Mogavero Architects

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Regulating development: Episode One

After years of building projects and years of advocacy for better planning for our regional community, I wonder whether the classic notion of “urban planning” is a workable format for American metropolises and towns...


Construction begins on affordable housing project in Live Oak, California

Demolition has begun and soon the site will be ready for new development...


Governor Brown must focus on the real cause of cities’ ills

While mayor of Oakland, Gov. Jerry Brown attempted to jump-start the construction of substantial new housing downtown. He found it tough going for many reasons, including challenges brought under the California Environmental Quality Act. His frustration has led him to focus on reforming the CEQA process for infill development. Other legislators, including Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, have been pursuing the same goal of CEQA reform to promote infill. But the zeal of the governor and others on this subject, while laudable in their goals, has been creating a massive distraction. Administrative and legislative staff and others in the third house appear to be running around asking each other, “How do we reform CEQA to please the governor?” As everyone gears up for the next legislative session, I once again find myself in multiple meetings and responding to repetitive calls asking that same question. The almost singular focus on CEQA reform has distracted advocates and staffs from focusing on the underlying reason that CEQA exists – to control urban sprawl. Yes, CEQA has occasionally been used to slow down infill reinvestment for our cities. The reform of CEQA, however, does not directly address what is by far the most significant barrier to infill – the distortions in the real estate economy from subsidized sprawl. For 60 years, federal, state and local governments have invested trillions of dollars of infrastructure into subsidizing sprawl, deflecting public and private investment away from our existing neighborhoods to new subdivisions on our farmland and wildlife habitat. In addition, zoning codes have created a roulette wheel of opportunity for well-capitalized land speculators to make campaign contribution bets to insure that the little white ball ends up on their number – creating huge windfalls for them, at the public’s expense. In the end, all of the real costs of sprawl are to the citizens of California communities. Builders and house buyers end up without cost-competitive options to the deeply subsidized and politically facilitated remote homes. Infill development doesn’t have the slightest chance to compete on a level playing field void of these government distortions of the marketplace. The result is a building industry that is dominantly engaged in mass production on “greenfields” and lobbies fiercely to protect this business model. There are myriad economic, social and environmental reasons urban sprawl, and its resulting automobile dependency, has been the scourge of every California community – indeed every American community – for 60 years. It is not just air pollution and traffic congestion, but the loss of economic reinvestment in our urban cores; massively wasteful investment in our horizontal infrastructure that no municipality can now afford to maintain; our children’s loss of independence because they cannot safely move around their neighborhoods without a chauffer; the huge cost of car ownership (especially for low- and moderate-income households); the often devastating cost of car accidents; and perhaps, most importantly, the American economy’s vulnerability to the increased cost of fossil fuels. There are some simple actions that should be the focus. These include precluding development in unincorporated areas; redirecting our state infrastructure dollars from sprawl-inducing road capacity to transit operations; and enhancing neighborhoods to be more friendly to bikers and walkers. All this would have the residual benefit of healthier communities and preparing us better for the inevitable rise in gas prices. Cities and counties will not like many of these solutions because they restrict their prerogatives. Land use, however, is a central issue affecting every facet of daily life in California. Local and regional governments for six decades have largely failed at their responsibilities to be good stewards of our agricultural, landscape and urban neighborhood heritage. You need only drive Highway 99 through the Central Valley or Highway 10 through the San Gabriel Valley to see the ubiquity of sprawling evidence for this failure. Some may say, “What about Senate Bill 375, Steinberg’s important planning bill?” It is an important step in state involvement in land use planning, but does little to insure that the planning is done well by local government or, more importantly, that actual new development is done well. By the way, the need for redevelopment arises almost completely from sprawl extracting (or sucking, to be less polite) all the economic resources out of downtowns and old neighborhoods. So, we should ask the governor and the leadership in the Legislature to please help us focus directly and not obliquely on what truly hampers the rebirth of our downtown areas – urban sprawl. If we can get that right, we will find many people more willing to make the big leap on CEQA reform. Today, we benefit economically from the governor’s leadership in his first tenure as governor. For example, Title 24 for energy efficiency is arguably the most important environmental action on the planet ever. We need leadership to avoid squandering the current tenure. Let’s focus on solving this most critical statewide challenge directly, without distraction. – David Mogavero


HMG & Mogavero win SMUD Zero Energy Consulting Contract

Our firm, along with HMG energy efficiency consultants, was selected by SMUD to be the consulting architect for all of the residential and light commercial projects contemplated by the Zero Energy Building Research and Development Consulting program...


Happy Halloween from Mogavero!

Every year at Halloween, a portion of the crew here come to work in costume; this year (as in many years past) most of us felt the spirit enough to come in costume....


Turns out where you live can affect your health

I found this study done by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to be very intriguing….and sobering. Article at Being somewhat of a health and fitness enthusiast, I find that sometimes it is easy to jump to judgment, and criticism, of those who appear to be out of shape, overweight, and unhealthy. It has never occurred to me that for some folks, their daily living environment – their own home and neighborhood – could have a direct link to the state of their personal physical health. A new Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) study released last week shows fascinating findings regarding health risks for women in neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty. This is just the latest evidence proving the need for revitalizing America’s poorest neighborhoods into sustainable, mixed-income and mixed-use communities. Having worked with MNA for the past 20 years and being part of an organization that advocates for healthy and whole living environments for all human beings, I really should have connected those dots. Here’s to pushing for the provision of healthy homes and neighborhoods for all people, no matter what their financial circumstance may be. The findings, which were published in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that very low-income women who are able to move from high-poverty neighborhoods into lower-poverty neighborhoods are less likely to suffer from extreme obesity or diabetes. HUD’s Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing Demonstration Program study tested the long-term health impacts of approximately 4,500 very low-income families living in public housing in high-poverty neighborhoods in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York from 1994 to 1998. During that timeframe, families were randomly assigned to three separate groups: the experimental group, which allowed families to only use housing vouchers in low-poverty neighborhoods; the Sec. 8 group, which allowed families to use vouchers in any neighborhood; and the control group, which didn’t receive vouchers. Some of the key findings featured in the New England Journal of Medicine article include: The women who were not offered housing vouchers through the HUD study had a prevalence rate of 18 percent for extreme obesity; the national average for women is approximately 7 percent. For the those women who received vouchers to move to lower-poverty neighborhoods, the rate was 3.4 percentage points lower than the women who didn’t receive vouchers. The women who were not offered housing vouchers through the HUD study had a prevalence rate of 20 percent for diabetes; the national average for women is 12 percent. For those women who received vouchers to move to lower-poverty neighborhoods, the rate was 5.2 percentage points lower than those without vouchers. “This study proves that concentrated poverty is not only bad policy, it’s bad for your health,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan in a statement. “Far too often, we can predict a family’s overall health, even their life expectancy, by knowing their ZIP code. But it’s not enough to simply move families into different neighborhoods. We must continue to look for innovative and strategic ways to connect families to the necessary supports they need to break the cycle of poverty that can quite literally make them sick.”


Hot Tar Roofers Played Mogavero

We have a lofty garage space off the alley where we usually store extra paint, back issues of Architectural Record and Craig’s old Alfa.  This weekend we opened up the extra large roll-up doors to perfect fall weather, put up some party lights and used the space to bring together some friends and colleagues from Sacramento’s environmental advocacy community. The occasion was to welcome Bruce Reznik to the Sacramento area.  Bruce, originally from San Diego, joins Planning and Conservation League (PCL) as their new executive director.   David Mogavero has been a long-time board member at PCL, a leading advocacy organization for sound planning and responsible environmental policy for the state of California. MNA team member, Casey Marshall and his incredible band Hot Tar Roofers played us some tunes and even got some of us out there cutting a rug (shout out to Renner and Monica!).


NiceRide Bike System: We need this in Sac!

I had the opportunity to use this new automated bike rental system in Minneapolis this weekend. See attached photos....


Our firm’s new site – woo hoo!

Okay, so woo-hoo sounds a little sarcastic; in fact I'm really happy to see this come to its fruition: there are some dark elements to this joy here or there, but they mostly are just the process bumps which anneal the final product into exactly what we've needed for a long time....



David Mogavero, Senior Principal David Mogavero is the Senior Principal of Mogavero Architects. He began his career designing naturally heated and cooled buildings over thirty years ago. David’s practice embraces the full range of progressive community design, such as high density mixed-use infill and holistic building systems, including daylighting, natural ventilation, passive heating and cooling, solar shading, water recycling, on-site energy generation and agriculture. David’s roles as developer and environmental advocate help him conceive projects that are economically viable and sensitive to the community and the environment. Through his professional practice, writings and lectures, service as past president and board member of the Environmental Council of Sacramento and the Planning and Conservation League, and current board member of the Council of Infill Builders, David has promoted the widespread adoption of sustainable building and smart growth practices and policies. Craig Stradley, Principal Mr. Craig Stradley, Director of Architecture and Principal at Mogavero Architects, brings more than 30 years of experience in design and urban planning to his work. He has specialized in urban infill projects ranging from multi-family and student housing to complex retail and mixed-use developments. Mr. Stradley enjoys working closely with clients to create projects that balance function and ef ciency with environmental and social concerns. He leads his team of designers with constant attention to the principles of humanistic environments and the creation of a unique sense of place for each and every project. Renner Johnston, Principal Renner became passionate about architecture while working in Europe and returned to the U.S. for a Masters in Architecture at the University of Oregon. Joining Mogavero Architects in 1997, Renner shares the firm’s long commitment to green sustainable design. As Principal, he has designed and managed projects including infill, affordable and market rate housing, mixed-use, urban design and large solar arrays. Renner has also worked on several master planning projects including, the Mather Campus Vision plan, Grass Valley Workforce Housing plan and the Baechtel Charrette for the City of Willits. Cecilia Chouhy, Principal Cecilia is a Principal at Mogavero Architects. With over 15 years of experience in affordable and mixed-use residential architecture, Cecilia is focused on design excellence, bringing new ideas and fresh perspectives to the firm’s housing projects. Ceclia is committed to creating spaces that elicit joy often in spite of restricted project budgets and accelerated timelines. Creative design solutions include shaping light, which can make such a difference to residents. She remembers the dark patio houses common in her native country of Uruguay, and how she long imagined how much better they would look and feel if brightened.  Within Mogavero, Cecilia runs the Project Management Forum, an open platform for discussions about best practices and troubleshooting project issues. In addition, she leads the office BIM Committee, which establishes and maintains office standards and design templates, in an effort to increase project quality and efficiency. With a strong belief in creating inclusive and equitable environments both within Mogavero and across the architecture industry, Cecilia is a mentor to junior staff and an advocate for women and diverse design professionals often promoting and encouraging their excellence, community engagement, and professional development. Cesar Medina, Principal Cesar is Design Director and Principal at Mogavero Architects. With over 25 years of combined experience in residential architecture and design, Cesar has delivered exceptional housing projects throughout Northern California, including student housing at UC Davis, Sacramento State, and University of the Pacific. Originally from Mexico, Cesar has a high design sensibility that merges innovation, functionality, and empathy for the residents who call Mogavero projects “home.”  As the firm’s Design Director, he is responsible for ensuring a high level of quality design across all projects within the firm, with particular expertise in designing affordable, market-rate, and student housing. Cesar has a holistic approach to design, from big decisions early in the process down to the smallest details through construction. An advocate for people in need of housing, Cesar is dedicated to making housing more accessible for all, including for seniors, people with disabilities, and students. He is currently working on a SB169-funded, 400-bed student housing community at Ohlone College. He is passionate about making buildings that are dignified, well designed, and well integrated into the community. He finds great joy in having projects reach completion but also in seeing the communities they foster for years to come.