Through research, education and advocacy, SPUR promotes good planning and good government in the San Francisco Bay Area. A member-supported nonprofit organization, we bring people together from across the political spectrum to develop solutions to the big problems our cities face.
SPUR originated in San Francisco in 1910 and launched a San Jose office in 2012. (Read more about our decision to expand to San Jose.) Our work spans eight program areas: Community Planning, Disaster Planning, Economic Development, Good Government, Housing, Regional Planning, Sustainable Development and Transportation. We are recognized as a leading civic planning organization and respected for our independent and holistic approach to urban issues.
In our first 100 years, as our organization grew, it went through several name changes. Until 2013, we were the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association. Today, with locations in San Francisco and San Jose and a reach that extends across the Bay Area,
we are known simply as SPUR.
A Century of Civic Involvement
Our organization began in 1910, when a group of San Francisco city leaders came together to improve the quality of housing after the 1906 earthquake and fire. Known then as the San Francisco Housing Association, the group wrote a hard-hitting report that resulted in the State Tenement House Act of 1911. SFHA advocated for public housing through the 1930s. In 1942 it merged with Telesis, a group of young planners and architects, and expanded its focus to take on regional growth planning, transportation and economic revitalization.
Throughout the next half-century, the organization was at the forefront of the modern planning movement, leading efforts to create San Francisco’s first master plan, establish a professional planning department and fight for central city revitalization in the face of suburban population flight. Our organization has helped shape some of the most important planning issues in the region, from the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, from San Francisco’s groundbreaking 1973 “transit first” policy to its 2012 affordable housing trust fund.
In 2012, we embarked on a new chapter in our history with the launch of our San Jose office. We are currently in discussions to expand our work to Oakland, so we can focus on all three of the region’s central cities. (Read more about our central city strategy.)
San Francisco Housing Association founded to lead the local anti-tenement movement. SFHA authors a report leading to the State Tenement House Act of 1911.
The federal government creates the U.S. Housing Authority, initiating both federally funded public housing and “slum clearance,” known later as urban renewal. The SFHA advocates for public housing in San Francisco.
The San Francisco Museum of Art (now SFMOMA) features exhibit by Telesis, a group of UC Berkeley architects, landscape architects and urban planners who collaborate with SFHA, broadening its focus.
SFHA renamed the San Francisco Planning and Housing Association, marking an expansion of its focus.
SFPHA publishes “Blight and Taxes,” making the case for urban renewal to reinvest in blighted neighborhoods and build up San Francisco’s tax base.
Telesis exhibit “The Next Million People” explores regional growth management, an increasingly central concern for the SFPHA.
State Legislature creates BART District; planning begins.
SFPHA members found Citizens for Regional Recreation and Parks (now Greenbelt Alliance) to focus on preservation of regional open space.
San Francisco’s League of Women Voters calls for a local organization to promote “modern” planning practices. SFPHA absorbs the Citizens Participation Committee for Urban Renewal and becomes the San Francisco Planning and Urban Renewal Association (SPUR).
State Senator Eugene McAteer sponsors the Bay Study Commission, involving SPUR staff. Results in the McAteer/Petris Act, which stops the filling of the bay and forms the Bay Conservation and Development Commission.
SPUR calls for the return of port land ownership to San Francisco, after years of decline under state management. The 1969 Burton Act makes this official.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area formed after years of organizing by People for a GGNRA, SPUR, Sierra Club and others.
SF adopts “transit-first” policy based on SPUR’s Muni report published earlier that year.
Reflecting a growing focus on fiscal policy and an awareness of the failures of modernist planning, the “R” in SPUR is changed to Research.
SF adopts the Downtown Plan, containing SPUR recommendations on shaping growth in the city’s downtown core.
New SF City Charter adopted by voters after years of advocacy.
SF Waterfront Master Plan adopted following seven years of intensive planning and advocacy by SPUR.
After a decade of organizing by SPUR and others, the Union Square Business Improvement District debuts in 1997. Its success leads to a flourishing network of community benefit districts.
SPUR leads Muni reform effort, passed as Prop. E in 1999.
Mission Bay Redevelopment Plan adopted, including an expanded UCSF campus.
SF launches Better Neighborhoods program to conduct comprehensive planning for development, transit and public realm improvements.
Redesigned Union Square opens, based on a SPUR design competition.
SF adopts Rincon Hill and Transbay Redevelopment plans.
Transit Effectiveness Project leads to first overhaul of Muni routes since 1977.
SPUR publishes report on the Northern California megaregion, calling for a redefinition of regional planning.
SB 375 anti-sprawl bill passes, promoting integrated regional planning.
Voters pass California High-Speed Rail initiative, allocating nearly $10 billion to build a Los Angeles to San Francisco route.
Construction of Presidio Parkway (Doyle Drive) begins, culminating 20 years of design work led by SPUR.
SPUR opens the Urban Center at 654 Mission Street in the heart of the Yerba Buena cultural district.
SPUR launches an office in San Jose, the largest city in Northern California.
SF voters pass the Housing Trust Fund, a permanent source of funding for affordable and moderate-income housing for the next 30 years.