*updated October 2013.
The following tutorial does not seem to work for everyone, so
Try requesting a 3d capture here.
Many metropolitan areas have been 3d modeled in Google Earth. Often, it makes sense to take advantage of the existing site than to remodel everything. The above is a sample for Venice Boulevard. Having felt my way through murky mess, I've decided to share my experiences with others.
The idea here is to copy and save the 3d model as it is displayed in google earth. Thanks to Alexander Kaspar, the actual process is just as easy. To do so, you will need:
1) Google Earth, I'm using an old version (5.0.11733.9347). Run it as administrator in OpenGL mode
2) GLXtractor, I'm using v0.9.9
3) Once you have extracted GLXtractor, which is built upon OGLE, you need to run it as administrator
4) Choose Google Earth App (usually googleearth.exe in \Program Files\Google\Google Earth)
5) Select an output folder for the captured files
6) increase capture scale to 1,000,000
7) click Start Application at the bottom right corner, and it will open up your google earth for you
8) Once you have the right location, with 3d layers turned on, press the capture keys (Ctrl + Shift + F). Note that orientation matters, so keep North up
9) check that both Google Earth and GLXtractor are working hard in your task manager. If not, try capturing again. *In windows 7, I've noticed that GLXtractor.exe doesn't do much, but as long as Google Earth freezes a bit, you are going to be good.
10) Go to the designated output folder, confirm that a "Frame_xxxxxx" folder was created (this folder contains the textures/ map)
11) Patiently wait for the obj file to show up. This step may take anywhere from 1 to 30mins. *For me, the object file shows up in the same folder as the googleearth.exe (\Program Files\Google\Google Earth\)
12) Clean up the obj file in Rhino or other 3d program. reScale appropriately.
Now, for the actual design...