I live in a gated community called Crown Harbor in the city of Alameda, California. Alameda is across the bay from San Francisco and adjacent to Oakland. Our association complex was built about 35 years ago. When the developer, Ponderosa Homes, was granted rights to build, it was with the stipulation that the public is always allowed access to the seaside path along the bay. Though the gates are open during the day, many residents who are retirees, enjoy the extra security and piece of mind provided by the closed gates at night.
So although Crown Harbor is a private property, the public has an easement to walk our seaside path from sunup to sundown. This is normally not a problem. There are some interesting twists, though.
The privately maintained Crown Harbor seaside path connects to the path maintained by the East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD). Association dues are used to repave the path every 10 years or so. EBRPD does not have the budget to repave as frequently. As a result, the Crown Harbor seaside path is in better shape than the EBRPD path. Most visitors are unaware at to why the paths appear so different. They mistakenly believe that the city of Alameda maintains all of the paths and assume that Crown Harbor residents, with undue influence on city politics, have lobbied to get their part of the path improved at the exclusion of the parts outside the complex. Crown Harbor residents overhear snide comments by visitors as they walk the seaside path.
Some visitors assume that since the gates to the association are open, they are free to wander about the entire complex. They stray from the path. Some even press their noses against residents' windows and peer inside the units. There has been the occasional problem of litter and items disappearing from open garages. The easement is for the seaside path only, not the entire complex.
The city of Alameda instituted a smoking ban in public areas except for designated smoking areas. The seaside path is considered a public area.
Central Avenue Entrance to Seaside Path
Crab Cove Entrance to Seaside Path
So I wanted to add some signage at the two pathway gates, one at the Central Avenue entrance, and one at the Crab Cove entrance, the let everyone know:
- The path is private property. That is why the path is so well-maintained.
- Visitors have a right to use the path but only the path.
- Smoking is not allowed.
So I designed and fabricated signs at our Autodesk Pier 9 office in San Francisco. The ways in which people design and make things are changing rapidly and dramatically — and to make sure Autodesk stays ahead of this accelerating curve, we created a space in San Francisco called Pier 9 to help us explore new technologies and techniques that are going to be key to our success in the future. Pier 9 is a state-of-the-art facility and fabrication workshop on San Francisco's Pier 9 that features 3D printing facilities, a range of CNC machines, metal and wood shops, and office and conference space.
I worked on the sign before and after work hours. It was a labor of love.
I had a banner image for the association from the Crown Harbor website.
I used image processing software to make it suitable for using with a laser cutter. I converted it to a dithered black and white bitmap.
I also had an image of the complex from the original CC&R documents.
I have reached out to Ponderosa Homes many times to try to get the original AutoCAD drawings, but my pleas have gone unanswered.
I cleaned up the complex image to remove the text that was not needed.
I inserted the banner and cleaned up complex image, added some text, and used a piece of scrap wood and an Epilog Laser Cutter to make a sign out of wood. I wondered how I could highlight the public path. Should I use color? I played around with a green Sharpie.
I noticed that "Crown Harbor" in the banner did not show up every well because of the dithering.
By the way, subsequent to this test, but before taking the picture above, I needed a small piece of wood for another project, so I had removed the corner. I know it messes up the picture. Sorry.
In my quest to improve the readability, I updated the dithered image to remove the text.
In my Epilog laser file, I replaced the image text with real text. I used a scrap piece of wood to verify that Crown Harbor was indeed more legible.
You can see above that Crown Harbor is indeed more readable.
Now that the text stood out, I turned my attention to highlighting the path. I tried marking the path with X's instead of color. I tried a small section as a test.
I completed marking the path with X's to really see what it would look like.
The X's didn't really stand out so much, so I updated the map image to have a solid fill.
I created a test to see how that would look.
When I used a walnut stain, the text became less legible. It really highlighted the knots in the wood.
So I decided to abandon wood and use metal. In addition to walking access to the path, the association provides some parking spaces so people can park and then walk the path. We had some old signs. These signs are old because the new signs have 2" letters which are a requirement to clearly let visitors know when they can park in the spots. At night, Crown Harbor residents use the spots.
Rather than let the old signs go to waste, I could use the backs since they were blank.
When using wood, the laser cutter burned away a thin layer of material. In the case of metal, the 75-watt laser removed the layer of white paint. This is what the signs looked like coming right out of the laser cutter bed.
I wiped the signs with a damp towel and remove the ash.
I coated the signs with a clear enamel so that the exposed metal would not rust.
They are now nice and shiny. Monkey likes shiny.
As a test, I hung one with duct tape just to see how it would like.
The signs will actually be hung by the property management company. I considered cutting the holes in the signs for the screws, but a 75-watt laser cutter will not cut through metal. Since the installers will need a metal drill bit to make a starter hole for the fence, they can also drill through the signs.
While making the signs, I actually made 4 of them. This way if the signs get vandalized, we have replacements. That's a possibility since visitors may not welcome being asked to stay on the path and refrain from smoking.
Signage is alive in the lab.