Architect as the public face for greed.


So I have been having a rough morning.  

We are the architects and I am the public contact on a project that is a dense multifamily project in a urban village that is transitioning from primarily SF to multifamily.  The project is not required to provide parking, and understandably the developer does not want to pay for parking he is not required to provide when that same area can generate more rental revenue. The project is also as dense as can be, utilizing as many of the smallest units we can legally make. Maxing out every opportunity. 

Our city has drastically reduced parking requirements to help ease congestion, spur environmental change, and increase housing availability which are major problems, but not ones that register with the NIMBY neighbors. To them the development is a land grab for their street parking. Residents of the neighborhood are really upset about that.  

I get calls every other day about how I'm "ruining the neighborhood", "Not considering the context because there is already no street parking", "Greedy", "an Asshole". Some calls are really sad... "Your ruining my block". "I'm going to have to move out of the home if I can't park near by" 

The developer has been careful to shield themselves behind an LLC for the specific property. I have been specifically asked not to give any of their contact information away, because they don't want the bad PR. But I shield myself this way because there are community outreach requirements. I can't keep having these conversations with neighbors, It's killing me. I can't help but feel like my name is being dragged through the mud for this developer to realize extra cash. I feel for the people in the neighborhood. I don't think I can be part of this densification and gentrification much longer, even if it pays, is providing housing solutions and pushing us towards more environmentally friendly urban environment. 

Any advice?

Dec 5, 19 1:10 pm

Here's one way to look at it - if you weren't doing it, the developer would hire someone that might not even having a tinge of these emotions that you're feeling. Things are going to get built no matter what we do, but if it's going to get done, who better than you in your own neighborhood? At least you give a shit and can recognize that there is in fact an issue and can eventually influence the decisions being made on this project or future projects.

Dec 5, 19 1:33 pm
Non Sequitur

The public is the face of greed and they ruin everything.  Imagine how easier and better all our projects would be if we did not have to deal with these mouth breathers?  

Dec 5, 19 1:51 pm

I don't think this is at all what JonathanLivingston was saying...

Non Sequitur

Probably not, but what gives anyone the right to demand a different outcome to a project outside the boundaries of their own private property? If it abides by legal and zoning regulations, then what's the issue?

Side note, we have projects in, let's say... well-off & sensitive residential zones, and people will threaten lawsuits if we start removing trees or doing anything (on our client's property) that they feel is detrimental to them.  

Non Sequitur

sorta kinda trying to play devil's advocate here, but I'm feeling I'm failing at this. Chalk it up to being up t'il 4:30am with a toddler in emergency and then heading out to a 5 project meeting.


I can honestly see both sides. But it is frustrating that the process requires an architect to be in the middle as parties from both sides project their frustrations at us. It feels like losing situation all around.


Non, you filling in for me or something?


N.S., they can sue IF what you do is changing the value of their property. Courts mainly have looked at cases where the changes results in a loss factor. It is why it is a public act. If what happens is causing a calculated loss like reduction of property value then yeah. When it is increasing land value, it isn't so clear and there has to be an argument of a hurt or damage financially. Gentrification can be case examples if the owners are on limited fixed income and they be displaced because of gentrification so any development can be a proverbial "caught between a rock and a hard place" inside towns. When there is distance between people, it usually less problematic because the effect of development maybe small and the adjacent neighbors maybe a mile or more away. Unless you do something really crazy in scale it probably not a big issue. Inside towns lot sizes are typically small in residential areas from 30 ft wide to around 75 ft. wide and lot depths being anywhere from 75 ft. to 150 ft. being typical. It is not unusual tom see people make complaints and that is usually because they weren't consulted from the beginning. People assume they own and have a right to approve and disapprove development with some kind of authority. Not really. They can sue and complain but they legally have to have standing as past court cases have established this precedent. They have to successfully argue damages and in effect, the developer could have a right to counter suit for damages because of them court cases so the cost of lawyers and court fees and so forth.


It's not an outright right for the neighbors to have authority to approve or disapprove. They can have their own opinion. That's all. If they are damaged in some way and not merely hypothetical nonsense and hysteria, then they may have a claim.

The best an architect can do is due diligence considerations of complaints and do as best as possible to not cause legitimate harm to neighbors. This does not mean to bend over to their demands. I'm for the balance of property owner rights (including the developer) but also recognize the public effect and duty to not harm so it is a balancing act of diametric interests.

Developers are the warlords of real estate. If you want to play in that arena you are going to suffer the consequences. There is no escape.

Dec 5, 19 1:56 pm

Agreed, I think I maybe I don't not have the stomach for this market.


Tough situation.  I’ve been there a few times.  Normally though, its NIMBY’s and I can brush it off since the design is solid and something I believe in.  One though, was an opportunist developer like that to maximize his profits.  So, knowing where his heart is, start talking.  Points would be no parking = less rental income and valuation.  Pissed off neighborhood = less rental because tenants want to belong, not be hated for something they didn’t do.  Pissed off neighborhood = lower quality, vandalism, etc. as contractors are harassed and after the fact maintenance.  Just tell them you are struggling and don’t want your name and their own to dragged through the mud or this to be a unsuccessful project.  Both of you want to develop other properties. 

If you can’t get through to them this way… You’ll have to decide your next steps.  Terminate the contract, hire a PR firm, hire a Land Planning firm to get through the process, etc. to distance yourself.  The developer probably also has this type of company onboard already; presales are normal… they’ll be concerned if its going to affect rents or sales and are sales people who will be better than you at convincing folks this is a cool building and benefit the neighborhood through property values, etc. They might even be able to sell that the target market would be into biking to work, ride sharing, etc. that don't normally have cars.

Good luck!

Dec 5, 19 2:15 pm
liberty bell

I’m sorry you’re faced with this dilemma, it is impossible to make everyone happy and I imagine it is very stressful feeling like a target for trying to do your work. 

However: the phrase “a land grab for their street parking” is bullshit. We all own the street. I can park my car in front of their house every damn day and there is nothing they can do about it. We - the whole city - provide free storage for everyone’s cars on land that we all own; no one has anymore of a right to use that land than anyone else.

Dec 5, 19 9:12 pm

True, and whether that's a good or bad thing is long past time for debate, but when there's a finite number of spaces, we live in cities which for good or bad require car ownership to a certain degree (again, debatable), and the city approves housing units at a much greater quantity than available street parking? They either need to FIRST invest in competent, affordable, and timely public transit or require off street parking. Otherwise you're playing musical chairs with people's anger.


Exactly. They may need to invest in a parking structure or public parking lots. How many city owned lands that is undeveloped or essentially abandoned and not in use can't be developed into little parking lots? Even abandoned and unused park that is no longer safe to use the equipment and the city has better parks nearby so those can potentially be converted into public off-street parking spots. Sometimes, it can be done in a decent manner. There maybe unused undeveloped lots in city ownership that could be used or partly used for such parking to make parking availability as needed.


I'd much prefer better public (PUBLIC, not PRIVATE or SHARED) transportation. This would solve many problems, but is frequently blocked by voters with deep pockets.


I agree with you. I mean public transit is a good thing when you have a good system available EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR. Personally, I love to see good public transit options starting at 4:30 AM to Portland (second one at 8AM or 9AM) so one could get to work in Portland if they had to. Getting home isn't too bad. You kind of have to get up early for the route to work effectively. PDX to Astoria being 6:15 PM and 7:30PM. In town, I love to see better transit available from 6AM to 10PM. In addition, people using bicycles or walking more than cars if they only need to go in town *other than shopping*. I usually walk to sites in town vs. a bike but some spots to lock up bikes throughout the town would be nice. Especially along the shallow slope areas.


Yes, I know driving straight to PDX and back takes less time than a bus would but that's ok.


I agree with Donna. I dont understand how this is a reflection of greed on the developers end and not the boomer home owners. Theres a housing crisis and climate crisis. The city has taken steps to alleviate both issues and the ease of their parking and continuing a fat american lifestyle is not higher on the city's priorities. They can go out and vote but this is not your fault. The developer probably purchased or gained investors with the price built into the land on maximizing units. Additionally, the investors could quite literally be holders of capital directly tied to those same home owners 401k. Alot of the developers we work with get funding direct from pensions and mutual funds looking for those extra returns.

Dec 5, 19 9:25 pm

Don't let the nimbys get in your head! 

Density is good (for the environment, walkability, sociability, community, housing access and prices). That the developer is going to make more money doing more sense development is a good thing - it means the market economy is more aligned with the afformentioned issues. 

If the asshole neighbors really wanted to make their neighborhood better they'd give up their cars or maybe clean out their garages and park them there.

Dec 5, 19 10:17 pm

As long as inconsiderate assholes don't park in front of the driveways. Some people are inconsiderate and will park there and if someone had to get out of their garage they would have to drive right through their vehicle or spend hours to get a tow company to tow the car while getting late to work. If it was me, I would bring out the crane to relocate the car somewhere out of sight and out of mind. So DON'T BLOCK MY DRIVEWAY (unless you have my permission). Your car WILL be relocated.


You are assuming garages. Tons of neighborhoods from the turn of the century do not have garages or off-street parking. Additionally, at least around here, a lot of one car garages in the older housing. And well there is also all the other multifamily infill projects like this where little to no parking was required. We don't know the situation, but I do know that until I moved into the burbs, everyone relied on street parking when I lived downtown.


That's true. We have a bit of that here in Astoria, Oregon as well. While you might not have a garage but it isn't unusual for a drive path for where a car would park on site to the street. In towns that old, it wouldn't be unusual for carriage houses or some spot the carriage is parked or some kind of development from the 1900-1950 era for parking cars from back in that area. So you might not have an enclosed structure to park the car but you have a spot to park the car. Yes, there is just some cases where there isn't any.

I do agree that we have to look at the particular case of the NIMBYs. I would hear them out and understand their concerns. Architecture is a 'public act' not a private one. Especially inside towns and cities where what you do will and do effect other people in a variety of ways. 


When building a new apartment complex of 10+ units. It should have off-street parking regardless of zoning alleviation but should be for programmatic reasons especially when building codes would or may require ADA compliant parking spaces. Generally, on-street parking is rarely considered ADA compliant. Especially if you are going to have ADA / accessible apartment units and an accessible means of egress. I understand that parking can be a complicated issue. It is at my dismay, here, that people who go to work in town and live in town drives instead of using a bicycle of walking. It isn't that big that you have to drive unless you are elderly but that would be an exception and there is public transit.


The developer knew this project would be extremely unpopular with the neighbors so he laying low.  He is a pussy, but you were probably foolish to allow yourself to take all the inevitable incoming fire.  I hope you are billing him for the extra time and stress.  Somehow I doubt it.  Is there a way for the neighbors to use public records to find out who the LLC is comprised of?  Maybe "accidentally" drop a hint to one of them and then let the client participate in some of the fun.  Heh, heh, heh.

Dec 6, 19 7:16 am

Reducing parking requirements does not ease congestion. Reducing the number of cars does.

Increasing housing availability is bullshit: even markets with the least vacancies still have more vacant units than homeless. The housing is there, it’s just reserved for maximum profit.

Fuck the neighbors, fuck the neighborhood, maximum profit is the only thing that matters. 

Dec 6, 19 7:59 am

This is related to the proposal for homeowners to convert their garages to apartments and to build small cabins in their backyards and rent out both. No thought at all to the massive parking problem that would generate. From one family house with a typical two-car garage and no cars parked on the street per house, to up to six cars for the three families now housed on one lot and all of the cars parked on the street. Brilliant!

Dec 6, 19 8:32 am
liberty bell

Volunteer: we literally cannot continue to inhabit the planet the way we have been if we want to continue to inhabit it at all. What matters more to you, seriously: that my and your great-grandchildren have the possibility to exist, or that you can park no more than 30’ from your front door?


Who cares if you park more than 30-ft. from your front door. However, parking spaces in most places in front of residences on the side of the street of said residences, respectively, are generally reserved for priority use belonging to the residents of those respective residences. MFRs in general by building codes are suppose to have parking and it is a use that is and should be required to have some off-street parking especially for new construction. Existing ones are more or less grandfathered in but adding units on the lot should be triggers for off-street parking for additional units. Now, I do think making available better public transit and possible bicycle racks at sidewalks or even on sites like apartments and other places where there is space to do such adequately such as wide enough sidewalks areas where it could be done without encumbrance of pedestrian traffic.


Yea, people are entitled jerks, mostly. The real knives come out when, God Forbid, an affordable housing project gets the greenlight. All manner of trolls and ghouls come out to play. Lawsuit threats, constant DOB inspector calls, lies, deception, etc. Sometimes I wish my office would produce giant "AS OF RIGHT" signs and tell people to bugger off.

Not to mention the pearl-clutching from "well-meaning" folks that desperately want a solution to the local housing crisis, but desperately don't want poor, black, brown, or latino people to move in. I never quite understand when someone decries the lack of housing, but balks at building housing. Perhaps building super-lux is a grotesque response, but affordable and market-rate units should be fast-tracked all across the country.

Dec 6, 19 11:55 am

It would be amazing if we could start building "affordable and market-rate" as if it was the highest and best use instead of making it a trade-off so that wealthy condos can build higher into the sky. Also if architects who shit out the high rise luxury towers would spend actual quality time making the units good instead of a begrudging afterthought.


^ Agreed.


The same fucking nimbys probably vote down every attempt at increasing transit to the neighborhood because they don't want the fucking poors to be able to get up there.

Dec 6, 19 12:14 pm

Someone could anonymously leak the developer's ID and contact info to your city's Curbed website.  Oops!  This would solve no problem other than sharing some of the heat.

Dec 6, 19 1:12 pm

I work 95% of the time for developers, and that's a cake walk compared to the residential drug rehab facility I'm currently doing (the former recreational-zoned, river-front land for which was transferred from the city to the province for $1). 

I've literally had people walk up to me and say "Not in my backyard!" as if I had anything to do with the decision on location.

For that project alone, we've had about 5 public open houses where fist fights have nearly broken out; where dozens of people showed up with matching t-shirts emblazoned with protest slogans; where the public has accused the (non profit) owner of circumventing the regular zoning process, resulting in a legal investigation at the City level. 

All because a family, who lost a son to a drug overdose, want to help others with no public funding, as a non profit. 

So yeah. The public can be much, much worse than developers. I live that every day and although I'm cut out for it, it would be very difficult on most people if they ever caught a glimpse of what people are truly like when they feel threatened. Thank goodness there's still a lot of good in the world.

Dec 6, 19 1:48 pm

being the spokesperson for a project is one of the main roles for an architect. for clients getting someone who can eloquently speak for the design and represent it as a positive for the community is at least as important as the art-value quality of the design itself, and usually more important.

it's something that isn't well studied in school or professional development, and perhaps sounds distasteful to many design purists,  but it's absolutely a factor why some name-brand architects are so successful. it's why doing projects you believe in is so important. you need to be able to argue with people and persuade them that this project is good and worthwhile even if they don't love it.

Dec 6, 19 9:46 pm

also at night go and key all the cars parked along that street. you'll feel so much better taking sides when you can view them with a bit of contempt.


Any architect who is so eloquent that he can persuade neighbors that having a halfway house next door will be desirable is wasting his talent. Lots more money to be made on Wall Street.

Or politics, first choice for con men.


To preserve the neighboorhood you would need to provide the modest income people with the same standard of housing that exists in the neighborhood before the subsidized housing is built. Offer them a 100 year no down payment mortgage if that what it takes. You would also need to screen out the drug users, criminals, and the uncontrollably mentally ill from the people to be offered housing. The OP seems to be describing a plan guaranteed to turn the neighborhood into a slum in very quick order. A lot of people who started from very modest circumstances have reached the point where they have nice homes in nice neighborhoods and a significant part of their net worth is tied up in their homes. To expect them to embrace this month's trendy scheme from a loon planner and scamming contractor is asking too much. 

Dec 7, 19 7:57 am

Criminal based on laws that are just or criminal based on laws that are intentionally created and written to incarcerate undesireables?


Different worlds. In Denver and Dallas, these aren't typically slums. They are trendy neighborhoods with destinations; think old neighborhood where the local strip that the butcher, baker, and diner once were replaced with yoga studio, trendy restaurants and art galleries. Lovely victorian or bungalow houses in the $800k range. Stripped down because on the same lot, you can squeeze in 6-8 upscale apartments in this ultra modern fiber-cement and metal panel 3-story with rooftop garden boxes. So, mid block.. one of these crops up. Because they can put it on the same lot, parking isn't required because that original lot didn't have it; a 1890 house wouldn't typically have a garage or curb cut, nor would a '20 bungalow. Larger developments have to go through a zoning process to combine lots; so they have to provide off-street and dumpsters. These smaller ones don't.

++ this
“Not to mention the pearl-clutching from "well-meaning" folks that desperately want a solution to the local housing crisis, but desperately don't want poor, black, brown, or latino people to move in. I never quite understand when someone decries the lack of housing, but balks at building housing.”
Dec 8, 19 6:28 pm

I like the statement too, but to be fair ... I don't think many of those people clutching their pearls think there is a local housing crisis (after all, they could easily produce the financing to buy a house if they wanted to ... probably without having to sell the pearls). 

Instead they think there is a local homelessness crisis caused by drugs, mental illness, and lack of people pulling on their boot straps. It's a nuance that allows them to think that the solution isn't more homes, but rather policing, medication, incarceration, and rhetoric to get people to pull on said boot straps. 

Of course, this doesn't even scratch the surface of the racism involved in all of this which is probably really the issue, but they'll keep throwing up alternatives to distract you from that. Zoning and racism used to be enough to keep the poor, black, brown, and Latino people from moving in. Now they have to get a little more creative.


It's the "Other". Everyone always overestimates their own ability, worth, and contribution to society. These people have theirs (and they went through sooo much trouble to get there) and so to willingly surrender resources (both real and intangible) to people beneath them is akin to class betrayal. How to break that cycle is one of the hardest societal nuts to crack.


It isn't necessarily "racism" (although it is in some cases) as much as it is an issue of ignorance and perception. Racism is when a person HATES another person because of their race/ethnicity. However, there is racial/ethnic ignorance that is pervasive and it is the fear of change (the unknown) of their "world" more than anything. The homelessness problem is complicated when you dive in but there is a core contingent population within the homeless population that is chronic or perpetual because of a variety of issues while substance abuse is a contributing factor, possible metal illness or psychological problems that have not been addressed but a percentage of the people are literally in their situation because they were making a chain of bad decisions and are literally seen in vernacular as "shit heads" or "losers" and there is lack of sympathy. The sad part of this is the perception of one or a few bad apples that people perceive the whole lot of homeless people through that same lens of perception. In some cases, people are evaluated by how they present themselves. If you dress like Snoop Dog or other ghetto gang style rap artists, people will often associate people with that perception of ghetto street gangs that is culturally non-compatible with the values of the people of the community already established. This almost always results in rejection. In my opinion, it is the perception that underlies this issue.


Bill Burr said it best - most human misery doesn't compute. One's paycheck, bills, safety computes. Other people's problems or long term societal issues are too abstract to place before the concerns of families and loved ones.


Let's not trivialize racism by mandating that it must always be from hatred. Racism is literally defined by prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism based on race. Sure, "hate" can get you there, but much of racism is precisely the sort of "racial/ethnic ignorance" or "perception" that you state is NOT racism. I also love how you nonchalantly mention Snoop Dogg and "ghetto gang style rap artists" right after you bring in the concept of "a few bad apples". Stormfront and /TheDonald are waiting for you!


I find that my clothes always dictate my actions. My brain doesn't enter into it. /s


racism is a defined word with a defined meaning in the English language. While it may stem from prejudice and discrimination, racist and racism is overly used and abused by people who uses the word to refer to ALL prejudice as "racist" so lets not assume that someone merely ignorant of race and ignorance and certain cultural ignorance and societal perception to rise to actually being racist. Just because someone wheres baggy pants and dresses like those rap artists are engaged in street gang activities and other destructive ends. Not necessarily. People may have distrust as face value level perception because of association of the way one presents oneself by clothing style to mean that everyone that dresses that way are street gangs which do have a history of destruction of properties, murder, and so forth. Why do a person perceive black people or brown people the way they do? Is it for a genuine hatred or is it because they have a value or perception that was imposed upon them by parents and others while growing up. One maybe actual racism while the other is racial ignorance or prejudice. A person maybe racially prejudice but that alone isn't necessarily make a person racist. Racist requires an actual hatred. However, this does not mean that prejudice should be tolerated but words should be properly used not abused. The bad apples I am talking about are not Snoop Dogg but street gangs like the Crips, Bloods, and pretty much any of the street gangs and any other extreme examples of bad people doing bad things. While Snoop Dogg turned his life around, he was once on the wrong side of the law. However, the street gangs will quite often dress in the attire used by Snoop Dogg, Coolio, and others when they conduct their unlawful activities. When you see the way they are dressed and the unlawful activities they do, they present a pattern of attire, appearance, and unlawful activities that people see that and make these associations. So when a hispanic or black person in the U.S. dresses with such attire, they are immediately associated with the "gangs" and their unlawful activities. Is it racism? No. Is it prejudice? Yes. Reason is such very individuals like people like Morgan Freeman. So it is perception and how one presents themselves more than hatred of their ethnicity. This is why things can be a bit more complicated.

Any bets on whether Ricky looked up the "defined word with a defined meaning in the English language," before writing all that? Rick reread threeohdoor's comment.


"A person maybe racially prejudice but that alone isn't necessarily make a person racist." - Rick

Squares and rectangles - that's really your argument? I rest my case. Who posted that "Secret to Happiness is not to argue with fools" meme a while ago? I'll repost here.

Image result for i don't argue with fools

threeohdoor, I'm not trying to stir this up, but I take exception with the "squares and rectangles" classification. I think it leaves too much open for someone to say that because something isn't intentional, it's ok. 

So I'd say it isn't squares and rectangles, but rather squares with a bold line and squares with a light line. Hate-based racism is one type of intentional racism. It's terrible, wrong, and when people are acting this way, they know they're being racist. 

The type of racism that happens because of ignorance or subconscious prejudices (which Rick is trying to say isn't racism ... a rectangle if you will) is still racism ... call it unintentional racism. Just because it might be unintended doesn't mean it isn't racism. It is still terrible and wrong, it's just a little harder to recognize because people aren't always aware of it.

Obviously I scroll past Rick. But from this,

“It's the "Other". Everyone always overestimates their own ability, worth, and contribution to society. These people have theirs (and they went through sooo much trouble to get there) and so to willingly surrender resources (both real and intangible) to people beneath them is akin to class betrayal. How to break that cycle is one of the hardest societal nuts to crack.”

Yeah. A lot of nimbyism isn’t even necessarily pearl clutching and racism (though plenty is) so much as the over inflated perception of one’s self having ‘worked so hard’ and everyone who has not is ‘lazy’ whilst ignoring whatever systemic issues allowed said ‘have’ to have in the first place vs the conditions of the have not.

I saw a great post recently that was something along the lines of ‘every 30 under 30 list needs to also include the entrants’ parents’ occupations and salaries’.

The further up in the socioeconomic latter people are the more isolated and distanced they become from having any grasp of how difficult it actually is to operate within much less climb the rings out of the bottom quintile of poverty. Racism is a huge factor in that but far from the only issue at play. Poverty is generational, inherited, and directly tied to health/lack of health care. Housing is healthcare in so many ways.

To OP, it sucks you’re getting those calls, and have to deflect so much ignorance and frustration whilst being a relatively small player in the grander scheme of this project. If you really believe in this work and want to continue in this sector, would it make sense to draft up a schpiel prepared for these calls? Turn it into a challenge like the don’t argue with fools meme? Find some way to deflect and diffuse the onslaught? Surely there are only so many individuals on this block who are personally invested enough to continue harassing you. I’d imagine some may be repeat callers at this point. Do you care enough about the work to find a way to politely shut down their complaints? And will the work lead to enough revenue, eventually, for you to hire staff to answer the phone for you, whom may be more emotionally able to handle these folks?
Dec 10, 19 10:32 am

Some good thoughts here. I’ll add an observation: people are motivated in part by the glaring failure of government at all levels. The local ZBA is affectionately known as “the candy store” for doling out variances to developers while raking homeowners over the coals.


Thanks Archinie


I guess the residents of many different nationalities housed at Robin Hood Gardens in the U/K were all racists because they overwhelmingly hated the damn thing. When the OP tries to cram families into his micr-shoebox of an apartment 'project' and the residents start to loathe where they live then they will (presto) become racists also. 

Dec 10, 19 10:37 am

These fantasy narratives you wingers make in your heads are illuminating. Utter bullshit, to be sure, but fascinating.

LOL Sneaky I like the elegant efficiency of "wingers".


Thanks all,  Some great cathartic advice.  Except for that racist bit that's a tangent.  I think the real problem here is that I don't have the energy to defend this developer. Every conversation we have is about squeezing more in.  Returning more value.  Very little care about the design, about the amenities or about the quality of the project. "Use cheaper materials", "make sure units are not more than 1sf over the min required". "Why have a lobby when you could squeeze in one more unit?" Literally anything more then required by code is doing too much and not maximizing the profit.  "For that matter we should try and squeeze things down even further you can ask for departures from the code and AMMs right? Why aren't you doing that? The trash room is way to big we could rent some of that space. Take 50sf from there, eliminate the lobby and you can add two whole units. See how easy this is? The only amenity should be a roof deck because we don't want to give up FAR for that kinda amenity thing, It doesn't "pencil".  It's a short term hold at best.  Not even sure he will construct the thing just wants the entitlements so he can turn and make a profit as soon as possible. So no matter how I feel about issues of density, environmental impact from cars and urban design or the housing crisis. It feels disingenuous to turn around and defend this. I'm stuck in a position trying to use all of the well meaning thoughts outlined above to justify this project. I don't have the option to drop the client he is a long time client of the firm.  I have to walk away from my job if I want to do that. and I'm about to. I could be doing so much more with my life then being a shill for developers. There are good ones out there. But not this one. So when someone calls complaining about parking, I don't agree for many reasons, but I don't have the ability to mount a defense anymore. I can't be the public face for this greed. People on both sides suck and I feel stuck in the middle. 

Dec 10, 19 12:18 pm

Returning more profit.

There, fixed it for you. Anything done solely for money is guaranteed to be shit.


Good point miles.


what is your ownership of this project? if you aren't a partner in the office you shouldn't be the public contact. if you are, you should consider seriously whether taking clients like this suits you or the firm. there is a clear mismatch between this client and your vision of architectural services. neither of you is wrong, just not pursuing the same goals it seems.


no one should be working for clients whose goals they don't basically support. it's not fair for you or the client, and ultimately hurts the firm to put it on people who didn't sign up for this kind of work. sorry for you if this was just pushed on you without an agreed understanding what was involved.


Thanks, I agree and am working towards finding a solution that acknowledges that.


I had a client early in my career give me some great business advice.  He was the owner of a packaging company and he said he meets lots of potential clients that are going to pay someone to package a product and he said why shouldn't it be him, cause someone is going to get paid to do the work regardless.  So it was his mantra to take that client's money and do a good job or at least a better job than his competitors. 

I look at Architecture the same way. The developers are going to pay someone and so it might as well be me and I can try and do the best job possible....have to look at it as a war,  you might not win every battle but you have to be happy that you won the war and did something better than what they would have gotten from some other architect. PS not every project is big A architecture, so sometimes you have to find more modest benchmarks of success.

Dec 10, 19 1:43 pm

That is good advice, and I have told myself that for a while but I'm fast approaching the let someone else do it, my time is not worth this headache state. If I see a half used needle on the ground I don't think "well someones going to do it, might as well be me" . I could be doing better things or enjoying my life more.


Get the client to hire a PR firm to run offense. If it's a big project they should recognize that a positive public face on the project is very very beneficial. It's a minimal expense to them in the overall cost ( vs. wasting money on a project that doesn't get approved ). The other issue is that taking the abuse is way above your pay grade anyhow, so just refer them to you project representative, see how much they enjoy that role.


No go. Short term hold, if that. Hiring a PR takes away from profit. Bad PR will lead to someone else's problem. Your right about above my pay grade. I need to be paid more for this to be worth it.


maybe you can point to this PR (or defending) stuff as outside your scope? just have the receptionist direct any calls to the developer (or LLC, if that's all you can do)? just defend in the context of jurisdictional review and no more & be sure to bill the extra time as an additional service so that the developer understands the extra work in the manner that means something to him(her)


Understood, we have used PR firms to be proactive in the media or even better when the developers actually have in house people who specialize in media relations. Loosing out on a project because you can't manage the process ( Approving authorities, media, consultants, public opinions ) is weak and really part of the comprehensive process these days.... and by the way if you get good at dealing with those situations people will pay you a lot of money for that service. Architects who provide Project Management Services can be paid handsomely for those efforts, kind of falls out side the normal role but key to getting projects processed approved, executed and built. Speed of delivery is money in the bank.... so not a topic of discussion in Architecture school but so critical to

"cause someone is going to get paid to do the work regardless"

said the pimp to the prostitute. That's a slippery slope. And pretty much how all bad things get done. See midlander's last comment above.


Agreed, it goes without saying ( or at least it should ) that if you aren't fundamentally in line with your clients goals and objectives then walk away. But I would say the majority of clients are generally un- informed about design and how creative solutions can lead to resolutions that both meet the client's goals but also offer a better than average solution and even one that contributes to the community and a heighten quality experience of space


My point being that most client's targets are generally aimed quite low on an architectural / landscape / urban design perspective and taking on those projects provides an opportunity to the designer to propose a solution that fundamentally works and is profitable.... even more so that what the client's proforma would suggest. I can personally think of at least 6-8 projects where we have strategically targeted this approach with success, gaining new respect and repeat clients.

One of the most important aspects of the job is educating clients. With some that is simply not possible.


I understand the objective of educating the client. That is typically my strategy. But I think this is one of those cases where I have not been successful or could. particularly because most of the arguments for better design do not carry weight for a project that is short term hold, maybe just entitlements and then to be sold. The only thing that matters from a clients perspective is how the potential project looks on a real estate cut sheet, which leaves very few arguments. While at the same time having to pivot to defending the project. It feel disingenuous.


It really doesn't say a whole lot about your firm if they endorse this crap project. 

Dec 11, 19 8:30 am

Yeah! Screw everyone else not born before 1970! Sprawled garden city concepts for the boomers and tent cities for everyone late to the party.




I hate how the younger generations always blame the older ones. Greed doesn’t discriminate and NIMBY’s aren’t always old white guys trying to keep “them” out. We’re more sinister than that… give us credit. We have friends on City Council and the Planning Commission and influenced the master plan designating “urban blight” (neighborhoods that don’t fit our vision) areas for growth. So, when the development comes because that where we decided we wanted it (far from our homes and offices unless its something cool), the whiny NIMBY’s calling the architect are the poor folks who are suddenly faced with imminent construction. I’ve preplanned millennial Chad’s and Trixies moving into these areas to homogenize it with coffee houses and micro-breweries while pushing out those minority cultures to ‘somewhere else’ or force them to assimilate. We, the rich old white guys, aren’t calling after the fact to whine; we’re proactive nimby’s. You young pups find that City Council stuff interferes with your bocci ball tournament and didn’t bother to show up to oppose us. Plus you like bocci ball, bike servicing stations, and dog wash amenities right? Back in my day… we had clubhouses, but you all want it in your buildings… so fine, whatever :P


... What


/sarcasm; in response to the pre-‘70’s barb which I assumed was directed at the usual villain “old white guy” which is somewhat true. What group comes to mind who might want to “make it great” and has a lot of spare time where they would volunteer for a government committee to revamp the masterplan and zoning? In case you haven’t made the leap…. You can’t build an apartment building without the supporting zoning. So; they’ll use their own bias and perspective to pick the area. It isn’t going to be their cul-de-sac. They will look at a map and draw lines around some catchy name like “Sobo Special District” in what’s normally a lower income heavy home rental area. Whatever bias they have reflects in those districts they choose because in their mind; that is the shitty part or underdeveloped part of town. They’ll glaze right past the old country club estate properties surrounding the par 3 golf course where a single family house might eat up 1 acre lots. Those are the ‘nice’ neighborhoods.

Bravo, mightyaa. As usual.


Vienna, Austria, social housing. Slight difference from Pruitt-Igoe and Robin Hood Gardens. Just an observation. 

Dec 11, 19 9:26 am
OP are you in a position to drop the client or is this more of a situation of you working at a firm and potentially having to leave the firm? Your first post sounds like it’s your choice but later down sounds more like you’re a PM at a bigger firm. Does dropping the client mean you leaving the firm? Is it possible to voice your concerns with the leadership at your firm and pass this to someone else?
Dec 11, 19 9:37 am

Yes I am a PA and this project was assigned to me. My concerns seem to fall on deaf ears. I need to voice them louder, however this type of client is not unprecedented at this firm. I am discovering more and more that our values are not aligned.

The more you share about your situation, the more I think you might be right. It sucks that you're having to deal with this and not getting the support you're looking for. It might be time to have a difficult discussion with firm leadership and/or see what else is out there. Good luck.


Some would say you're doing God's work densifying existing SF neighborhoods, building more housing to bring up the supply and keeping prices down  It's a confusing debate on which side is good or bad.  That said, it's nothing that hasn't happened before.  Is the design an abomination or do the neighbors have a point about not fitting in?  .  If you're working for a horrible person/developer, then maybe move on?  But if this bile is over the top, welcome to the world we'll all be facing more of.  Densifying the city is where a lot of future work will be.  Maybe you can learn what you can and try to improve the design as best you can.  It's an incredibly emotional issue.  Good luck, it's your call.

Dec 11, 19 4:22 pm
Wait you’re at the PA level!? This stuff is definitely above your pay grade. How are these calls getting funneled to you to begin with? Is there not a receptionist? Why are you tasked with answered the main line for the office? How big is this office? Or worse who is transferring angry strangers to your direct line?
Dec 12, 19 9:34 am

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