14,000 forced from homes by flooding in San Jose

February 23, 2017 by  
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A series of heavy rainstorms has caused severe flooding near San Jose, California, forcing a mandatory evacuation of at least 14,000 residents overnight . About 250 of those people had to be rescued via boat by emergency crews. The flooding affected Coyote Creek and the spillway of the Anderson Reservoir, which was filled to capacity by the recent rain. An additional 22,000 have not been ordered to evacuate yet, but have been encouraged to leave their homes. Some of those affected have complained that they received no advance notice that they needed to evacuate until firefighters showed up, delivering notifications door-to-door, leaving them little time to prepare. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has pledged to investigate the issue. Floodwaters have begun to recede, however, the danger may not have passed. Further rain is forecast for this weekend, but the break in the rain should allow authorities time to assess the current damage. Water levels in Coyote Creek are already at a 100 year peak, so any additional rain could be dangerous. Related: California storms could herald the end of punishing historic drought After a lengthy drought, heavy storms have pummeled much of California this year, causing mudslides and flooding. Earlier in the month, nearly 200,000 people were evacuated near the Oroville dam due to fears it might overflow. Via NPR Images via AJ+

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14,000 forced from homes by flooding in San Jose

Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan donate $3.6 million to stem SF housing crisis

February 9, 2017 by  
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Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook , and his wife, pediatrician Priscilla Chan, are donating millions of dollars to help to help mitigate the effects of San Francisco’s so-called “housing crisis.” The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative , the limited liability vehicle the duo established in 2015 for their philanthropic endeavors, is giving $3.1 million to the Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto , a nonprofit legal-aid group that works with evicted and displaced individuals and families of limited means. Another $500,000 will benefit the University of California, Berkley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation , which works to solve housing challenges through research and policy. “In the Bay Area, few challenges are greater than the need for affordable housing,” David Plouffe, president of policy and advocacy for the initiative, said in a statement. “[The grants] will support those working to help families in immediate crisis while supporting research into new ideas to find a long-term solution—a two-step strategy that will guide much of our policy and advocacy work moving forward.” CLSPEA says it will portion some of its grant, which will be doled out over three years, to grassroots partners such as Faith in Action-Bay Area and Youth United for Community Action . The money will help the organization serve an additional 2,500 residents, according to Daniel Saver, senior staff attorney for CLSEPA’s housing program. Most of them live in in East Palo Alto, Belle Haven, and North Fair Oaks, and many either risk displacement or live in unsafe conditions. Related: Mark Zuckerberg announces he will give 99% of his Facebook shares to charity “Housing is on the tip of everyone’s tongue in the Bay Area,” Saver told the Mercury News . “The crisis affects people all across the gamut: middle class and working class, teachers, nurses, service workers … and especially people of color are being written out of our communities by rising rents and unjust evictions. It’s not just a housing crisis that we have; we have a displacement disaster on our hands. We’re bleeding people out of our communities every single day.” Carol J. Galante, faculty director at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation, said Chan and Zuckerberg’s largesse will help her group “figure out how the Bay Area can get out of the difficult situation it’s in relative to such high costs of housing.” She is, at the moment, editing a paper about off-site construction and how the construction industry “ramp that up” in a way that not only lowers costs by 20 percent but also curtails building time by 40 percent. “A portion of the apartment that you’re building is prebuilt in a factory,” she explained. “Think of it as bringing in Legos and stacking them together on top of the foundation.” Via Mercury News Photos from Facebook

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Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan donate $3.6 million to stem SF housing crisis

Wild bison return to Canada’s Banff National Park for the first time in 140 years

February 9, 2017 by  
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Wild bison are coming home to Canada’s Banff National Park for the first time in roughly 140 years. Although bison were common sights in the Canadian landscape with a population that numbered in the millions in the early 1800s, these huge and herbivorous mammals nearly disappeared by the end of the 19th century as a result of hunting. Now 16 bison are back at Banff as part of a carefully planned conservation effort to re-establish the species within the area’s ecosystem. With any luck, the herd’s numbers will be growing soon: many of the transferred bisons are pregnant.

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Wild bison return to Canada’s Banff National Park for the first time in 140 years

Solar-powered Farm From a Box is a compact farm kit that feeds 150 people

December 28, 2016 by  
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Two acres of land is enough to farm a sustainable food supply for as many as 150 people, and now a San Francisco startup is making it even easier to get that farm growing. Farm From a Box is a shipping container kit that holds all the essentials for setting up a two-acre farm (except the land, of course). Founders Brandi DeCarli and Scott Thompson got the idea after working on a youth center in Kenya where shipping containers were being used to substitute where infrastructure lacked. That project didn’t address food insecurity , though, which led DeCarli and Thompson to found their own venture specifically for that purpose. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlcijvWRJGU Farm From a Box is a kit designed to make it easier for all types of organizations to start growing sustainable food . Nonprofit humanitarian agencies, schools, community groups, and even individuals can buy a $50,000 kit, which comes with a complete water system including a solar-powered pump and drip irrigation system. Together, those features help conserve water by using it more efficiently, delivering water directly to the roots of growing plants. All of the kit’s components are solar-powered, so the kit also includes 3 kW of solar energy capacity which is enough to power the water pump as well as WiFi connectivity that makes it possible to monitor the farm conditions remotely. Because the built-in solar power technology generates more than enough energy to power the farm’s equipment, the farm is suitable to run completely off the grid. Related: Top 10 cities in the US for urban farming All the prospective farmer needs to have is viable land, of course, and seeds. Luckily, the Farm From a Box team realizes that farming is largely about skill and science, so the kit also includes three stages of training materials on sustainable farming, farm technology and maintenance, as well as the business of farming. In a recent interview with Smithsonian Magazine, DiCarli explained that the farm kit was designed to “act as a template” and that it’s possible to “plug in” components that specifically fit the farm’s local climate and the farmers’ needs. Those options include internal cold storage, to help preserve crops between harvest and consumption or sale, and a water purification system, if needed. So far, Farm From a Box has deployed one prototype at Shone Farm in Sonoma County, California. A project of Santa Rosa Junior College, the farm is part of a larger outdoor laboratory in which students learn how to cultivate crops in drought conditions, and then the harvest is used to supply the farm’s own community-supported agriculture (CSA) program as well as the college’s culinary arts program. DiCarli said the Shone Farm prototype turned out to be “more efficient than we had even planned,” with “really high” production and energy output. Farm From a Box has a number of other potential sites lined up already, in Ethiopia, Nepal, Bhutan, and Afghanistan, as well as additional test farms in California and a veteran-partnered site in Virginia. Via Smithsonian Magazine Images via Farm From a Box

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Solar-powered Farm From a Box is a compact farm kit that feeds 150 people

How to choose a living tree to replant after Christmas

December 8, 2016 by  
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It takes about 10 years for a Christmas tree to reach maturity, and it’s a shame to kill a tree just so it can prop up ornaments and lights for a couple of weeks. Even though many cities do an admirable job of recycling trees (or ‘treecycling’) after the holidays are over, it’s always a bit depressing to see hundreds of dried-up, tinsel-covered trees out on the curb in early January. So instead of heading out to a tree farm, you might consider bringing a live, potted tree into your home this winter. After the holidays are over, you can plant the tree in the ground again (or you can get someone else to plant it), so it can get back to sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere. Purchase a Tree from a Nursery Nurseries in most parts of the country sell young pines and fir trees, and the best way to find a tree is to call around to local nurseries and ask what’s in stock. Living trees are much heavier than cut trees (a typical 5-foot tree is about 150 pounds), so you’ll probably want to choose a slightly smaller tree than normal. Transporting a living tree is a bit trickier than a cut tree, because you’ll need to treat it more delicately. The Original Living Christmas Tree Company in Portland suggests standing it up in the trunk of a car, so that the crown is sticking out behind. Locate a Tree Rental Service If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of finding a home for your tree after the holidays are over, a tree rental service might be a better option. Although tree rental services have been around for a few years in several cities, they aren’t available everywhere. Currently most of the live tree rental services in the country are located in California, Oregon and Washington. The Original Living Christmas Tree Company, which has been renting potted trees since 1992, is one of the oldest rental services in the country, and it offers eight different varieties for rent. In San Diego, dancing, singing elves from the Adopt A Christmas Tree company will deliver a potted tree to your front door. In most places, potted tree rentals will run from $75 to $100, but the prices vary widely. The Adopt-a-Stream Foundation in Everett, Washington, for example, offers tree rentals for just $20. In Los Angeles, prices at the Living Christmas Co. range from $25 for a tiny 2-foot allepo pine tree to more than $250 for a stately 9-foot Turkish fir. Choose a Tree that Grows Naturally in Your Region It’s important when choosing a Christmas tree to select one that grows naturally in your region so that once it’s replanted it will survive — hopefully — for many years to come. In the Pacific Northwest, Douglas fir is a good option. If you live south of the Mason-Dixon Line, you might consider Virginia pine or Eastern red cedar. And in the Northeast, a variety of pines and firs like Balsam fir, Fraser fir and white pine grow naturally. But who says all Christmas trees need to be conifers? In San Francisco, Friends of the Urban Forest and SF Environment offer non-traditional Christmas trees, like southern magnolia and small leaf tristania, which are planted on city streets after the Holidays. How To Care for a Live Tree Live trees should be treated with a bit more tenderness than a typical cut tree, because you want to make sure that it survives when it’s replanted. But you don’t need to have a green thumb to keep it alive. Just make sure it gets enough water (but not too much), and don’t leave it indoors too long. The longer you leave a tree inside the more acclimated it will become to the warm temperature. If you keep it indoors too long, it might not be hearty enough to plant outside. It’s best to keep the room that the tree is in as cool as possible, and if possible, use small LED lights and minimal ornaments so that you don’t put too much added stress on the tree. What To Do When Christmas is Over Once Christmas is over, rental services come to retrieve their trees. Some services rent the same trees every year, so in theory, if you like the tree you had last year, you could get it again this year (though it’ll be slightly taller). Others plant them after one use. If you purchase a tree from a nursery, you’ll have to deal with it yourself. There are a few options for live tree owners: you can donate the tree to a local parks department, church or school, or you can keep it an plant it yourself. If you live in a very cold climate, you’ll probably have to keep the tree in a pot until the ground thaws a bit  — just be sure to keep it outside and properly watered! Lead image (modified) © Louisa de Miranda and Flickr user Wonderlane

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Satellites verify San Francisco’s leaning Millennium Tower is sinking

December 1, 2016 by  
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‘Leaning tower’ isn’t a moniker most people want attached to an inhabited skyscraper , but that’s what people are calling the 58-story Millennium Tower in San Francisco. And for good reason. The European Space Agency recently unveiled (ESA) satellite data which shows not only that the tower is leaning, but it’s sinking – and a lot faster than engineers previously thought. ESA’s Sentinel-1 satellites gathered the data showing the tower filled with luxury condominiums is sinking at a rate of around two inches each year. According to KTVU, that number is about twice what engineers expected. The Millennium Tower has sunk 16 inches since it opened in 2009. Related: New NASA study reveals just how fast New Orleans is sinking Why is the tower sinking? Although ESA says the exact cause is not yet known for sure, “it is believed that the movements are connected to the supporting piles not firmly resting on bedrock.” ESA scientists could see the tower’s movement through combining several radar scans from the satellites. According to ESA, “The technique works well with buildings because they better reflect the radar beam.” The scientists could map other areas in the Bay Area using the satellite data. They saw some buildings were moving along the Hayward Fault, and even noticed an uplift of land near Pleasanton. They think replenished groundwater may have resulted in the uplift. The San Francisco information will benefit researchers as they scrutinize subsidence in other cities of the world. Millennium Tower developers say it’s safe for inhabitants to stay in the leaning tower. But earlier in November, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit against developers as they did not tell buyers the tower is sinking “much faster than expected.” Via KTVU Images via Wikimedia Commons and Copernicus Sentinel data (2015-16)/ESA SEOM INSARAP study/PPO.labs/Norut/NGU

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Satellites verify San Francisco’s leaning Millennium Tower is sinking

Danish city becomes world’s first to power water treatment plant with sewage

December 1, 2016 by  
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The Danish city of Aarhus is on the cusp of becoming the first city in the world to use energy created from household wastewater and sewage to power its water treatment facilities . The Marselisborg Wastewater Treatment Plant expects to generate more than 192% of the energy it needs to run the plant, which supplies fresh water to 200,000 nearby residents. The excess electricity will be used to power water pumps to distribute the clean water and, if there is any electricity left, it will be funneled back into the utility grid. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2P4G0HP08iQ The water treatment facility’s approach to turning sewage into usable electricity centers around biogas . Wastewater and sewage are processed in digesters filled with bacteria, which breaks down the organic materials. Kept at a steady 100.4°F (38°C), the waste produces biogas (mostly methane, although some other gases are also present) that is burned to generate both electricity and heat. While this process is used at many wastewater treatment plants as a means to burn off harmful greenhouse gas emissions , none have attempted to harness that electricity for reuse on such a scale until now. Related: Copenhagen now has more bikes than cars The sewer-power upgrades at Denmark’s Marselisborg Wastewater Treatment Plant cost around $3.19 million to install. Aarhus Water officials believe the new system will pay for itself in just five years’ time thanks to reduced maintenance costs and the added benefit of selling excess electricity back to the power grid. Meanwhile, other cities in Denmark (like Copenhagen) and elsewhere in the world are looking for ways to duplicate the Aarhus system so they too can reap the benefits of recycled wastewater energy. Via New Scientist Images via Aarhus Water

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Danish city becomes world’s first to power water treatment plant with sewage

Hackers just attacked a major public transit system and demanded $70,000

November 29, 2016 by  
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On Friday, San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation System was attacked by hackers who left a message reading “You Hacked, ALL Data Encrypted” on the system’s computers throughout the city. Their demand? A payment of $70,000 from the city – or they would release the system’s data on the web. So-called “ransomware” attacks have become more and more common in recent years. Hackers will encrypt a computer’s data, demanding a payment from the user in an untraceable cryptocurrency like Bitcoin with threats to permanently erase the computer’s files if their conditions aren’t met. Antivirus and security professionals recommend taking the exact approach that Muni seems to be embracing: keep frequent backups of your system and refuse to pay. Related: Lava Mae’s big blue bus brings mobile showers to San Francisco’s homeless population As of Sunday, the system appeared to be restored and gates to Muni stations were once again operational. The agency is declining to address further questions about the hack or how its systems were restored, saying simply that the situation is subject to an ongoing investigation, but that “Neither customer privacy nor transaction information were compromised.” The incident did result in one unexpected benefit for passengers: rides on the trains were free throughout the day on Saturday. Via Mashable Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 , 3 )

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Hackers just attacked a major public transit system and demanded $70,000

MAD offers up two design proposals for Lucas Museum: one for SF, one for LA

October 28, 2016 by  
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MAD principal architect Ma Yansong worked on the two designs for the Lucas Museum at the same time and while they have some common features, the two proposals are also very different. The design for San Francisco seats the museum on Treasure Island, an artificial island in San Francisco Bay which is a former military site that now holds a host of tourist activities. The proposed design is for a fluid, tapered structure that is elevated from street level, creating a pedestrian space underneath the museum. This would integrate the museum into the waterfront without robbing the public of precious surface spaces. In protecting the public space, MAD’s museum design meshes with architecture firm SOM ’s master plan for Treasure Island. Related: MAD Architects announce a design overhaul for controversial George Lucas Museum in Chicago The second design is for Exposition Park in Los Angeles, where the Lucas Museum would neighbor the Natural History Museum and Coliseum. The LA version of the proposed museum protects public spaces in much the same way the San Francisco design seeks to do, but also creates additional public space in the form of rooftop terraces featuring living trees and other plants. The museum would sit on a sprawling green lawn, where visitors could enjoy nature or host a picnic in conjunction with their art appreciation. An underground parking garage with space for around 1,800 vehicles is also incorporated into the LA design. Each design proposal offers around 100,000 square feet of gallery space, which is a third of the size of the since-abandoned Chicago proposal after it was scaled down  to 300,000 square feet. Reportedly, Lucas will decide on the proposed museum’s location within the next four months, but there’s no word on whether he’ll accept the design created for that city. It’s entirely possible we will see another round of design revisions in the early part of 2017, much like the Chicago project endured several updates. In the meantime, art lovers can take a sneak peek at the Lucas Museum’s collection, thanks to this special feature compiled by the San Francisco Chronicle. + Lucas Museum of Narrative Art + MAD Architects Via Dezeen Images via MAD Architects

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MAD offers up two design proposals for Lucas Museum: one for SF, one for LA

San Francisco may be first US city to pass legislation for green roofs on new buildings

September 19, 2016 by  
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30 percent of all the land area in San Francisco is comprised of rooftops, but most are underutilized, according to the San Francisco Planning Department . City supervisor Scott Weiner is offering a solution that builds on the measure passed earlier this year to require rooftop solar . If new legislation introduced September 6 is approved, San Francisco would be the first city ” to pass requirements for green roofs .” The San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously approved the legislation Weiner introduced. The existing solar mandate requires 15 percent of rooftops on buildings with 10 stories or less to include solar panels. The new legislation would go a step further: 30 percent of new roofs could be turned into green roofs or a blend of green roof and solar panels. Owners could include two square feet of living roofs or a blend of living roofs and solar as opposed to one square foot of rooftop solar panels. According to Green Roofs for Healthy Cities , their 11th Annual CitiesAlive Conference, hosted in San Francisco in 2013, helped inspire the legislation. Related: Santa Monica to require rooftop solar panels on all new buildings In a statement, Weiner said, ” Climate change and our continuing drought demand that we take aggressive action to improve our city’s sustainability…Rooftops are one of the last untapped environmental resources in our growing city, and we need to be strategic about how we activate these spaces. Our solar requirement was a great step, and by adding green roofs to the mix, we will make our buildings greener, our air cleaner, and our city healthier.” The next step is a vote from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors set to occur later in 2016. If they pass the ordinance, new buildings could start adhering to the new legislation January 1, 2017. The 14th Annual CitiesAlive Conference will take place in November in Washington, D.C. + Green Roofs for Healthy Cities Images via Peter M. on Flickr and San Francisco Planning Facebook

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