libraries are more than houses for books


the homeless problem

In downtown San Rafael we have a couple of problems. Seemingly un-related problems. Depending on how you look at it, the first problem is homelessness (with a side of NIMBYism). You might not think that poverty and homelessness would be an issue in Marin County. You’d be wrong. Unfortunately for those that do fall into the economic cracks, there are few services that offer help. One of the organizations that exists to support the homeless and those in danger of becoming homeless, Ritter Center, lives in a swirl of controversy. Those that fall into the NIMBY court want to see it closed down or at the very least moved from downtown San Rafael (where it is conveniently located near transit, shops, etc). The rest of us wonder exactly how poverty and homelessness will be resolved by eliminating services or making them impossible to access.

the library problem

Meanwhile, a mile or so away, our public library is sadly outdated, under-sized and not representative of today’s needs. There is conversation underway to build a new larger library that will reflect the needs of the community. At one point there was conversation about building the new library near our existing community center. But our existing community center has an ongoing problem with the homeless spending their days nearby.

a twofer solution

So, what to do? There is talk about building a big new library that is ‘green’, beautiful, an architectural marvel, full of technological wonders, classrooms and the like. All goals that should be incorporated into our new public library. But I’d like to suggest that we think bigger and include services and accommodations that will benefit the entire public, not just part of the public. This could be a win-win for the homeless as well as the homed.

pub·lic /ˈpəblik/
of or concerning the people as a whole. “public concern”
ordinary people in general; the community. ‘the library is open to the public’

San Francisco has done just this by hiring a social worker to work with the homeless who use the library for shelter. The SF program includes hiring and training the homeless to be part of the solution by working at the library. And San Francisco is not alone. Denver, Dallas, DC, Tucson, San Jose, Portland and Philadelphia all have programs in place to work with their homeless populations.

San Rafael has an ideal opportunity to join the ranks of these forward thinkers. Remember my old rant….design is about solving problems, it is not just about being pretty. Let’s not try to just be pretty here.

Keep in touch,



restaurant sustainability….let’s be real


Sustainable, local, organic. SLO food. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Green. We’re all talking the talk, but when it comes to restaurants, do we really walk the walk? Many jurisdictions require some sustainability measures, especially during the start up phase, but what about through the life of the restaurant? Not so much.

photos courtesy

Chicago restaurateur Justin Vrany does walk the walk. His restaurant, Sandwich Me In, in the Lakeview District, was built using all recycled materials and furnishings. His purveyors are all within a 200 mile radius. In the last two years the restaurant has produced only 8 gallons of garbage. Total. And even that was picked up by an artist to reuse. He makes much of his food from scratch rather than purchasing pre-made items that include additional packaging, and he practices beak to bottom usage (from the chicken’s skin to its bones). And yes, there is plenty of meat on his menu….and bacon! According to his customers, they may come for the message but they stay for the food.

Mr. Vrany is proving daily that this can be done and his hope is that others will follow suit. While this may seem like a great deal of work to implement, logic says it will certainly affect your bottom line positively…and isn’t that why we are in business?

We can all do better (well maybe not at Sandwich Me In), and there are plenty of resources to help. Beginning with the design of your restaurant, choose a designer/architect team that understands sustainability (yes, my hand is raised high!). But you can’t stop there. Find a sustainability expert that knows restaurant operations in your area and get help. They can direct you to local purveyors that grow sustainably, high efficiency equipment that uses less power, processes that make the most of energy efficiency like running your ice maker at night rather than during the day, companies that will pick up your used cooking oil to recycle it as automobile fuel, cleaning products and processes that don’t harm the environment and more. And all of this can save you money.

Remembering that the main reason restaurants exist is to feed people, eliminating food waste, which is estimated to be 40% of food production, should be our highest priority once the operation is up and running. Organizations like Food Tank address issues around food, food security and food systems and people like journalist and food waste consultant Jonathan Bloom spread the talk. Check out his book, American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It), below. If we all get involved in the conversation then restaurants can lead the way, rather than being the latecomers to the party.

Okay….putting my soapbox away now. Keep in touch,

Edison lamp redux!

photo courtesy venus opto

photo courtesy venus opto

The water is off on my street today, so I called my friend Jane to see if I could pop over occasionally to use the loo and maybe grab a drink. She’s English….that’s why I’m popping and loo-ing. So I was over this morning and noticed she had a lamp in her bathroom light fixture that I hadn’t seen on the shelves. Here I am back home in my own dry house researching this very interesting lamp and lo and behold it is an LED version of the much hated Edison lamp!

I found a few styles, most made in China so far, but very interesting indeed! Color temps as low as 2700k, CRI over 80, no heat sink, 50k hours…am I dreaming? Oh happy day!

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I even found a decorative fixture that is really modern and rivals the coolest of the simple, hanging Edison lamp. Can I take 3?



It’s a good day indeed!