Blog: July, 2011
New SPUR Program: Food Systems and Urban Agriculture
We are what we eat. It’s true for people — but also for cities and regions. The food we consume and the system that produces, distributes and disposes of it are as vital to San Francisco and the Bay Area as our systems for housing, energy, water and governance. Like those other systems — staples of SPUR policy — food is a basic human need and provides a perspective for answering the question, “How do we make our city and region a more livable place?”
SPUR’s new Food Systems and Urban Agriculture program seeks to answer that question through policy that will strengthen both the food system within the city — where food is grown, how it’s sold and how accessible it is— as well as the region’s network of farms and distributors.
San Francisco has recently experienced a surge of interest in reforming its local food system. In just the past two years the mayor issued a groundbreaking Executive Directive on Healthy and Sustainable Food, the Board of Supervisors updated the zoning code to allow for more types of urban agriculture, and the city hosted the first Northern California “slow money” investment conference. SPUR’s program will be working among a strong base of organizations that are active on food issues in the Bay Area. This desire for innovation and change is driven by many factors, including an interest in reducing the ecological footprint of food; improving public health and eradicating “food deserts”; and strengthening communities by supporting local businesses. SPUR's priority will be on policy, especially where food issues intersect with questions of land use, regional planning and economic development.
In our first year, we will focus our attention on four main issues:
1) The use of public land for urban agriculture
2) Reducing regulatory barriers to urban agriculture
3) Farm-to-cafeteria programs and food literacy in schools
4) Creating metrics and baselines for local food consumption to help inform future policy
Along the way we will report back, both here and the Urbanist, on other developments in the field of food policy, ranging from federal incentives for grocery stores in food deserts to state pilot projects funding rooftop agriculture for its role in stormwater management. And we will also host forums (like our May panel on San Francisco’s recent food policy initiatives), walking tours and more.
As we develop our program, I’d like to hear your ideas and feedback. Please send suggestions for potential events, interesting models of food policy in other places or other ideas to email@example.com.
Redevelopment is Dead. Long Live Redevelopment!
This year has been a wild one for redevelopment agencies in in California. In November 2010, the voters of California passed Proposition 22, which effectively prevented the state from raiding redevelopment agency funds. Then, just a few months into his tenure, Governor Jerry Brown vowed to abolish redevelopment agencies and got fairly close to doing so, despite the extraordinary efforts of organizations like the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH), to save the parts of redevelopment that work best. SPUR also chimed in with an editorial by Gabriel Metcalf arguing that redevelopment should be retained and reformed to promote affordable housing and reinforce California’s smart-growth goals.
As part of the new state budget, redevelopment agencies have once again headed to the chopping block, only this time it’s for real. When he signed the budget in late June, the governor also passed two trailer bills regarding redevelopment, ABx1 26 and ABx1 27. The first one eliminates redevelopment agencies, and the second allows them to continue to exist if they pay certain “voluntary” contributions to schools and special districts. These contributions would require each redevelopment agency to pay its proportional share of $1.7 billion for fiscal year 2011-2012. For every year thereafter, agencies would need to pay their proportional share of $400 million, plus an additional amount tied to the issuance of new debt, in order to keep their doors open.
What is the impact to San Francisco? Fred Blackwell, the head of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, has explained that the SFRDA would continue to stay in business, but some of its projects would go forward on a slower timeline, and others may not happen at all. Mission Bay and the first phase of Hunter’s Shipyard will continue to move forward, but the timeline of other projects, such as Phase II of Hunter’s Shipyard and the Transbay Terminal, are more uncertain. Even more concerning is the potential hit to affordable housing funds for those areas.
Groups throughout the state are not taking the news sitting down. The California Redevelopment Association and the League of California Cities are taking a lawsuit directly to the California Supreme Court, asserting that the new laws are unconstitutional.
Until the lawsuit is resolved, the future of redevelopment in California remains uncertain.