Client Focused and Business as Usual

Client Focused and Business As Usual


By Ron Wathen, PE


A message From president & CEO

March 24, 2020

External Message to Clients, Teaming Partners and Vendors

Last Thursday March 19, 2020, as Governor Newsom implemented a shelter in place policy, simultaneously QK was transitioning to a fully remote workforce (TELEWORK).  Given the implications of the COVID-19 public health crisis and the need for reducing the spread, QK has the ability to work effectively with YOU (our clients and Agency Partners) through Microsoft Teams and other collaboration software from a remote work environment.  Our remote workforce and use of collaboration technology allows QK to advance your projects and maintain a safe work environment during this unprecedented time.

QK remains focused on YOUR projects, deliverables and schedules.  Through utilizing a team approach with our clients and agency partners, I know we can continue through this difficult public health crisis together!  With that in mind, I want to share the following:

  • QK is open for business, our teams are working remotely and ready to continue serving you.
  • Our focus is on your project: The times have changed but our focus remains the same and that is getting your project completed and providing innovative solutions to your needs.
  • We continue to be one connected team with our clients and agency partners.  We are available to meet using Microsoft Teams, other video conferencing tools as needed to keep you connected.
  • QK can still be contacted via office phone, cell phones, email, or text at any time.  QK is committed to making this transition and collaboration easier for everyone.
  • Our field operations will CONTINUE for construction observation, biological monitoring and land surveying and YES, we are practicing appropriate social distancing practices for a safe work environment.

Whether it’s project specific or something we can do to support your overall organization, we are here for you.

Why Zoning Codes Have Height Limits and Building Setbacks

QK Equitable Building

Why zoning codes have height limits and building setbacks


By Steve Brandt, AICP, Principal Planner

Equitable building - manhattan


On a cold morning in 1912, the Equitable Building at 120 Broadway in New York City caught fire from a carelessly thrown match into a trash can.  Firefighters tried to save the building but -20oF temperatures turned the water from their firehoses into frosty icicles. The structure was lost.  The Equitable Building had been constructed in 1870 on a roughly one-acre block bounded by four streets. It was one of New York’s first skyscrapers, coming in at a whopping eight stories.  However, by 1912, the newer buildings surrounding it were over twice as tall. When the rubble was removed and the site cleared, something unexpected happened.

Workers in the lower floors of the surrounding buildings experienced sunlight shining into their windows for the first time ever. The air seemed cleaner. People were happier and felt healthier. They were so overjoyed with their changed urban environment that they petitioned City Hall to purchase the land and build a city park. Instead of selling, the property owner constructed a massive 36-story office building that dwarfed its neighbors, housed 15,000 workers, and ominously covered every inch of the site.   It was the largest building in the world. It cast a shadow roughly six times the size of its footprint, completely engulfing adjacent buildings in even more darkness.

At that time, real estate developers enjoyed unfettered private property rights supported by decades of court precedent. The property owner had full control, and technological innovations were allowing buildings to be taller and bulkier.  The sky really was the limit. But even though you could build anything you wanted, so could your neighbor. Because of the uproar over the new Equitable Building, people began to realize that the unconstrained power of the individual property owner was creating too much uncertainty and volatility in the real estate market and was hurting the collective health of the community.

A lawyer, subway planner, and activist named Edward Bassett had an idea. He theorized that the only government power that the courts might consider superior to private property rights was the police power to protect public health and safety.  He did experiments and prepared studies that scientifically documented how sunlight and clean air could not reach the street level around these massive skyscrapers.  He proposed government-regulated building height limits and building setbacks whereby the first few floors of a building could cover the entire site, but as the building got taller, successive floors had to be set back to lessen the bulk of the building as it rose to the sky. He divided the city into zones, each with different height limits and setbacks. After much politicking and coalition building, his codes were adopted in 1916. Some architects designed literally to the code’s limits, creating skyscrapers that looked like awkward stair steps. Others turned the limitations into inspiration, designing masterpieces like the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building.

Cities around the country adopted their own zoning ordinances. Having been denied a permit to construct industrial buildings in a residential zone by the Village of Euclid, Ohio, the Ambler Realty Company sued, taking their challenge all the way to the Supreme Court.  In 1920, the Supreme Court ruled six to three in favor of Euclid, confirming that zoning ordinances were Constitutional. The Court’s majority relied on Bassett’s argument that zoning limitations are a legitimate use of a city’s police power to protect the public health and safety of a community.

The court case is Euclid v. Ambler. A code that establishes zones with allowed uses, height limits, and building setbacks is now known as a Euclidean zoning code. And the (new) Equitable Building is now 105 years old and designated a National Historic Landmark. One of its many tenants is the New York City Department of City Planning.

Grant Funding Opportunity For Municipalities and Districts

CA State Water Boards Prop 1 Storm Water Grant Program


By John Quiring


Prop 1 Storm Water Grant Program

The State Water Resource Control Board’s Proposition 1 Storm Water Grant Program is happy to announce that the Round 2 solicitation is now open and accepting applications! Please refer to the Solicitation Notice and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for more information about this solicitation and how to apply at the Website below:


Due Date: July 2, 2020

Matching Funds: 50%

Purpose:  For multi-benefit storm water management projects which may include, but shall not be limited to, green infrastructure, rainwater and storm water capture projects and storm water treatment facilities.

Available Funding:  $100 million

Maximum/minimum Funding:

  • Per Applicant:  Minimum – $250,000; Maximum – $10 million
  • An applicant may apply for as many projects as it can manage within the term of the SWGP.

Project Type: Implementation Grants Only (no planning grants)

Special Considerations: Must provide multiple benefits (see NOFA for examples), be included in a local IRWM Plan as well as a Local Resource Plan.

Applications will be accepted online through the Financial Assistance Application Submittal Tool (FAAST) under the Request For Proposals (RFP) titled: “Prop 1 Round 2 Storm Water Grant Program (SWGP) Project Proposals”.

A webinar for applicants is scheduled for May 12th at 2:00PM to discuss program and application requirements. Login details will be posted on the SWGP webpage above at a later date.

For more information, contact John Quiring, Director of Community Development & Infrastructure Funding at (559) 449-2400 or

What Are PFAS? Are They in Your Drinking Water? And How QK Can Help.

What Are PFAS? Are They In Your Drinking Water? And How QK Can Help.




What are PFAS? Are they in your dringking water?


In August 2019, the California Division of Drinking Water (DDW) established notification levels for perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA). The notification level for PFOS is 6.5 parts per trillion and 5.1 parts per trillion for PFOA. Collectively, PFOS and PFOA are know as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). Notification levels are a non-regulatory, precautionary health-based measure for levels in drinking water that warrant notification and further monitoring and assessment.



The ACE Mentor Program is an afterschool program that introduces students to careers in architecture, construction management, and engineering and oftentimes, other related disciplines. QK’s involvement with ACE mentorship began in 2011 and ended in 2014. I first became involved with ACE in 2012 teaching the students at Edison High School in southwest Fresno all about planning. Other mentors assisted with engineering, architecture, construction, estimating, and even biology. The Aquarius Aquarium Institute, a 501(c)(3) organization, establishes environmental teaching programs utilizing aquariums to help bring educational parity to central San Joaquin Valley students and citizens of all backgrounds and cultural groups in addition to being the organization behind the Fresno Aquarium project. A ten-acre site was donated at the intersection of the San Joaquin River and Highway 99 – a gateway entry site to the City of Fresno. In 2011, the Fresno Aquarium became the selected project to be studied by the Edison High students. The students developed 3-D models and presented their projects at a special event hosted by the Central California Builders Exchange. The previous project was the Dickey Park Youth Center near downtown Fresno. Following the aquarium project, students later chose to select their own projects for detailed studies. The selected project in 2013-14 was a Family Entertainment Center, an all-in-one arcade that included golf carts, video arcade, trampolines, batting cages, laser tag and more. Teaching high school students all about planning, architecture, engineering, and construction can be a rewarding experience.

Where did pfas come from?


The major sources of PFAS are: fire training/fire response sites, industrial sites, landfills, and wastewater treatment plants/biosolids. In 2019, the DDW ordered 600 water systems and 250 locations near major source area to sample for PFAS. The results of this sampling are available on the DDW website.

What should I do?

Public water systems are encouraged to test their water for PFAS. There are only a handful of analytical laboratories in the State accredited to test for PFAS. QK can assist you in attaining the proper samples and work with an accredited lab to have the samples tested.

What if I have PFAS?

If testing shows PFAS above the notification levels, QK can assist you in evaluating options to mitigate the concentration on PFAS. Treatment of PFAS is dependent upon which of the PFAS chemicals are present. Treatment may involve activated carbon, anion exchange, or membranes. Treatment should be considered a last resort. QK will work with you to investigate the options of blending, sealing off zone of high PFAS in an existing well or drilling a new well.

If you have questions on how to treat PFAS in your existing water system and would like to discuss, please don’t hesitate to contact Brian Shoener, Senior Engineer at (559) 449-2400 or

QK Engineering Design & Construction Management Services