From Plan Making to Implementation: Weed Gets Needed Housing

The town of Weed, CA lost many of its affordable homes in the 2014 Boles wildland urban interface (WUI) fire. Faced with economic and recovery challenges, this town of 3,000 people in Siskiyou County needed help. It needed a plan and a vision to recover. In 2017, new housing was designed and prototypes were built by students in the College of Architecture and Environmental Design. Townspeople now look forward to workforce homes they can afford.  How did all of this come about? In 2015, the City and Regional Planning Department’s graduate community planning studio partnered with the town of Weed to prepare a General Plan (GP) update. Eleven students from the master of city and regional planning class, under the guidance of Professor Cornelius Norwursoo, prepared the plan. This update helped Weed apply for state and federal funds, but most importantly it established a vision for the future, and a path to recovery and reconstruction. A set of focused project plans (e.g. trails, main street design, local hazard mitigation) were also prepared in 2016 as part of an advanced studio taught by Professor William Siembieda. Along with the GP a separate Resiliency Plan (RP) was prepared with the support of Great Northern Services (GNS), a local NGO, and Thomas Brandeberry from the Rural Community Development Corporation of California. The RP was a first for a small California town.

Housing for townspeople is an important need for Weed. So how then does Weed get new housing for working class people? The answer was to continue to use expertise in the College of Architecture and Environmental Design for the design and building of housing.  Using the work completed by the planning studio and the local network it established, a CAED integrated project delivery (IPD) studio was organized in 2017. The students designed a seven lot subdivision and built prototype housing at Cal Poly, which can be replicated at the subdivision. GNS is the project client.  An added component of this effort is that the local College of the Siskiyous in Weed could use its construction students to build the houses locally. The IPD studio is run by Professors Greg Starzk from Construction Management, Maggie Kirk from Architecture, and Dennis Bashaw from Architectural Engineering. Some 40 students get hands on experience through participation in this course.  This CAED-Weed partnership is a model of applying learning in the classroom to the practice of improving the lives of people.


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