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The Pandemic Pivot: How Coronavirus Might Shape Our City

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Diseases can shape and shift cities.

What mark will the coronavirus leave in its wake? What twists and turns will we take?

Will COVID-19 gouge ugly pockmarks deep into our urban landscapes?

Like, will people be too afraid to go to public parks or use public transit, scarred for life with visions of spikey-ball germs dancing in their heads? Or will the exact opposite totally happen?

There’s reason to be optimistic.

In a new episode of KPBS' pop-up podcast series about how we’re all keeping connected through COVID-19 isolation, a story about Ian Patzke, a San Diego architectural photographer who’s creating community by leading online conversations with local urbanists, architects, designers and others who’ve shaped our city.

Plus, former San Diego city planner Bill Fulton gives us some context and thoughts about how disease has shaped cities in the past and how it might shape cities in the future.

Follow Ian Patzke: https://www.instagram.com/ian.patzke/

Read Bill Fulton's series: https://kinder.rice.edu/urbanedge/2020/03/26/what-our-cities-will-look-after-coronavirus-pandemic

By the way, if you want to join the conversation and share a story of hope, resilience, creativity through COVID-19, or you just need to vent, text or call (619) 452-0228. More than ever, we want to hear your voice.

This Pandemic Pivot pop-up podcast is written, produced and hosted by me, Kinsee Morlan. It’s edited by Alisa Barba. Emily Jankowski is the master of sound design. Lisa Morissette is operations manager. And John Decker is director of programming. Thanks for listening

-- Parts of this transcript ore automatically generated. Please excuse typos. --

Diseases can shape and shift cities.

What mark will the coronavirus leave in its wake? What twists and turns will we take?

BEAT

Will COVID-19 gouge ugly pockmarks deep into our urban landscapes?

Like, will people be too afraid to go to public parks or use public transit? Scarred for life with visions of spikey-ball germs dancing in their heads?

Or will the exact opposite totally happen?

There’s reason to be optimistic.

Because pandemics and public health problems have pushed big, positive change in the past.
Clips public health causes change
So, for example. At the, at a time when cholera and other diseases like that in the 19th century were major issues. Those diseases went away in large part because of, uh, cost efficient public infrastructure such as water and sewer systems. Uh, that would have been impossible to finance, if there had been less density than you have in the cities,
That’s urbanist Bill Fulton.
And that word he just used by the way - density.
To most urbanists like him, that word is golden. More people in one place is better for the environment. It equals less urban sprawl.
But to folks solidly in the Not-in-my-back-yard NIMBY camp...density is a dirty word.
And perhaps never dirtier than right now.
BEAT
A pandemic sends the message that people in crowded places is a problem.
Pretty quickly after the coronavirus hit here…

A letter to the editor appeared in the San Diego Union Tribune.

The headline -- “San Diego may change its mind about density”

It was in reaction to U-T article about how “Hillcrest and Mission Hills have the most coronavirus cases in San Diego County,” the letter writer states, quote, “The novel coronavirus sweeping the U.S. should be the death of San Diego’s density plans. Wherever people live on top of each other, the virus is almost unstoppable. All you have to do is look at New York City.”

BEAT

So, yeah, anxiety levels are on the rise because of the pandemic -- and it seems natural and predictable to BLAME density.

But Bill, and lots of other urbanists pondering the effects of the pandemic out there, they’ve got a counterpoint.
Clips not really about density
So it's not really only about density. There's lots of diff erent things.
I’m Kinsee Morlan, and you’re listening to The Pandemic Pivot, KPBS pop-up podcast series about how we’re all keeping connected through COVID-19 isolation….and about how people are making creative and innovative changes because of the pandemic...
Today, I’ll get to a story about a San Diego architectural photographer who’s creating community by leading online conversations with local urbanists, architects, designers and others who’ve shaped our city.

But first, back to Bill.

BEAT

So, Bill was the planning director for the city of San Diego from twenty thirteen to fourteen.

He left for more of a thought-leader-type position as director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University in Houston.

And he is doing some thought leading right now.

Bill recently published a two-part series on the Kinder Institute’s blog about how the COVID-19 pandemic will change our cities.

One thing Bill thinks the pandemic will push forward is the retail apocalypse that’s already been happening.

Post-pandemic, there might be a lot less retail shops short term and, long term, maybe a lot more bars and restaurants.

Because more and more people have been introduced to the ease of online shopping during the coronavirus..

NEWS MONTAGE

And at the same time, a lot of us are missing our public gathering places right now. I know I am.

Anyway, Bill thinks there will be markedly less retail shops, and that post-pandemic bars and restaurants might be redesigned in ways that allow for more social distancing.

Basically, Bill thinks a lot of changes are coming, big and small. And mostly positive.
Clips Little urban design things we will see
But I also think that we will see little urban design solutions that will create social distancing, and sometimes these will be noticeable. Sometimes they won't. For example, you're likely to see more, um, sneeze guards as they call them in grocery stores. I think that's probably a permanent change separating you from the gross from the checkout. Person, right?
BEAT

Clips change by working in local coworking spaces
It may be possible that you see, more small coworking spaces and say a suburban strip mall, instead of commuting to the office, you get an allowance from your, um, from your employer. And you go to your local coworking space three days a week and you work there and then you work in, you go downtown or to the, to the job center, a UTC or whatever, and you work in the office there the other two days a week.
BEAT
Clips retail space filled with bars and personal care
So you will see some of the retail stores turned into bars and restaurants. As I've said. I think you'll see some of them turned into coworking spaces. And then I think you'll just see more personal care businesses such as hair salons, nail salons, and yoga studios, uh, taking up a lot of those spaces.
And because more people than ever are out walking around their own neighborhoods right now...
Clips cities will finally take responsibility for sidew alks
You'll see the city or the business improvement district or some entity like that, take greater responsibility for the pedestrian environment.
BEAT
In short: the COVID-19 crisis will forever change us and our cities.

Urbanists across the globe are pondering the pandemic’s short and long term effects/

And right here in San Diego, Ian Patzke is leading conversations about what might happen to our city.

More on that when we come back.

By the way, if you want to join the conversation and share a story of hope, resilience, creativity through COVID-19, or you just need to vent, text or call (619) 452-0228. More than ever, we want to hear your voice.

MIDROLL 1

Nine out of 10 businesses fail within the first three years.
Ian Patzke’s three year-mark as an architectural photographer is about six months behind him. He specializes in taking photos of buildings and homes for architects and designers, and he absolutely adores the work he does.
So he was starting to feel really good -- like he’d finally made it.
Clip 5 ianpatzketrack
it's a huge passion of mine and I'm really fortunate to be able to work with such amazing people and, and see such amazing pieces of architecture and be able to dive into projects that most people are never going to be able to have the chance to see.
But then coronavirus hit.
BEAT
And, well, everything came to a screeching halt.
Clip 6 ianpatzketrack
And then I received a call from my sister one day saying, Ian, don't go anywhere. Don't go to Mexico. Don't travel anywhere because there's the possibility that you won't be coming home.
Everything just stopped, overnight.
Except for the trolleys, which you can hear rushing by Ian’s apartment.
Trolley honking sound.
Those are still running.
Beat.
Anway, when the country shut down.

Of course, all of Ian’s work shut down right along with it.

Because ironically, unlike a lot of architectural photographers who prefer the clean, sharp lines of photos of buildings sans any people in them…

Ian...he likes putting people in his photos.

Clip 8 ianpatzketrack
because architecture is for people. So a lot of my work is, is showing how people use the spaces.
So, if Ian was your typical architectural photographer…

He could still be out there solo right now... quietly walking around job sites, snapping photos of cool new projects.

But Ian needs his people. So everything paused.

Clip 7 ianpatzketrack
For the most part, overnight, everything was, was, was postponed.
Clip 8 ianpatzketrack
So as this continued, the talks went from, well, maybe we can do this in a week or two to, well now we need to figure out where this is going before we can reschedule anything.
Like a lot of people whose jobs have been put on hold….
Ian got stuck in a state of suspended animation.
He did a lot of scrolling on his phone.
Until something grabbed him…
Something that inspired him to stop sitting around and scrolling. And to do something...anything he could, to help.
Clip 10 ianpatzketrack
And this idea came up, well. Why don't I make a connection by like with the world, really asking for connection right now, which we weren't able to do because we're in isolation. How do I build, how do I build a connection so people can feel a little bit more whole again.
BEAT/TRANSITION TO DAYS OF YORE EXPLAINLY PAST TYPE SONG
Ian Patzke was basically born with buildings in his blood.

His family did a lot of traveling, mostly to big cities across the globe.

And Ian’s dad, a lawyer by day but avid hobby photographer by night, passed his passion for pictures on to his kid.
Clip 1 ianpatzketrack
and one of the things that he did was he gave me my first camera, and I remember it was a little, uh, it was a little point and shoot camera and had each photo. It actually would, would put a. A little, a little picture of a teenage mutant Ninja turtle on it.
But instead of taking pictures of his family or himself, the things you might expect from a little kid with a ninja turtle camera…

The little dude was snapping pictures of buildings right from the get go.

Clip 2 Ianpatzketrack
I don't know what attracted me to architecture in the cities, but it just always felt right. And, uh, not only with, uh, with a camera was I expressing interest in the cities. But I remember they gave me my first sketchbook and I was drawing up light rail systems for, for possibilities of, of the city I grew up in, which is Milwaukee, uh, and, and just being excited about what it was to be in a city.
BEAT

Little Ian grew up into big Ian.

And big Ian, like a lot of us, knew he had to leave his hometown in order to truly grow up.

But just as he was about to pack up his bags and move to San Diego to start his degree in architecture, his dad got sick.

Real sick. He had a brain tumor and just a few months to live.

BEAT

Ian wanted to stay in Milwaukee, but his dad was adamant that he go.

His dad agreed that Ian needed to have enough room to spread his wings.

So Ian did it. He moved and dove head first into architecture. And fell in love.

But when he graduated, he realized actually practicing his architectural craft -- sitting at a computer all day --- wasn’t what he wanted to do.
So, he pivoted.

Clip 4 ianpatzketrack
So after working in an office for a little bit, and. Going on the path of the degree that I had received. I discovered that there was more out there for me than I had originally thought
First Ian just got a few side gigs doing photography for people in the architecture and design community he knew.
Then word of mouth did its thing. He eventually became the photographer for the San Diego Foundations’ annual awards program - and boom.
His career as a freelance architectural photographer officially took off.
But then came COVID-19….
And it hit Ian at a critical time.
But rather than freak out about how his own freshly budding career might possibly come crashing down around him,
He picked up his phone. Saw a lot of friends of his in other countries doing Instagram Live videos as a way to connect.
Clip 9 ianpatzketrack
the Instagram live series started. By seeing what other people were or seeing how other people were responding to this pandemic. Uh, I saw a lot of my friends, yeah. And, uh, and colleagues in central and South America started to do a lot of InstagramI started to think of myself, I said, well, what in my work, what can I do with my work or what can I do with my work? That would be beneficial and uplifting for others in the world.
So Ian, like so, so, so, so, so many people right now are doing….
He picked up his phone one day a few weeks ago and…
After hesitating a few times and his face getting hot with nerves…
He did it.
He set up an interview with a local urbanist and pressed the “go live” button.
INSTAGRAM LIVE CLIP https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWjuFld4xyc&feature=youtu.be
BEAT
Clip 11 ianpatzketrack
instead of asking process or asking for theory, I asked people about themselves. So, so we can start giving the, uh, name and in a face to all these. Amazing people working in architecture right now, whether it's a an architect or a photographer or a developer, a real estate agent. A lot of times all we see is a picture of a building or a small drawing, but we don't get to know the person or the people that make it happen.
BEAT
Clip 12 ianpatzketrack
So my format was based around creating that connection, especially in a time that, uh, that connection was needed and it was very hard to come by.
You can catch Ian’s videos at instagram.com/ian.patzke/.
And on youtube -- if you search for ian p-a-t-z-k-e you can find a few there, too.
INSTAGRAM LIVE CLIP https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWjuFld4xyc&feature=youtu.be
And while a lot of Ian’s videos are intentionally upbeat introductions to some cool design-y-type cats in town….
The conversations about the coronavirus’ potential impacts on our city is what have me most interested.
Clip 13 ianpatzketrack
one subject that's been brought up a lot is the need for more public space with inner density. Right now we're in a very, we're very driven to cover every square foot. With a piece of property, because that is money in, in somebody's pocket, whether it's the cities or a developers or in architects, uh, there, there's money to be had when there's a building on a piece of land. Uh, so one thing that has been [00:01:00] talked a lot about is creating public space.
Ian says there’ve also been a lot of conversations about how people are rediscovering their own neighborhoods. Learning how to live more of their lives, well, where they live instead of where they can drive.
Clip 16 ianpatzketrack
before. It was, well, I can easily go to Costco and my car
Clip 15 ianpatzketrack
So now people are discovering that they have that little shop, that they have, that mom and pop shop, that they don't need to go to that restaurant a half hour away. The restaurant that's a 10 minute walk from their house is not only great exercise and a great way to enjoy their community, but it's a lot safer and a lot more, uh. A lot more supportive in this time of need.
BEAT
So, Ian’s been doing these videos.
And they’re helping him stay positive and feel connected to his design.
But he’s also struggling like a lot of us right now.
Clip 18 ianpatzketrack
I'm a little worried, well, I shouldn't say a little, I'm worried. I, going back to what I had talked about earlier. I thought that this was going to be something that was going to last maybe at most a month. And I was very, uh, positive with my outlook to be able to control this. As this continues on my thought process and my bank account start to, break breakdown at the same, at the same speed.
Ian says his videos have been teaching him a lot…
Both about the local urban landscape, but also about his own inner landscape, too.
Clip 17 ianpatzketrack
Yeah, it's, it's, it's been a good time to reflect on myself. I've found a lot of different, uh, outlets for my energy and making connection. Um. I've joined in on different zoom chats or just staying in touch with people through text messages and FaceTiming. I've find it really kind of beautiful that a time that we would just normally would send a quick text message or a WhatsApp and, and a conversation like that just to do a quick check in has now turned into a half hour conversation.
BEATS
So, again, you can catch Ian’s videos at instagram.com/ian.patzke/.

This Pandemic Pivot pop-up podcast is written, produced and hosted by me, Kinsee Morlan. It’s edited by Alisa Barba. Emily Jankowski is the master of sound design. Lisa Morissette is operations manager. And John Decker is director of programming. Thanks for listening

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