SF Street Parks Growing With Student Support

In a partnership with the City of San Francisco and residents of its Ingleside neighborhood, students from the Academy’s School of Landscape Architecture are continuing to contribute to San Francisco’s street parks with the latest addition to community greenspace: Ridge Lane.

According to the website LivableCity.org (article linked below), street parks are public open spaces located in street rights-of-way. Many, like Ridge Lane, are on land too narrow or too steep for auto traffic.

Current MFA student Nahal Sohbati and 2016 MFA graduate Eric Arneson had the vision for Ridge Lane’s transition. Formerly a dirt path littered with trash, Ridge Lane now features a paved walkway Sohbati says was inspired by the voronoi pattern of a butterfly’s wings. Agave, manzanita and California poppies grow on either side of the walk, and strawberry trees shade gabion benches constructed of wood, wire and recycled concrete.

“We chose a mix of Bay Area native plants and exotics that are adapted to a California climate,” says Arneson, who worked with Sohbati on the plantings. “That way you have a beautiful garden and landscaping all year round. In the summer, when the native plants get a little dry…the exotics will have a constant green, lush effect.”

Sohbati will use the Ridge Lane project as her thesis when she graduates in 2017. The effort was a studio project in the school’s LAN 620: Site Design class in fall 2014. Six MFA students presented proposals to the neighborhood.

School of Landscape Architecture Director Heather Clendenin knows the value of real-world projects like Ridge Lane in preparing students for career opportunities: Real-world experiences provide the skills that yield employment success post-graduation. “Nahal’s proposal immediately stood out because of the time she invested in observing and analyzing the site,” says Clendenin. “It was clear she had listened very carefully to the neighbors’ ideas, visions and thoughts for the future of the site, as well as to complaints about the site as it was.”

Dedication Celebrates a Vibrant Neighborhood
Spirits were high at the park’s official opening on June 18, when dozens of Ingleside neighbors came out to celebrate their newly designed outdoor space. Funded in part by San Francisco’s Street Parks Program—a partnership between the Department of Public Works (DPW), the Parks Alliance and locals seeking to create community-managed spaces on city-owned land—the Ridge Lane project now joins the city’s 132 street parks. City officials, including SF Parks Alliance CEO Matthew O’Grady, DPW Director of Operations Mohammed Nuru, State Assembly member Phil Ting and District 11 Supervisor John Avalos were all in attendance and offered words of congratulations.

At the dedication, Nuru committed to completing a second block in the Ridge Lane project in the year ahead. When complete, the park will be a green connection to the Balboa Park Station.

“We are so happy and proud and satisfied, and relieved,” said Patricia Ris at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. A core member of Ridge Lane Neighbors—Ingleside residents who launched an effort nearly five years ago to transform the neglected strip into a landscaped walkway—Ris was thrilled with Sohbati’s design. “It makes everybody dignified. When you walk in a beautiful park, you have dignity…. I think it will lift everybody up.”

Sohbati’s vision, ability to communicate and passion for the site set her apart, says Ris. “She was the one who fell in love with Ridge Lane right away. She had the most thorough plan for all five parcels, and she was able to communicate that.”

While the neighbors agreed Sohbati’s design was superior, each resident expressed concerns. “Prioritizing [the neighbors] needs in a way that addressed their concerns while recognizing the bigger picture was my greatest challenge,” Sohbati says. “Some of the residents who were not involved in the planning were skeptical about what would happen after [the project] was built. They were worried about it becoming another place that attracts crime.”

The project, says Sohbati, “proved how a space that is a reflection of its users can become a safe space for all. Even though it’s a small site, we can see what a great effect it has on the community.”

• “Ridge Lane, SF’s Newest Street Park” at LivableCity.org

Celeste Sunderland, a staff reporter for Academy Art U News, contributed reporting for this article.

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Now Hiring!

Peer Mentor Recruitment Social Media

We are currently looking for students to recommend for this position to offer support to incoming Fall 2016 students as part of our Student Ambassador/Peer Mentorship Program. This is a work-study position that pays $15/hour. You need to be:


  • Eligible for financial aid
  • Knowledgeable about ArtU
  • Helpful, friendly, charismatic

If you’re interested, please email me at myoum@academyart.edu!


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Vacation in Chapala

Misa Canales, one of our BFA students, decided to share his summer adventure! This is what he had to say:

While on summer vacation, my family and I went to Mexico.We had a short amount of time to visit family and see all the amazing places that it has to offer.


We visited the small town of Chapala, which is located in the state of Jalisco.


We walked along the lakefront, where people would sell eateries and handmade crafts. This open space was being enjoyed by tourist and locals. Musicians would play along the lakefront to earn money. On this beautiful sunny day, people would take boat rides to see the whole lake.


Walking out to the pier, I could see the small mountains that would emcompass the town with rich and vibrant vegetation.


The palm trees would create a canopy for shade for vendors and visitors to sit.


The public open space in Chapala is a great place to visit and enjoy.


Share your adventures and experiences on our blog or email them to myoum@academyart.edu and they’ll be added!

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Low Maintenance Structures for Public Places

Walpole Outdoors has decades of experience working with cities and towns to create outdoor structures for the public to enjoy. From pergolas to fencing Walpole Outdoors provides structures that are not only aesthetically pleasing but low-maintenance and long-lasting so citizens can enjoy them for years and years to come.

Sea Isle City, New Jersey Boardwalk

A majestic pergola creates an outdoor room that is an open invitation to sit, relax, and interact, whether the setting is a college, senior housing location, or a public space. Walpole will work with you to deliver custom solutions that are both stylish and enduring.  We provide design expertise, structural planning, and unmatched handcrafted manufacturing in cellular PVC – an advanced material that looks like natural wood, but requires little-to-no maintenance for years.

Pergola at The Missouri Botanical Gardens

The Missouri Botanical Garden is a botanical garden located at 4344 Shaw Boulevard in St. Louis, Missouri. It is also known informally as Shaw’s Garden for founder and philanthropist Henry Shaw. This restoration project featured a pergola top manufactured in AZEK in a wood-tone paint on existing pillars.

Pergola top manufactured in AZEK and painted to match existing pillars.

To see more of Walpole Outdoors’ beautiful and low maintenance designs, check out the full article here.

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What Would Be In YOUR Dream Landscape?

Dream Residential Landscape Features Revealed in PPN Survey

Members of the Professional Practice Networks (PPNs) were recently surveyed on a number of topics, with the questions selected by PPN leadership. Responses were varied and included many insightful comments and suggestions, which will be shared and discussed with everyone here over the next few months, and also used to spark ideas for ASLA Online Learning webinars or posts for The Field.

Residential Landscape Architecture



You just won the lottery and are now designing your dream home: name one feature you absolutely need to have outside, to make your dream home complete…  

When we presented this scenario to PPN members, dream home wishes ranged from outdoor kitchens and infinity pools with extensive views of nature to more fanciful features, including Edwardian greenhouses and imaginative gazebos (double-decker gazebos, gazebos with hot tubs, and more!). And also, great soil—not too many prospective homebuyers probably ask about soil quality, but this obviously makes a huge difference to avid gardeners. Some members had a specific dream location in mind (for example, Lake Como), but most gave us a few key amenities they’d love to add to their homes.

Check out how your dream home necessities line up with what these PPN members had to say here!
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Enzo Enea Talks Plants

Enzo Enea. Pictures: courtesy of Enzo Enea

Check out this interview with Enzo Enea, Swiss landscape designer, who opened the world’s only tree museum, in 2010, in Switzerland, and explains why he abandoned his first career for one that allows him to bring nature into everyday life.

You can read the full interview here.

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It’s a bird … it’s a plane … it’s SUPERBLOCK

While most cities in the world are dominated by cars, Barcelona discovered a clever way for the citizens to reclaim the streets. Check out this article to find out more about “superblocks”, a concept developed by Salvador Rueda, director of the Urban Ecology Agency of Barcelona and how they hope to ultimately achieve:

  1. More sustainable mobility
  2. Revitalization of public spaces
  3. Promotion of biodiversity and urban green
  4. Promotion of urban social fabric and social cohesion
  5. Promoting self-sufficiency in the use of resources
  6. Integration of governance processes


Read the full article here.

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KTVU: Tech Tuesday Exclusive!


Check out this interview with Jason Jeon, a MFA grad from May 2016 who completed a collaborative thesis with the School of Game Development here at the AAU. Jason is currently producing VR presentations at VITA Planning & Landscape Architecture in San Rafael.

You can watch the interview or read the transcript here!


If you want to look into exploring collaboration possibilities with other departments, contact your advisor.

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Change in US Parking Requirements


For the last half-century, zoning codes in many American cities and suburbs — even relatively walkable, transit-heavy ones — have typically required developers to provide a certain amount of parking for each new home or business, often far more spots than are needed. The costs of building that parking get passed on to residents and customers whether or not they drive. By subsidizing parking in that way, we encourage people to drive. And surrounding every building with parking makes cities less friendly to walkers and eats up green space.

But there’s been a spate of good news on this topic in the last year. New York City recognized that people who live in low-income projects with public transit access were very unlikely to own cars. So, in its recently passed rezoning, the city eliminated parking requirements for low-income, “inclusionary” (meaning some units are affordable for low- or middle-income families), and affordable senior housing developments that are within a half-mile of mass transit.

Some cities are starting to get smarter about parking, and that’s leading to less driving.

Read more about what these cities are doing here!

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The Flying Garden


The Flying Garden was designed by architects Lapo Ruffi and Angiola Mainolfi. The garden is situated in the heart of the Tuscan town of Pistoia and was designed for the city’s children, offering them a space filled with nature and art. The lawn of the garden is dotted with old trees and colorful art pieces.


A concrete walkway acts as a border and separates the lawn from two surrounding buildings and a stretch with varied plantings. Strolling along the walkway, the visitors can enjoy constantly alternating views of the garden and its eight sculptures. The buildings were restored with the intention of providing a neutral backdrop to the garden design. They are bordered by a wooden terrace that separates them visually from the surrounding greenery.


Photos: Lapo Ruffi

Read the full article in Topos 95 – Light

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