The housing crisis in San Francisco has hardly gone unnoticed. Rents are astronomical, available properties are scarce, and homelessness is at a record high. As a result, scores of illegal secondary units have popped up across the city.
One solution has been under everyone’s nose the whole time, according to Gregory Hurcomb for Architect’s Newspaper Blog. And a new San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SPUR) exhibit shows just how available it really is.
San Francisco’s History and People are at Risk
San Francisco is known for many things, not the least of which is its striking Victorian architecture. There are pristine examples, and some that are in a terrible state of disrepair. But all properties are so expensive as to be cost prohibitive for all but the wealthy.
Because of the legendary appearance of the city, any new housing proposals that would alter its beauty are met with major opposition. But that doesn’t change the need for housing except to make it more difficult. In response, Hurcomb says illegal secondary units have popped up everywhere. Sometimes it’s a garage, sometimes it’s an attic. Any space that could be occupied might be, whether or not city officials are aware of it.
The Housing Solution Has Always Been There
The city has long prohibited unregulated secondary units, which means they aren’t bound by any fire, health or safety codes. Just because there’s a spot for a sofa and a bed doesn’t mean it’s safe to live in. But with new legislation in place, there’s hope in all directions for the growing population.
The Urbanism from Within exhibit shows numerous examples of effective ways to legally use San Francisco’s beautiful architecture to house more people without changing the look of the city. A sprawling Victorian home could, theoretically, be divided into several in-law units, as they’re known. Industrial buildings could transform into multiunit buildings. The city could transform within while keeping the same appearance without.
The Past, Present and Future Can Coexist
Drawings, maps and housing models presented at the Urbanism from Within exhibit represent the research of Open Workshop students, who are taught by Neerah Bharia, according to Archinews blog. On display are historical documentations of how buildings were used originally, how they are used today, and how they could be used in the future. It’s an exhibit of potential evolution.
There’s no need to destroy the beauty of San Francisco to accommodate its exploding population. Not when the solution has been there all the time. The facades can, and should, remain. And with the Urbanism from Within proposals, it’s not just possible; it’s doable.
San Francisco has a duty to three ideals. One is history, one is the present, and the other is the future. On its current course, the future is bleak. The city is suffering widespread gentrification. Many locals can no longer afford to stay, and an influx of non-locals are filing in to take their place. But there is no reason why the two can’t coexist.
The SPUR Urbanism from Within exhibit presents a solution that could preserve the city for future generations. The land will always be there, but what makes it special is in the hands of lawmakers, architects and engineers. With legal or in-law units occupying what’s already in place, there’s hope for locals, new arrivals and each new wave of both.
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