Leading San Francisco Architect Picks a Fight With the City's Planning Department

Architects and planners have to work together, as everyone on both sides of the equation knows. Even though the fields often speak the same language, there still seem to be many moments and ideas lost in translation.

2 minute read

April 5, 2017, 2:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


San Francisco

somchaij / Shutterstock

"Local architects love to complain about San Francisco’s Planning Department, how the latter supposedly thwarts the formers’ efforts to add dynamic new buildings to the landscape," writes John King, in news that won't come as surprise to Planetizen readers.

The reason the San Francisco Chronicle's urban design critic is writing about the history of antipathy between the two related professional fields, however, is that one of San Francisco's best designers has gone on the record with a fairly disparging diatribe regarding planning and planners in a new book by Michael Webb, titled Building Community: New Apartment Architecture .

In the book, Stanley Saitowitz tells Webb of his frustrations as an architect with city planners: "Far too much of our effort goes into explaining what we are doing….The bureaucracy is obstructive, and committee-type negotiations tend to make the buildings worse, not better."

More of Saitowitz's comments are included in the article, especially focusing on tensions between contemporary design decisions and a preservationist approach to new building (those tensions will surely be familiar in cities other than San Francisco).

The comments have provoked a notable response from San Francisco's planning director, John Rahaim, who says: "Most of Stanley’s buildings have been built pretty much as he proposed them to staff. To say otherwise is ridiculous."

Rahaim also has more to say, but King also has the final word about whether these kinds of debates will ever end in San Francisco (spoiler alert: it's not likely).

Tuesday, April 4, 2017 in San Francisco Chronicle

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