Q&A: ‘Mr. Sketch’ draws on his past

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Hollister resident David Huboi is an architect who often works on green projects and has been a central figure in the development of affordable housing locally. In his spare time, he plays guitar, serves as a Hollister planning commissioner and hosts the Going Green show on the local Community Media Access Partnership channel.
Free Lance: What or who inspired you to become an architect?
Huboi: I went to San Jose State University. I got a degree in art. I minored in philosophy. I really didn’t know what to do with the art degree. I wasn’t into selling my paintings. I didn’t know how to make it in an occupation with a degree in art other than going in and teaching. My father was an architect. When I went to San Jose State, I worked for a landscape maintenance crew. I actually went in and was running my own landscape maintenance and thought, I can’t do this for the rest of my life.  It finally hit me. You know what? I’ve always been good at art. They called me Mr. Sketch, actually. I love to sketch. I come from an art background. My dad was an architect. I’ve always been good at science. Architecture is like a blend of art and science. One night I was listening to Roy Buchanan, and all of the sudden it hit me like an epiphany. I’m going to be an architect. So I went back to school, went to West Valley College.
What are some of your favorite types of buildings and why?
The architect I most admire is Frank Lloyd Wright. He developed or was the pioneer of organic architecture. What that is, when you design something, you don’t have anything, a pre-set idea of what that design is. It comes from certain circumstances and settings—the setting of the site, the sun, the wind, the views, the programming information you receive from the client, what styles the client wants. It’s a blend the design forms. The way the design is always forming and shaping, it’s organic in nature, the design process. I think it’s a beautiful approach to the craft. None of my designs are the same. It stems from the peculiarities of the setting. So Frank Lloyd Wright is my favorite architect. He pioneered what’s called the Prairie View style, which has a lot of rectangular and horizontal lines to it, ribbon windows. It’s kind of a harmony of these rectangular shapes, which are very handsome to me. I also like the craftsman bungalow style. It’s not overly adorned but it has craftsman features, which is what it’s all about. It’s like the old days when they built the windows on site. … The other style I really like is a more simplistic, modern style. It’s not modern by years. But it’s more modernistic because it relies on just shapes and colors, and that’s the southwestern style, in the Gateway Palms project. When I went to New Mexico, that’s really the predominant residential style there. It relies on shapes and colors and can be really bold and uplifting in a way. Those are my favorite residential styles. On the commercial, I like the Chicago commercial style, which pioneered the skyscrapers. They developed a technology where they could really build skyscrapers, what you call cities in the sky. Before it was form follows function, Walter Gropius, the UN building, you get sleek, tall buildings. They have some adornment to them. I’d like to see some ornamentation, like terracotta ornamentation on the outside of these taller commercial buildings.
What brought you to host a CMAP show, Going Green?
Kathy Bisbee (former CMAP executive director), she just called me out of the blue. She said: “Dave, I think you’re really good. You have a very deliberate style. I’m thinking of doing a show showcasing green businesses and sustainable technologies. Would you be interested if I teamed you up with the economic development director in the City of Gilroy and we’ll call the show Going Green?” I said, ‘Sure, that sounds like fun.’ One of the things people don’t know is I have a theatrical background, too. I’ve actually been on stage. I’ve been in plays. I’ve enjoyed that.
What are some of the roles you’ve played?
In the Jack London plays, my later brother who was really into that, he says, “Hey Dave, they’re advertising on television to try out for these Jack London Plays in Oakland over in Jack London Square.” They had me play a lead role in a comedy. I actually hated it. I regretted every … I had to drive all the way to Oakland, do the thing, have a high energy level. The drive would just take it out of me after working all day. I’d rather have been in a serious role. It was a comedy called A Wicked Woman. It was written by Jack London.
What have been some of your favorite moments while hosting the show?
When Sam Farr came to the studio, it was one technical glitch after another. The teleprompter wasn’t working. I could tell he was getting agitated. I was getting really nervous. And then I did the opening take. I butchered it. I actually had to come back and redo just do the opening monologue. The show started going. Shawn (co-host Shawn Novack) pulled the Mike Wallace card and started asking all these pointed questions like, how come you’re not spending more money on water projects? You’re spending money on high-speed rail. And he said, I can’t take money from one pot and put it in the other. I thought, oh my God, he’s going to get up and walk off. In the end, the show went very well. It was a good one. At the end, he was a real trooper. It was all warm and fuzzy at the end. Waiting for it to get going was nerve-racking.
We’re really proud of the Measure J show where we had the debate with Citadel and San Benito Rising. We did our first take and it went really well. Then they had problems with their hard drive so I had to round everybody up again. It was a monumental task to get everybody back in the studio.
What kind of progress has this community made with the environment?
When the city was updating the general plan update, they interviewed 10 people from the community on a rainy night over there in the city chambers. They were trying to select who they want on the steering committee. When I got up there, I emphasized that we need to go in a green direction. We need to go solar. That really struck a responsive chord with them. They selected me as one of the three presenters on a steering committee. When I got on the steering committee, I was pretty adamant in getting green-policy objectives in our new general plan. Since then, we worked on the first LEED-certified building in San Benito County. I’ve been pretty vocal on the chamber of commerce providing a resource of green businesses. So when developers or contractors need suppliers for solar panels or installers, they would be able to go to the chamber of commerce. The chamber’s been pretty good with that. Now we’ve got Clearspot Energy with the city, helping to power the wastewater treatment plant. Now that Panoche Valley Solar Project is finally making headway, I think we’re moving in a green direction.
How does music play into your life?
The music for me, other than graphic arts, it’s a way to express myself. For me, the highest form of music is jazz. I’m not cut out to play classical music. I like to be creative. Blues music has always moved me—Layton Hopkins, John Lee Hooker. My calling is jazz music with a blues foundation.
Anything else?
The green agenda and affordable housing: The problems we’re having for housing projects, this city needs more rental housing. The problem they’re having is, contractors, and I can see, I don’t have a solution. With impact fees, not getting a return on investment, it’s hard to do these affordable housing projects. You don’t have the RDA subsidy. Unless you have the wherewithal, like South County Housing, and can go after tax credits, that’s very competitive. You really have to be experienced and know what you’re doing. So we have here a problem in this community. For the very poor, there’s not really many housing sources for the very poor.

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