report to my attention).
Now: those teams that have already given slide presentations: you have already developed drafts of your team chapter. Keep going! As each team presents, I NEED members of all the other teams to give feedback, based on your personal knowledge and your current team-work. In the end, the parts of the report will have very different content, inherently, but they should feel like they were developed in conversation with each other.
This is also one of the core pedagogical lessons of this course. Modern civilization has made great progress through institutional specialization. But that is also modern civilization’s key flaw. If we think of government agencies as ‘silos,’ then planners need to be the bridge that connects these silos together. Or a better metaphor: if various agencies are the “warp” in the loom of urbanism, then planners need to be the “weave” that brings cities together into a whole (or holistic) fabric of justice, good living, and fertile coexistence.

I am going to schedule your midterm presentation on Week 6. That means either March 2 or March 4, or we will need to shift one of those class sessions to another time that week.
Martin Alkire, the Chief Planner of Mountain View, is very interested in participating in this presentation. He is your client. So even though this is just a (four unit!) class and I am giving you a grade, remember that you are proposing ideas in a setting where they may actually get implemented. Hopefully that sounds more exciting than scary. In California culture–and most especially in Silicon Valley culture–the key thing is the content of your ideas. A super-slick presentation is NOT preferable. No fancy slide-transitions in PowerPoint. Rather, think about what is most important about sustainability. Don’t worry about hashing out all the detail, or how to make the whole idea financially feasible right now. In fact, leaning a little towards the wishful-thinking slightly sci-fi visioning is appropriate. I promise you: the very fact that you are reading this text, wherever and however you are reading it, is the result of some pie-in-the-sky thinking over the past 50 years. So: a good idea is:
1. An idea that makes us think about sustainability in the holistic sense.
2. An idea that is clearly communicated.

I cancelled class last Monday. So I feel it is reasonable to ask you to join me in a walking tour. We will meet near the middle of Patricia’s Green, on the east side of the green at Octavia at Linden Streets. Edward, Matthew, and Irene are going to contact the group that manages art projects there, and be our hosts! (Talbert, let me know if that is a feasible time).

I am posting this as a blog page so that you have quick access to it. I am going to post a series of other blog pages as well today. Depending upon the interests of your team, you may want to review those more or less closely.

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