I noticed the da Vinci apartment complex for the first time only a few months ago. How could I not notice it? It looked like a plywood ocean liner beached against the northbound side of the 110 freeway. Rising 4-5 stories at the time, it hovered over the freeway, uncomfortably close to the roadway. I remember hoping that it would have serious soundproofing. And air filtering.
The proposed Saltworks project in Redwood City is, as one of its designers says, a potential "game changer" for the Bay Area. Proposed by landowner Cargill and developer DMB, the project would provide 8,000 to 12,000 high-density, mixed-income housing units in a decidedly suburban town halfway between San Francisco and San Jose, and within close proximity to hundreds of thousands of jobs.
The Bay Area has seen similar projects in recent years, but they have been in San Jose and San Francisco proper. Even those suburbs that have embraced relatively dense, transit-oriented development haven't seen anything on the scale of Saltworks.
California's Central Valley is a distinctive place. It is a place of flat ground and extreme weather. It is a place of fruits, nuts, grains and dairy products, yet it's also a place of extensive suburban sprawl. It's a place with some of the worst air pollution in the country, but, when the sky is clear, a place with stunning mountain views. It's a place of recent immigrants and extreme poverty, and of fourth and fifth generation landowners.
When people think of downtowns, they often think of huge cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles. But anybody familiar with California knows that the big city downtowns are the exceptions. By and large, California is a state of mid-sized cities, and some of the most delightful urban places are the smaller downtowns. Often in older cities, these districts are manageable, pleasant and, very often these days, in the midst of a strong renaissance.
There are few places more exciting than the pulsing downtown of a big city. There is a vitality and diversity that is palpable. Sure, it might be kind of noisy and dirty and crowded. But there is so much going on � commerce, entertainment, education, travel, socializing � that it's easy to overlook the grime and congestion.