Invaluable Inspiration: LADAC


As a proud graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo I have wanted to find ways to give back to the school beyond financial contributions.  Over the years Callander Associates has hired many Cal Poly graduates, both full time and for internships, so I have found some personal gratification in that.  However, this past year and a half I have been fortunate to become a member of the Cal Poly Landscape Architecture Department Advisory Committee (LADAC).  Comprised of former graduates who have become leaders in the profession, LADAC aims to provide the Landscape Architecture department aide in fulfilling its mission and goals. In practice the group convenes on campus three times a year to volunteer time towards guest lectures, desk critiques, and provides the department a resource to discuss curriculum and trends in the industry.

Thus far from the LADAC sessions I have attended I have been surprised how rewarding it has been.  As a guest critic in several design studios I have had the opportunity to work one on one with students as they work through their projects.  I have been pleasantly surprised at the quality of design work and graphics of the upper class students.  Specifically the care and attention put towards communicating design intent through simple, graphically rich, infographics and photorealistic simulations.  Their graphics are clearly supporting strong designs based upon a well thought out analysis of site and demographic information rather than cloaking a poor design.  I have also really enjoyed working with the first and second year students as they struggle with the design process.

Most surprisingly, however, is how great these trips have been in recharging my own personal batteries.  Being exposed to the creativity of the students and to that of my fellow LADAC members has given me a renewed focus to my own work and fodder for design inspiration.  More specifically I have been reminded how important it is not to totally succumb to the pressures of budget and schedule, which typically results in rushing the design process, but rather take the time required for analysis and research to help develop truly unique but context sensitive solutions.  I look forward to many more years of LADAC service and thus many more years of invaluable inspiration.

Brian Fletcher, President

Revitalizing the Waterfront

It’s interesting to note the disparity in the success of various waterfronts.  You might think that, what with all the built-in interest that a waterfront provides, you couldn’t help but have a successful facility if you’re next to the water.  Not true!  There are a lot of waterfronts that are not great places to hang out.  The great waterfronts didn’t happen by accident. They came about because people saw the potential and cared enough to make the investment in time, energy and capital to make them happen.  Witness Jack London Square and San Francisco’s Embarcadero.  Both tremendously vibrant waterfronts.  But at one time neither of them was a place where you would linger. These places became great places through a lot of hard work.


Right now, the City of Redwood City is hoping that the Port of Redwood City experiences a similar renaissance, and they’re making the effort to see that it happens.   And the private sector is getting behind the effort.  This is that story.

Callander Associates was recently introduced to a tenant of the Port of Redwood City and asked to look at the opportunities for improving the waterfront.  The site is directly adjacent to the waterfront and benefits from a fantastic view over Redwood Creek and Estuary to Bair Island.  On clear days, the profile of Bay Area landmarks can be seen in the distance.  The site is entirely within BCDC’s jurisdiction and as such, provides unimpeded public access.  It’s a site with tremendous potential, but it’s underutilized.  To a significant degree this is a function of its remoteness from downtown Redwood City.  It serves primarily as an amenity to the offices located just beyond the shoreline band.


How do you overcome this sense of separation?  Host a party and invite everyone to come!   That’s what Redwood City does every year with an event called Portfest.  Portfest is now in it’s 3rd year, and gaining traction.  Great fun!  Food, boat rides, crafts, music, all adding to the natural vibrancy of the setting.


We are fortunate to enjoy working on significant projects like this, where our efforts can make a big difference in the experience of locals and visitors alike.  Our goal/challenge/objective: make this site the best host it can be for the annual Porfest, while revitalizing the space to nurture broader use by the community on a year round basis.  In short, do our part to put the Port of Redwood City back on the map!

written by Mark Slichter, Principal

On Reflection, Education, and Appreciation…

It seems “We should…” always is trumped by “I have to…”

The idea of “should” is usually derived from a level of inward reflection that arrives at a conclusion of some sort of pathway to improvement.  Unfortunately, the “I have to” is often the latest short term squeaky wheel that is forced upon us, demands our immediate attention, and bullies the “We should’s” of professional growth, social interaction, continuing education, cultural development  on to the back burner to be dealt with later.  I’m not sure if this condition is avoidable.  But, when the “We should…” finally happens and everyone participates, it needs to be appreciated… maybe even celebrated.  And the person who continues to believe in the idea and manages to convince the rest of us that this particular activity they have organized is worth forsaking our current project crisis of “whatever” should be congratulated and their efforts recognized.


Each year Melissa Ruth, in our Valley office, sets up tours of local parks.  Their value from a professional education and growth standpoint are unquestionable.  Their benefits in business and client development are subtle but just as valuable. We get to see, first hand, how others have approached design challenges with varying degrees of success or failure.  In the vacuum of information, we exercise our deductive reasoning and critical thinking muscles to extrapolate reasons decisions were made, who made them, and the events that led up to their application.  Obviously, we look at the real world failures with a critical eye and try to learn from them so we can avoid similar circumstances in our own future projects.  So many things can “go wrong” in a design.  To think of every variable and “what if” is impossible.  So, when given the opportunity, we should never forget to take note when a design works exactly the way it should and try to figure out why.  It’s an illogical concept, when you think about it, to believe we can judge a design with such little information.  Our conclusions may be completely incorrect (and they probably are), but the exercise in arriving at those conclusions will only strengthen our own designs.

So, thank you Melissa, for sticking with it and helping the rest of us set aside our daily “I have to’s” for just a little while to become better landscape architects and consultants.

Written by Erik Smith, Principal

Solving Stormwater Problems One Mentorship At A Time

Sometimes opportunities present themselves when you least expect it and the opportunity to mentor a group of civil engineering students at Sacramento State was something I couldn’t pass up. You may ask why a Landscape Architect would have any business mentoring engineering students… Well, when the class is focused on green infrastructure, low impact development and stormwater management, then count me in!

Callander Associates has been very supportive of my interests in stormwater management including construction stormwater and post construction low impact development and I wanted to share this knowledge with the students. The CE190 class this semester has included in their curriculum the USEPA’s 2nd Annual Campus Rainworks Challenge.


This is a competition for college and university students to design creative and innovative green infrastructure for their campus.  I mentored a group of 6 students who were as eager and excited to team up on this project.  Throughout the semester we met to brainstorm master plan concepts, discuss innovations in green infrastructure and prepare for the competition. The students prepared Master Plans and Concept Plan Reports and presented their concepts through video presentations. I had the opportunity to interact with the other student groups during presentation and Q&A’s and also met the other mentors who came from various engineering backgrounds. We shared a common interest in exploring new ways to capture, collect, reuse and reduce stormwater discharge from polluting our waterways.


It was a great experience meeting the students and other mentors and was exciting to see what innovative ideas the students came up with for the competition and to further explore these in the profession.

There is a new standard found more often in our projects that require stormwater management. As designers we are always striving to find creative and aesthetic ways to integrate it into the site. If I had one goal from this experience, it would be to teach the engineering students to look beyond solving a stormwater problem and more towards creating an experience. I think they met that goal.


I have to thank Colleen Salveson (our marketing guru in the San Mateo office) for approaching me about this opportunity; Colleen’s cousin, Dr. Matthew Salveson, an Associate Professor at Sacramento State who invited a Landscape Architect into the world of civil engineering; and Ben Woodside who teamed up with me as a guest lecturer for the class.

A couple of selected groups were then invited to refine their reports and videos for the national competition. Winners will be announced in February and March.  The winning teams will receive a cash prize and the opportunity to apply for a grant to help implement their design on campus. For more information on the USEPA’s 2nd Annual Campus Rainworks Challenge, go to:

Melissa Ruth, Project Manager, RLA, QSD/P

Melissa works out of our Rancho Cordova office. Her experience at Callander Associates has included a variety of projects such as parks, trails, playground design, planting design, master planning, stormwater pollution prevention plans and landfill studies. She is our resident expert on Stormwater Pollution Prevention and is a Qualified SWPPP Developer/Preparer (QSD/P).


PARK(ing) Day: 2013

PARK(ing) Day is an annual worldwide event where artists, designers and citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks. The project started in 2005 in San Francisco, when Rebar, an art and design studio, converted a single metered parking space into a temporary public park in downtown San Francisco.  The purpose of the project was to make a statement about the overwhelming presence of the automobile, especially in how our cities are organized.  It was also an opportunity to re-imagine the range of possible activities that could occur if the space for storage of a private vehicle could be utilized by the public to create a dynamic urban public space and improve the quality of urban human habitat.  This critical examination of the values that generate the form of urban public space has provoked and influenced people around the world; in 2011, PARK(ing) Day was celebrated in 162 cities in 35 countries.

This year staff from our Rancho Cordova and San Jose offices participated in Park(ing) Day.

Sacramento Park(ing) Day…written by Brenna Castro

Up in Sacramento, the staff along with the ASLA Sierra Chapter, 15 other firms and local organizations turned Sacramento parking spots into unique park sites. The group wanted to showcase landscape architecture and our ability to make beautiful, functional public spaces, and also draw attention to the little details in the landscape that are often overlooked.


Over the course of four build days hosted at Jon and his wife Sara’s house, ASLA Sierra Chapter members designed, built, and assembled a shady green public parklet complete with curvilinear seating and walls, vegetation, and three “viewfinder” telescopes, which were aimed at points of interest to help visitors discover their surroundings. With an eye toward sustainability, all materials used in the installation were reclaimed or reused. Cardboard document tubes that were no longer needed were cut and glued into benches and walls, an extra scrap of synthetic turf (courtesy of Astroturf) carpeted the ground, and an beautiful bright red umbrella, borrowed from Jon and Sara’s yard, added a splash of color to the street.

As exciting as it was to watch these odds and ends be transformed into a place for people to sit and relax, the most rewarding part of (Park)ing day was watching visitors interact and engage with the installation. Whether they were relaxing under the umbrella reading Landscape Architecture Magazine or discovering public art they had never noticed before, many of the users wanted to know more about (Park)ing day, and were excited to experience with their public spaces in a new way.

San Jose Park(ing) Day…written by Amy Ueno

The streets of downtown San Jose were transformed into mini urban parks for people, bringing everyone out into the sun and interacting with fun installations like giant chess, giant Jenga, a pop-up library, and grassy lounge spaces.


Our concept for our Callander parking spot was to create a space that represents aspects of our company culture: engaging and interacting with our community, inspiring creativity, and most importantly, fun.  Our parking spot transformed into a life-size checkers game.  Our game pieces were made from squares of rubber surfacing and artificial turf, both materials we use on the projects we create.  People stopped by for a spontaneous game on their lunch break, and also had an opportunity to learn about our industry as landscape architects and the parks we have created, through our game pieces and the project posters that we put up of Parque de Padre Mateo Sheedy (San Jose), and Stojanovich Family Park (Campbell).

The memorable part of the day for me was when I was interacting with people passing by and seeing their reaction to the installation.  The most frequent question I received was, “What’s going on here?”  When I explained that we were making an ordinary parking spot into an interactive space for people for the day, I was met with a smile and “Wow, cool!”  The positive attitude and support that people have towards improving our urban environment and quality of life through design reinforced my passion for my work as a designer and for the field of landscape architecture.

It was a great day for us to get out of the office and engage with our community here in San Jose and Sacramento, and also be part of a global urban open space movement!  If you missed us this year, make sure to check out our spaces on PARK(ing) Day 2014.



Passion of Park Supporters: Castle Rock State Park

As you probably are already aware, California State Parks have become victims of the state budget crisis and as a result many parks are threatened with placement on a possible closure list.  Fortunately, through the tireless efforts of community members, non-profit organizations, philanthropic individuals, and local administrators, these parks have survived the crisis and are in fact emerging stronger and more beloved than ever. Callander Associates has been fortunate to be involved with one group’s efforts (Sempervirens Fund) and I recently witnessed firsthand the passion that park supporters have for these cherished bits of nature.

Castle Rock State Park was placed on the park closure list.  Although the park is heavily used by the rock climbing community and hikers it has been difficult to measure visitation since most visitors park for free along the State highway.  Even before the closure list, Sempervirens Fund and Callander Associates had been working to remedy this by developing plans for a new off street parking lot and visitor center. So when the park was up for closure, Sempervirens Fund and their supporters stepped up again with funding allowing the park to remain open.

As the lead design consultant for the new park improvements, we were asked to present the project at the recent open house and picnic on site.  I was so impressed with the event and the intense passion everyone displayed for the park.  Through barbecue, live music, guided tours and displays, the event was a true celebration of Castle Rock and a re-commitment to its preservation that I was honored to be a part of.

Brian Fletcher, President