1/28/19 Letter to AIAEB Members

January 28, 2019
Message from the President of the Board, Mark B. Steppan, AIA, CSI, NCARB, and the Board of Directors of the East Bay Chapter of the AIA.
Dear East Bay AIA members,
The Board of East Bay AIA remains committed to maintaining a strong service-focused AIA Chapter dedicated to its membership.
Late last year, our past Executive Director of 15 years departed. The purpose of this letter is to further update you, following on the December 2018 letter to membership presented at the Member Appreciation Party and in the AIAEB Newsletter, as to the Chapter’s current situation and to reassure you that – while challenges remain – the Chapter stands on solid ground.
Regarding the Executive Director position and the state of the office, the Board brought on interim Executive Director, Selene Wong, who began managing many aspects of the Chapter office starting late December. Selene has first-hand knowledge of the chapter and the AIA. She has helped to manage Bay Area architecture and interior design firms , where she led business operations and worked with Principals to organize affairs and maintain communications. Selene is an excellent fit for providing immediate assistance as we keep the chapter operating.
As is appropriate we have also advertised to fill the Executive Director position permanently. Our ideal candidate is deeply committed to the Chapter’s mission and to serving its membership, and will have the organizational development and communication skills that will allow the Chapter to flourish. We have received a few resumes, so far, and we encourage our members to also solicit applications from qualified persons. A description of the position can be found at: http://aiaeb.org/job/executive-director/.
The Chapter office is open for business to serve its membership and the public. Please come by, and meet Selene, who is there to help and answer questions! Steadily and deliberately, we continue to clean up and organize the office.
The Board is particularly dedicated to its fiduciary responsibilities. Since the departure of our prior Executive Director, we have discovered that tax returns need to be filed and that our non-profit status needs to be renewed. We are also working to ensure that there is no interruption in our AIA accreditation. These matters are being addressed
and we expect them to be resolved quickly. We have hired a highly-qualified local Certified Public Accountant to assist us.
All of us on the Board, along with Selene, will continue to keep the membership informed as these important issues are addressed, with an emphasis on transparency. Please email any questions or concerns you may have.
The Board intends to use this transition as an opportunity to rebuild the Chapter to be more robust, resilient, and responsive to member’s needs. We also welcome constructive suggestions for how your chapter should be structured moving forward. Thank you for your patience and continuing support. We hope to see you at one or all of the chapter’s upcoming events:
Joint Lecture with UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design – Wednesday, February 13
AIAEB Committee Forum – Thursday, February 28
Additionally, Robert Ivy, FAIA, current AIA Executive Vice President and CEO, will be visiting our chapter in early February, while in California on other business, to meet with us and discuss how things are going, how national can assist us, and to provide insights and suggestions where appropriate. I personally look forward to having this dialogue with our president and to see where it leads us.
Please visit the chapter website for more information on these events.
Mark B. Steppan, AIA, CSI, NCARB, President Devi Dutta-Choudhury, AIA, President Elect
Kim-Van Truong, AIA, Secretary/Treasurer
Winston Win, AIA, Past President
Rudolph Widmann, AIA, Director
Matthew Taecker, AIA, Director
Daniel Morales, Assoc. AIA, Associate Director
And your New Board Members for 2019:
Ali Rafieetari, Associate AIA, Associate Director
Ashley Rybarczyk, AIA, Director

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Project Profile: Levitch Associates, Inc.

Warm Modern Remodel + Addition
Text provided by Levitch Associates, Inc.

Albany homeowners wanted a modern design, open plan and additional space for family and guests at their two-bedroom, 1 Bath, 1,053 SF home on a 30’ wide lot. At the same time, they wanted to respect their neighborhood of mostly one and two-story bungalows. A 3,600 SF lot meant a vertical addition was the most feasible solution.

At the main level, Levitch Associates, Inc. created an open plan and completely remodeled the entire floor. Removing an accessory structure made way for a back deck, accessible through the dining nook and family room. Since the deck faces west, they designed a pergola for shade. Now with an easy flow inside to the outdoors, there’s plenty of room for everyday living and entertaining.

The owners asked for a stair to the new second-story that would have a minimal footprint while bringing light into the home. Levitch met their request with a staircase lit by a skylight and windows and accented by a dramatic light fixture and teal walls. The upper level has laundry, three bedrooms and two bathrooms including a master suite.

During construction Levitch took the house down to the floor structure, so it’s essentially a new 2,000 SF home. Given the scope of the remodel there were some challenges:

  • It was more complicated to leave a section of foundation intact than to replace all of it, which would have added to the cost; in hindsight we could have completely demolished the home.
  • There was, however, a nonconforming setback on one side so leaving one corner allowed us to maintain about 1’ of width in footprint.
  • Fire sprinklers were required.

Despite the challenges, a consistent theme of colors, textures and materials such as wood, metal and glass inside and out creates a modern aesthetic that is warm and livable for their client’s new home.

Architect: Maurice Levitch, AIA
Structural Engineer: Aghazarian Consulting Engineers, Inc.
General Contractor: Levitch Associates, Inc.
Railings: Carrillo’s Ironworks
Cabinets: Ecohome Improvement
Cabinet Installer: Semolina Design
Painting: Aurora Painting and Decorating
Flooring: Amber Flooring Inc.
Wallcovering: Bay Area Toile, designed by Matt Ritchie and Jorma Taccone
Wallcovering Installation: James Hauge
Fire Sprinklers: Thorpe Design Inc.
Photographer: Treve Johnson Photography, Inc.

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YAF Holiday Happy Hour

Thursday, December 20, 2018
Free and open to all. Drinks are no-host.
Location: Mad Oak, 135 12th Street, Oakland

RSVP on Facebook here.

Happy holidays Young Architects Forum! We are having our last happy hour event of the year on December 20th at Mad Oak in Downtown Oakland. Come join us as we recap the year, discuss leadership for the group and plan our events for 2019.

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The “Podium” Approach – Type IIIA/VA over Type IA Construction

Section 510 of the 2016 California Building Code(CBC) contains the special provisions describing how to build what is commonly called a “podium” building, which are typically Type IIIA or VA wood frame construction, often R-2/housing, or a hotel, over a Type IA, S-2/parking garage. The lower level also often contains M/retail spaces, A-2/restaurants, or even additional R-2/housing units.  This is the only place in the code where construction classifications can be mixed within a single structure vertically.  The way the regulations in Section 510 work and how they interact with other code requirements are often the subject of intense negotiation with the local Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), which are the building and fire officials in the jurisdiction where the building is proposed.

For this discussion, we will assume a Type VA building with R-2 occupancy apartments in it above a single level podium, with mixed uses at the ground level dictated by the program and planning approvals; S-2 occupancy open parking, M occupancy retail and R-2 occupancy apartments.  The questions that most often arise for such buildings are noted below along with our opinions of what the basic code requires:

What uses can be above the three hour horizontal assembly between the Type IA lower Building A and the Type VA upper Building B and what uses may be below the podium level? – Per Section 510.2, Item 4 the building or buildings above the horizontal assembly may contain multiple Group A uses, each with fewer than 300 occupants, or Groups, B, M, R, or S uses.  Per Section 510.2, Item 5 uses located below the horizontal assembly, any use except an H/Hazardous occupancy.  An automatic sprinkler system is required throughout.

Can a design have a two story lobby leading to the uses above, starting on the ground/grade level?  – There are potentially two ways to create a two-story open lobby starting on grade.  One way is to make the walls of the lobby on grade 3-hour construction, essentially wrapping the lobby with 3-hour construction.  This would provide the intended/required separation between the two types of construction.   The second method would be to treat the lobby as a shaft (2-hour enclosure).  This shaft would have to be separated from the remainder of the building with rated construction (opening protection).  The construction on the ground level would have to be Type IA.

Can exits from the building or building above the horizontal separation discharge the exits to what is called the podium, not on grade? – Chapter 10 does require exits to lead to a public way (street or road).  An enclosed stair that discharges on the podium or transfers to another enclosure stair that leads to grade is not specifically permitted or meets the definition of exit discharge (Section 1028) of the code.  It may be possible to use the concept of an area of safe dispersal, Section 1028.5, Exception, as an egress method without going to grade.  A good egress analysis would have to demonstrate that this would provide a reasonable level of safety.  Any alternative approach would require approval by the local jurisdiction.

Fire Department Access – One of the biggest issues in a podium design is fire department access to the podium level to fight a fire or perform rescue, especially when there are multiple buildings above the podium.  Some fire departments have required special access to allow fire fighting and rescue on the podium level.  One jurisdiction required fire apparatus (truck) access to the podium level other have asked for straight run stairs to allow ladders to be carried to the podium.  These items need to be discussed with the local fire department as to what their interpretation of the code requirements are.

Fire Losses – Because of a number of large fires related to podium types of project, there is a possibility of additional requirements from local jurisdictions for the protection of project under construction. The TUCC (Tri-Chapter Uniform Code Committee) made up of building officials from East Bay, Peninsula and Santa Cruz Counties have developed a suggested policy for buildings under construction. This policy needs to be adopted by a jurisdiction before it is effective or applicable. This could require some of the following “during construction”:

  • Detailed Fire Protection Plan
  • Site Security, including cameras
  • Fire Protection systems
  • Special fire protection systems during construction

Requiring fire walls and other rated construction to be complete before the completion of the building or early activation of fire protection systems on a floor by floor basis could have major impact on construction sequencing. Activating a fire sprinkler system before the building is enclosed or walls and ceiling are complete may not activate the system as intended. Some of these requirements during construction will be costly, money and time wise. Check with the local jurisdiction (Building and Fire) for these special requirements during construction.

By Kerwin Lee, AIA

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Project Profile: Kava Massih Architects

Oakmore Townhouse
Oakland, California
Text provided by Kava Massih Architects

This multi-family residence located in the Oakmore neighborhood consists of three townhouses – a two-story three-bedroom unit and two three-story two-bedroom units. Through thoughtful use of scale, form, and material, the modern design offers a contextual connection to the surrounding neighborhood that hosts architectural styles ranging from Mediterranean to French and Spanish Revival. White washed stucco offers a familiar color and texture while the wood siding and steel accents introduce warmth and visual interest. Overhangs, trellises, and a feature window box provide shading in conjunction with reflective roofing to mitigate heat gain. The mansard roof echoes the adjacent French Revival but steps down towards the street corner to respond to the scale of the surrounding homes. The curved west façade accentuates the triangular site, reminiscent of the local winding streets. Private decks are carved from the upper story to provide outdoor space while compositionally interrupting the length of the façade.

An intensive effort was made in the planning and design review process to garner neighborhood support. There was initial concern by some neighbors that our relatively modern design would not fit within the context of their more traditionally designed community. We made some adjustments to the design, including the addition of the metal mansard and other material adjustments to allay their concerns.

While maximizing the use of the unusually-shaped corner site, we wanted the 4-unit project to fit within the context of the traditional single-family neighborhood. We wanted to take elements of the eclectic styles in the neighborhood and blend them into a project that had a simple and modern expression but also felt at home in its surroundings.

Size: 6,000 square feet
Cost: $1.5 million
Program: 3 market-rate rental dwelling units
One 2-story, 3-bedroom, 4-bath unit
Two 3-story, 2-bedroom, 3-bath units

General Contractor: Bjork Construction
Structural Engineer: David Wilson
Photographer: Tubay Yabut

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PSM Architects, Inc.: Firm Profile

  1. How did the firm get its start?  Originally founded by Albert Perata & Robert Sylvester in 1961. When Richard Mutter became a partner the firm changed it’s name to Perata Sylvester and Mutter in the mid 1970’s.
  2. How did your firm get its name? The firm was reorganized  and became PSM Architects, Inc. in 1987.
  3. Where are you located? 45th Street in Emeryville
  4. What is the firm personality?  Saucy
  5. What’s the firm’s focus? Serving our clients
  6. What’s the most unusual project your firm has done? A 550,000 SF lettuce growing and packaging facility in Patterson CA that is currently under construction.
  7. When was the firm established? 1987
  8. What’s your favorite local building? Fine Arts Apartment building in Berkeley
  9. What is the makeup of your firm and do you have other disciplines? We are an architecture firm working closely with trusted outside consultants and engineers
  10. Do you have any office pets? Occasional guest dogs Spanky and Alfie
  11. Which method of marketing has been the most successful for the firm? Our history with our clients, consultants and the contractors we’ve worked with
  12. How would you describe your firm’s culture? Collaborative
  13. What’s your firm’s favorite lunch spot? Casual – Bay Street Food Court, marketing lunch Riva Cucina
  14. What type of client has been the best to work with? One who wants to be a partner in the process sand work collaboratively.
  15. What does the future hold for the firm? More good projects with good clients
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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): The History: Codes

As the nation mourns the passing of our 41st President, George H. W. Bush, one of the most significant laws was signed by President Bush back on July 23, 1990. It was the American with Disabilities Act or the ADA. It was over 28 years ago this became law and one of the most significant Federal Laws, a Civil Right Act, to affect construction and the built environment throughout the country. The standards for providing for people with disabilities has been increased by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) not only in this country. We can see the affects worldwide.

As a Civil Rights Act, it is not a building code and the enforcement of the ADA is at the Federal level through the Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ does not review or approve designs/plans for compliance with the Act. It is only when a suite or complaint is filed that the DOJ will act and review it for compliance.

The original ADA and the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG), now called the Standards, was in place for a long time unchanged. On July 23, 2010, the 20th anniversary of the signing of the ADA, the US Attorney General signed the Final Rules for what is now the called “2010 Standards for Accessible Design” or “2010 Standards”.  The revised guidelines were issued back in 2004 along with changes to the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) which applies to Federal Projects.  The publication of the Final Rules was on July 26, 2010. This is the document we are required to comply with today.

The ADA has five Titles or subjects it covers: Title I/Employment, Title II/State and Local Government Services, Title/III Public Accommodations, Title IV/Communications and Title V/Other Requirements. As a Civil Rights Act, the law goes way beyond the built environment and includes things that Architects do not normally deal with.

So as an architect, what do you need to comply with? Your first responsibility for a project in California is compliance with the California Building Code (CBC) and any local amendments. Compliance is mainly with Chapters 11A and/or 11B of the CBC. The State has attempted to make Chapter 11B align and look like the ADA Standards, but there are differences. So if you comply with the CBC, do you comply with the ADA? The answer is most likely, but there are no guarantees. As part of the ADA, the DOJ is suppose to review local codes for compliance with the Law. The DOJ has only reviewed and certified a few local codes as complying with ADA. Because codes change all the time and there hundreds of versions of the code throughout the United States, DOJ does not have the time or interest in looking all the code that are used for certification.

If you do projects outside of California, most jurisdictions use the International Building Code (IBC), which references the ANSI A117.1 Accessibility Standards. This documents kind of looks like the ADA Standards, but has it differences. It is always best to check with the local jurisdiction as to what code they are using for your project.

Add to this that housing is not specifically regulated by the ADA, only common areas. Housing falls under a different law, the Federal Fair Housing Act (FFHA), regulated by Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This Act originally referenced the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS), but now has their own guidelines. That is why we have Chapters 11A/Housing and 11B/Public Accommodations in California.

The future for the ADA is unknown, especially with the current administration. There are a few things on the list that the Access Board, people who write the Standards, wants to incorporate into any revised standards. It took 20 years to get a revised set of Standards. Add to this that ANSI A117.1 is developed and written by another group, a private organization and they have their own ideas of what the code should include. These changes will be seen in future editions of the IBC and revised ANSI A117.1.

For the most part the ADA has accomplished what it was intended to do making it possible for people with disabilities to be a part of everyday life. It has been said that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 created equal access to minorities by opening a door. The ADA created equality by rebuilding the doors.

Kerwin Lee, AIA ocked0 Grid T

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Tolbert Design Architects: Firm Profile

  1. How did your firm get its name?  It’s my last name, I design and I’m an architect.  Tolbert Design Architects.
  2. How large is the firm? Me Myself and I
  3. Where are you located? San Jose and Oakland office locations
  4. How did the firm get its start?  The economy tanked 10 years ago, I got laid off and no one was hiring.  One of my clients asked me to continue to work with him and the rest is history.
  5. What is the firm personality? Warm, personable and extremely thoughtful.
  6. What’s the firm’s focus? Because I’m blessed enough to have access to many different project types, I think the focus is simply to do great designs whatever the project type.  Mainly I do commercial (new construction and T.I.), custom homes (new construction, addition and remodels) and educational projects.
  7. How might the focus of your practice change? I was thinking of doing more educational projects
  8. What’s the most unusual project your firm has done? Either a custom tree house or indoor shooting range.
  9. When was the firm established? 2009 but officially 2010
  10. What’s your favorite local building? I like the little flat iron Haley Law Office building at San Pablo, 14th and Clay Street.  I would love to have that little building be TDA’s Oakland Headquarters.
  11. What is the makeup of your firm and do you have other disciplines? The makeup of the firm is heavily architecture designed focused but I do some CM work, landscape design, and as of late been dabbling in development
  12. How is your firm structured? Everything runs through me whether I like it or not.
  13. Do you have any office pets? No
  14. Which method of marketing has been the most successful for the firm? Word of mouth!  I don’t advertise.
  15. How would you describe your firm’s culture?  All the most attractive cultural things condensed into a handsome 6’-2” frame of awesomeness!
  16. What team-building activities happen within your firm? We all work out together and always eat together.
  17. What’s your firm’s favorite lunch spot? Belly Uptown
  18. What type of client has been the best to work with? Residential clients because people’s homes are an intimate part of their lives.
  19. How has the practice changed since the beginning? I started off as just a residential firm and then I got my first civic building.  I kept telling myself “It’s just a big house…all the same design principals [in terms of layout proximities, flow, etc.] apply.”  Once I understood that I’ve designed pretty much everything save an OSHPD project.
  20. What does the future hold for the firm? Hiring and development
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Project Profile: Siegel & Strain

Redwood Visitor Center
Redwood National & State Parks
Orick, California
Text provided by Siegel & Strain Architects

Siegel & Strain Architects is designing a new Visitor Center for Redwood National and State Parks and Save the Redwoods League in Orick, CA. The parks are a World Heritage Site featuring some of the oldest and tallest organisms in the world and the project is envisioned as a world-class visitor center welcoming the burgeoning crowds that visit the parks each year. The new visitor center will serve as the gateway to the parks, a place to learn about the redwoods, forests and streams, the wildlife and their habitats, the cultural history of the area, and the people of the redwoods. The building will house interpretive exhibits, bookstore, administrative offices, café and supporting facilities. Site amenities will include an amphitheater, trailheads, and outdoor interpretation.

Siegel & Strain Architects is leading a collaborative design team to fulfill the conservation and sustainable design goals set by Save the Redwoods League and the Parks. The visitor center complex will occupy a former lumber mill site that is currently 25-acres of abandoned asphalt. The mill site is adjacent to a larger former farm parcel that will be restored to a pre-development meadow. The overall site, totaling 125-acres, is located at the edge of ancient old-growth Coast Redwood forests near the confluence of two critical wild salmon streams, Redwood and Prairie Creeks; the restoration of Prairie Creek is a central component of the ecologically-based site design.

The building is designed for net-zero energy operations with the potential to be off-the-grid; exhibits are designed to minimize electrical usage; the spaces will be naturally ventilated; restrooms and café will be ultra-low water use and wastewater treated on-site. The design team is taking precautions to protect local avian species, particularly the Marbled Murrelet, an endangered species. Measures include a buffer zone that locates development away from nesting areas, glazing treatments to minimize bird strikes, and an enclosed picnic area to keep food scraps away from corvid species, who prey on Murrelet nests.

Formally, the two wings of the visitor center building are sited to create a gateway to the main trails, trees and interpretive elements beyond. The gable roofs of each wing slope up from the center to capture panoramic views, one of old growth redwoods and the other of the Prairie Creek restoration area. Visitors will be able to access interpretive paths and trailheads directly from the visitor center, connect to the regional bike trail, and catch the park shuttle to access other park attractions.

Ultimately, the project will transform 25-acres of asphalt into a model of ecological design and a world-class gateway to the Redwoods.

Site: 11-acres of development within 125-acres of restoration
Building: 7,800 gsf, plus covered porches

Design Team:
Architecture: Siegel & Strain Architects
Landscape Architect: John Northmore Roberts & Associates
Civil Engineering: SHN Engineers & Geologists
Structural Engineering: Mar Structural Design
MEP: Integral Group
Exhibit Design:  AldrichPears
Cost Estimating: TBD Consulting

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Detectable Warnings (Part Two): Codes

Erick Mikiten, AIA

Last month we discussed Detectable Warnings and how the code’s vague phrase “Hazardous Vehicular Area” creates uncertainty. The code defines “Vehicular Way,” but leaves architects, plan checkers and site inspectors to decide what is “hazardous.”


These little yellow bumps were developed to serve people who are blind or low-sighted. The bright color is intended to be visible to people with limited vision, and the texture is detectable by a blind person’s cane. Many people don’t realize that the code also requires the surface to have “resiliency,” which means it needs to sound different from adjoining surfaces when tapped or swept with a cane. This is tremendously subjective, and architects don’t have guidance on which products achieve this.

Unintended Consequences

Visibility and cane-detectability are great, but there are unintended consequences. If you’ve ever tried rolling over these bumps with a manual wheelchair with hard plastic front casters, you know that they come close to loosening a tooth or two. In order to make the shape of each little derby hat detectable to a cane, they are too abrupt for many wheelchairs to cross comfortably. For people with walkers and weak ankles, the uneven surface can be a problem.

And there’s more. Take a look around and you’ll see that these plastic and rubber materials don’t hold up well. Here’s one in front of a 7-Eleven in Berkeley that gets a lot of hand truck traffic:

At this point, I’d argue that the jagged and lifted broken edge is more of a hazard than a help, especially for someone who is using a mobility aid, such as a cane or a walker, AND has limited sight.

When Bumps Lose Their Meaning

People who are newly blind who are learning to navigate with a cane are told not to rely on detectable warnings since they are installed so haphazardly as to become almost meaningless. The warnings are also absent from many hazardous places, so people are taught to rely on other clues, such as building edges, traffic sounds and changes in slope.

We see strips that have lost their color, like this one in Sacramento, made by one of the biggest manufacturers of rubber tiles:

We see others arranged in a meaningless collage. Here’s a driveway at a Kaiser facility that’s blocked by bollards, yet there are detectable warnings on the sidewalk.

I’ve crossed here dozens of times. Not once has there been a vehicle entering or exiting the driveway. If there was, it would be a slow process of someone stopping, getting out, removing the bollard, pulling in, getting out, and replacing it. Is that sort of traffic “hazardous”? I think not. And during the remaining 99.9% of the time, these are communicating to a blind person that they are at the street corner. Wrong.

Meanwhile, the four corners of the intersection beyond this driveway have no less than three different detectable warning treatments!

Parking lots can get even sillier, like this newly striped lot at a lumber store:

The token 3’x4’ panel covers only half the access aisle, so even if you think the choice to put it here is right, why not have it be full width? But it’s questionable whether this placement is necessary at all. The striped path of travel leads to the left, to a much busier drive aisle where big lumber trucks and contractors drive through; hurrying to pick up their orders…but there’s no detectable warning there.

Here’s another confusing application. The designer must have owned stock in the detectable warnings company, because every possible location is covered.

One edge of the blue space is completely lined even though it’s not a crossing or adjacent to a drive aisle. Given the slipperiness of these rubber domes, this is introducing a hazard for someone getting out of a car parked on a rainy day. Remember this is the blue space, frequently used by elderly people. And finally, the detectable warnings run all the way to the storefront wall, dividing the pedestrian walkway in two. Not only unnecessary, but how confusing would that be to a person who’s blind and encounters it – coming OR going?

Changes in the Code

In recognition of the confusion, the 2010 update of the ADA removed detectable warnings from every location except at curb ramps and transit platform edges.

But in the California Building Code we still have them. For now. They must be yellow at transit boarding platform edges, bus stops, hazardous vehicular areas, reflecting pools, and rail track crossings. On streets they don’t have to be yellow if they provide 70 percent contrast with surrounding surfaces. But that’s hard to achieve between a light grey sidewalk an asphalt street.

Design Advice

Until we have a better, more durable, non-slip option, or until California follows the ADA in limiting the required use, my suggestion is to avoid splattering detectable warnings everywhere. Don’t cry “wolf!” constantly, or your message will be meaningless. A more conservative approach in placement might actually enhance safety.

When you have complex vehicular and pedestrian overlaps, try to put yourself in the shoes of someone navigating with a cane. Put detectable warnings where you would stop and check for vehicles. In the planning phase, think about your parking lots and walkways early, and try to create a logical, readable environment that minimizes conflicts between people and cars. Ironically, that might mean more curbs and less flush transitions. This might seem counter to a wheelchair rider’s desire to have a flat environment, but as long as there are sufficient curb ramps and a logical pedestrian flow, curbs in parking areas can be much more detectable by everyone. And they can also be safer than a crumbling, faded, peeling, slippery grid of yellow domes.

Kerwin’s Comments: Erick has cited some great examples of misguided designs and applications in the attempt to comply with the code. From these it is clear that the code does not provide enough guidance to the designer or the building inspectors in creating and applying the code to meet the intent. The use and placement is one of the biggest mysteries and when the code is vague and interpreted in so many different ways, we end up with elements that are questionable in providing for the disabled. Providing for the visually and hearing impaired is a very difficult task. Perhaps the future may bring new technology to help the visually impaired be more cognizant of their environment. Imagine yourself being visually impaired and trying to maneuver the world on a daily basis.

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Sean Winchester, AIA: Member Profile

Sean Winchester, AIA brings over 25 years of experience in the building industry. He started his career in construction as a carpenter, woodworker, and stair fabrication specialist. He operated Winchester Woodworks as a stair design fabricator, and Kingstud Construction, a type V framing contractor. Though still in possession of all ten fingers, Sean closed down the shops in 2002 in order to return to university to study architecture.

As an architect, Sean brings his technical knowledge and construction experience to all of his work. As a designer he brings craftsmanship and structure and intense, honest materiality characterize much of his design. As a project manager, Sean has had the privilege to lead both small teams and large, multinational teams on projects ranging from 10,000 to over 1 million square feet. The majority of this experience has been in commercial renovations, tenant improvements and corporate interiors for global technology clients. He also has experience with GSA, education, residential, civic and worship facilities.

For the last seven years, Sean practiced with Studios Architecture in San Francisco, becoming the Associate Principal. He recently joined the team at Byrens Kim Design Works in Oakland where he designs and manages educational and civic projects. He leads the firm’s practice standards and training programs, writes and maintains office graphic and BIM standards, and generally keeps the fields plowed.

Master of Architecture, 2008
Montana State University, Bozeman

Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Design, 2007 – Highest Honors
Montana State University, Bozeman

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Letter to AIA East Bay Membership

December 10, 2018

Message from the President of the Board, Mark B. Steppan, AIA, CSI, NCARB, and the Board of Directors to the full membership of the East Bay Chapter of the AIA.

We desire to provide our membership with a further update on the current chapter situation.  For those of you that might not be aware, Sidney Sweeney, our Executive Director for the last 15 years, resigned from the chapter in September. Since that time the Board has been engaged in the involved effort of learning how the chapter is run and performs, what needs to be accomplished daily/monthly in Sidney’s absence, what needs to be immediately handled, and how best to keep the remaining staff employed.

We spent the best part of a month learning more about the chapter and trying to investigate a few important issues, which will be discussed further here, while concurrently preparing a job description for the Executive Director search. An effort was also made to reach out to AIACC to solicit their assistance in determining the critical first steps to respond to this situation. A meeting was held, in person, with Nicki Dennis Stephens, EVP AIACC, and Paul Welch, past president AIACC, to discuss the situation including suggested first steps as well as discussing financial aspects/concerns of the chapter. Additional communications are ongoing and we can report that AIACC is being very helpful and is providing financial review assistance.

While our desire has always been to keep the membership informed regarding our progress, we felt that the initial time spent learning about the chapter was best spent with members of the Board taking the lead to learn what we could. Our intention has always been to provide transparency in these matters. A major component of our efforts which has hindered or slowed down our ability to be transparent, and directly involve membership, has been our need to learn about potential tax and non-profit status issues that were brought to our attention during the past year by Sidney. We were informed that there were issues regarding potentially incorrect payment of past taxes, based on misdirection from an accounting consultant, that could lead to financial penalties and difficulties maintaining our non-profit status. We tried to track down existing communications regarding these issues, so we could take them to their proper conclusion, but were unable to find such important information/background data. Progress down this road had not been made during the year, of which we were unaware, and thus we are starting at ground zero. AIACC is also helping us navigate through these issues and assisting with communications with the IRS and the Franchise Tax Board.

Due to the potentially critical nature of these two issues, we had temporarily delayed the actual ED search process. Therefore, we were not able to provide an update to the membership as we tried to determine our next steps. We have now finalized the ED job description and it is making its way to advertisement, through the additional AIACC efforts of Nicki Stephens, to appropriate organizations and groups/boards to hopefully provide responses from experienced potential candidates.

Additional staffing issues plagued us through October and November as well. In late October Angela, the part time staff person helping with administration and financial aspects of the chapter, gave two weeks’ notice. This past week we learned that Shanel Scholz, our longtime Communications and Events Coordinator has given notice. She will remain with the chapter through the end of 2018. Shanel has only just been able to physically be in the chapter office as she recovers from a broken ankle, which she suffered less than two weeks after Sidney left. These three staff situations combined within a 3-month window are making the task of keeping the chapter office running smoothly, and remaining viable and active, a challenge for all of us. With all of these situations happening simultaneously, the Board has been trying to move things forward to a reasonable point so that we can communicate with the membership about what has been occurring. However, based on feedback we are receiving, we have decided it is critical to communicate more directly and openly to our membership in an effort to keep everyone informed. We also would like to solicit suggestions and help from membership. Clearly this situation is out of the norm for any chapter and requires significant time investment for the Board as well requiring many decisions to be made.

Now the chapter needs both a new ED and a new Communications/Event Coordinator. At this time, we are also considering a part time staff person, starting immediately, to help in the transition to a more permanent situation. We feel that we can now request feedback and help from chapter membership in fulfilling current needs and assistance.

The next event on the chapters’ calendar is the Member Appreciation Party on Thursday December 13th from 6pm – 8:30pm as noted on the website. We are suggesting a modification to the usual process at the beginning of the event to hold a town hall/forum where the Board can again briefly explain the situation and where events are leading all of us. We will then open the floor up to a Q&A session for the members to ask questions and/or provide suggestions or voice concerns which we can respond to. This forum time will take up the first 30 minutes of the party. Then we can all mingle, joke, eat some tasty food and enjoy each other’s company.

We, the Board, greatly appreciate all the membership’s patience and understanding as we all navigate through these unknown waters. Please feel free to communicate with the Board or chapter in general by emailing info@aiaeb.org.


Mark B. Steppan, AIA, CSI, NCARB, President
Devi Dutta-Choudhury, AIA, President Elect
Kim-Van Truong, AIA, Secretary/Treasurer
Winston Win, AIA, Past President
Rudolph Widmann, AIA, Director
Matthew Taecker, AIA, Director
Jeremy Hoffman, Assoc. AIA, Associate Director
Daniel Morales, Assoc. AIA, Associate Director

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