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- January 29, 2010BY COLLEEN MCHUGH
Streetfood is not new. In fact, since the existence of streets and the commoditization of food, streetfood has been an integral aspect of daily life for cultures around the world. That being said, it is undeniable that there has been a growing trend in San Francisco and other American cities towards selling a creative array of food – from Korean tacos to crème brulée – prepared on the street.
Streetfood in China and the Netherlands [Images: Colleen McHugh]
Tuesday’s Young Urbanist event at SPUR--generously supported by the Koret Foundation--was a perfect example of this growing excitement surrounding streetfood. With a crowd that spread out the door of the second-floor assembly hall, this was one the most heavily attended SPUR forums in the new Urban Center (perhaps due to the delicious free tacos provided by the Kung Fu Taco truck). Panelists Larry Bain of Let’s Be Frank, Imelda Reyes of the Department of Public Health, Operations Director of La Cocina Caleb Zigas, and Supervisor of the Small Business Assistance Center Martha Yañez joined moderator Raquel Donoso of the Latino Community Foundation in a discussion on the increasing popularity of streetfood culture in San Francisco.
The downturn economy, the panelists acknowledged, has played a role in the growing number of streetfood vendors in the city. However, they were careful to move beyond this simple explanation, noting a growing desire to connect to the food we eat and the role of social media. Another compelling explanation was merely alluded to in a response from the audience – a movement of social culture to city streets.
In light of last week’s lunchtime forum on the legacy of Donald Appleyard’s Livable Streets, it is exciting to consider the popularity of streetfood as part of a wider Great Streets movement. As one audience member lamented at Tuesday night’s forum, the recent trend in streetfood has been largely “‘bourgey’ food accessible to rich foodies”. However, Caleb Zigas was quick to contend that there is “a place on the same block for $3 and $8 food that is really awesome”. And if the streetfood trend is bringing more people and more life to the streets of America (and away from cars on the freeways), that is a good thing. However, as was often mentioned on Tuesday, it is important for San Francisco to remove unnecessary barriers and allow people who want to serve simple, cheap, good food to do just that.
[Image: Colleen McHugh]
To see more photos from Tuesday’s Young Urbanist event, visit SPUR’s Flickr page.
- January 22, 2010BY ELIZABETH HOLDEN
As students rushed home for the day, SPUR members filtered in for a tour of the San Francisco Friends School. Built in 1906 after the earthquake and fire, the building housed Levi Strauss & Co. until 2002. Fundraising for the Friends School began in 2006, and classes commenced in September of 2008. Peter Pfau and Kami Kincaid of Pfau Long Architecture explained their process of renovation. With general contractor Plant Construction Company, the team designed the school to preserve the light, open feeling of the historic space, and honored the school’s mission with close attention to sustainability and simplicity.
The building is naturally ventilated with four thermal towers. Sunlight enters through the glass to charge the heating plates; sensors throughout the building tell the vents to open and shut. The white roof reflects heat to control the temperature in warm weather, and will eventually contain solar panels. Last April the school was chosen by the American Institute of Architects and Gavin Newsom as one of the Top Ten Greenest Buildings in the city.
The original factory floor remains on the second story. During the Depression, Levi Strauss & Co. kept employees on payroll by building the maple floors. The stains and scuffs of years as a working factory remain in place. “The contractors wanted to sand them down,” Pfau says, “but I said no way. This way the history is alive in the building.” One coat of sealer and wax preserved the floors, including every mark of the building’s past.
The second floor contains the meeting hall, where students of all ages can observe the Quaker tradition of silent reflection. Benches in the meeting hall were made from the beams removed from the first floor during the seismic upgrade. Nearly 50% of the materials used in renovation were previously part of the building. After adding a theater and a second floor to the library, the building will total over 80,000 square feet with a 10,000 square foot playground and garden in the front of the school. To see more photos of the tour, check out the Urbanists on flickr!
[Images: Colleen McHugh]
- January 20, 2010BY COLLEEN MCHUGH
As someone who has lived in this city for virtually my entire life, there is one thing I know for sure – parking is a pain. Were I to calculate the total time I’ve wasted cruising for a parking space or the total amount of money I’ve spent in parking tickets, I might go insane. However, we are not just losing our time, money, and sanity in this parking climate. We are also increasing traffic congestion and, in the process, greenhouse gas emissions. But how can we fix this conundrum?
[Image: Colleen McHugh]
Last Thursday’s lunchtime forum addressed the Parking Problem on a regional scale and proposed parking reform strategies aimed at alleviating this issue as well as at incentivizing other forms of transit. Valerie Knepper from the MTC addressed the strong need for innovative regional reform. Among the current regional parking flaws, Valerie noted a number of parking requirements for employers, developers, and businesses that in effect subsidize driving and encourage sprawl. Valerie suggested possible local reforms (expanding the parking cashout program for employees, charging market rates for parking in high demand areas, unbundling leases with separate rents for parking, removing minimums and setting maximums for parking requirements) and proposed ways the region can encourage such local reform (for example, by extending “indirect source” regulations to parking). Valerie concluded her presentation with a call-out for innovative parking reform strategies that are high impact, jurisdiction-wide, innovative yet cost-effective, and support Priority Development Areas.
As an example of success, Redwood City Downtown Development Coordinator Dan Zack explained how he incorporated parking reform into his city’s downtown plan. Some of the highlights of this reform are performance-based pricing that increases meter prices in high occupancy areas and decreases prices in low-occupancy areas with a target occupancy rate of 85% throughout the downtown area, eliminating time limits, using surplus parking revenue to improve the surrounding downtown area, and upgrading from single-space coin-operated meters to multi-space meters with more paying options. Dan reported an overall success in the program and shared the lesson that “Good pricing creates turnovers and vacancies.” Learn more about Redwood City’s parking reform by visiting their website.
- January 7, 2010BY EGON TERPLAN, REGIONAL PLANNING DIRECTOR
Not so fast says the Atlantic’s James Fallows in a new article on “How America Can Rise Again.” People have argued we were in decline since the earliest days of the republic. His prescription: Focus on maintaining our top universities to foster innovation and open immigration to keep people and ideas flowing into our country. From SPUR’s perspective, we would add – and invest heavily in high speed rail and other infrastructure that enables non-auto mobility.
- January 5, 2010BY BEN LOWE
This past fall, a group of SPUR board members and staff traveled to Washington DC to learn from the urban-planning successes of our nation's capital; today, three members of that group presented their findings at a lunchtime forum.
SPUR Deputy Director Sarah Karlinsky began the discussion with an overview of the Washington urban planning models from Pierre L'Enfant's plan of 1791 to and James McMillan's Plan of 1901 through modern-day endeavors to enliven the long-neglected Southeast waterfront area along the Anacostia. Regional Planning Director Egon Terplan expanded the geographical scope of the discussion, demonstrating with satellite photography areas in the region where forward-thinking transit-planning decisions brought about transit-oriented development along major corridors and high public transit use. Terplan focused on the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor in Virginia and Bethesda in Maryland, both tremendous successes in inducing dense development clustered around regional rail service.
Finally, architect and urban historian Rod Freebairn-Smith showed photographs gathered during the trip focused on how security threats affect both civic life and architecture. His photos included many examples of how buildings have been fortified through bollardization and other means, while not marring the storied city or preventing access to national monuments and icons.
- December 18, 2009BY LAURA TAM, SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT POLICY DIRECTOR
A paper this week in what is arguably the world's most prestigious scientific journal, Nature, says that the last time the Earth warmed up as much as it will under climate change, sea levels rose about 8 meters. This means that global sea level rise over the coming decades may be about twice as worse as we thought. When we published two articles in the Urbanist last month on the topic of sea level rise, we reported that sea level rise might possibly be 5-7 m higher in 300 years, and very likely 1.5 m by 2100. (these were the most well-documented worst-case scenario numbers I could find).
This new paper - a great analysis here - says sea level rise is very likely going to rise 20-30 feet (6-9 m) if we hold temperature to about 3.6 degrees F higher than today. We don't know when we'll get these levels. We only know we'll be committed to them even if we somehow manage to slow down climate change.
As of today's proposals in Copenhagen, the temperature in 2100 is going to be 7 degrees F hotter.
- December 18, 2009- posted by Colleen
Deputy Director Sarah Karlinsky was featured in a short film this week on the future of San Francisco’s streets.
Streetsblog San Francisco posted a video on Monday showcasing the Making a Better Market Street Project. The project envisions Market Street as a grand boulevard similar to La Rambla in Barcelona, the Champs-Élysées in Paris, or the more recently reconfigured public space in New York’s Times Square. As Sarah Karlinsky explains in the film, “[these cities] are really thinking about their streets as more than just infrastructure for cars to move along; they’re really places that people want to make use of.“ In this spirit, the project has instituted trial traffic diversions, public art in storefronts, live music and public programming along Market. According to the video, private automobile traffic on Market Street has reduced by 60%, pedestrian traffic has increased by 250 pedestrians/hour, and MUNI travel time in the trial area has decreased by a minute following the redirection of traffic off of Market.
See more of Sarah’s interview and learn more about the project by watching the video below:
- December 16, 2009- posted by Laura
SPUR's analysis of the cost-effectiveness of various options for local government to reduce carbon emissions has gotten around. Our evaluation showing that in San Francisco, a low-interest loan program to finance home energy efficiency retrofits would be more cost-effective than new incentives for renewable energy installations, was featured in an EPA presentation for local governments on how to use stimulus funding. The presentation is accessible on ICLEI's California Region site. And it looks like such a program is actually being proposed in San Francisco, modeled after the wildly-popular Berkeley FIRST.
- December 1, 2009BY ELIZABETH HOLDEN
Fall programming concluded November 18th with bikes, parks and policy in the City of Light. Writer and lecturer Marilyn Clemens illustrated current trends in Parisian roadway and park design, which follow the geometry of the classical era, while also redefining the purpose of public space. The Alliance Française generously sponsored the event.
Clemens reported walking as the most popular method of circulation, and the city of Paris plans accordingly for its pedestrians. From small alleys to the Champs-Élysées, streets of all sizes have taken lanes away from cars and given to pedestrians. Cyclists are also a priority, with over 230 miles of new bikeways in the works. And while bicycle sharing has faced challenges, Vélib’ remains popular throughout France.
A partnership of the planning department with the department of the environment prompted a new focus on sustainability in the parks, using educational programs and exhibitions to promote the message. Innovations in park design set new precedents. The Promenade Plantée (pictured) runs for nearly three miles along an abandoned railway viaduct. Completed in 1995, the green space inspired New York City's High Line. The beautiful elevated space caters to both bikers and walkers, making it easy for Parisians to take the high road.
[Image: Marilyn Clemens]
- November 24, 2009BY COLLEEN MCHUGH
The Young Urbanist [Literature] in the City forum at SPUR on November 10th presented a lively discussion on this topic and other aspects of the history and culture of San Francisco’s literary community. Stephen Elliott of the San Francisco Writer's Grotto and editor of The Rumpus, writer and City Lights editor Elaine Katzenberger, and Filipino American poet and professor Barbara Jane Reyes joined the forum moderator, poet Matthew Zapruder, in an exploration of the relationship between literature and the city.
The forum began with readings from each of the three panelists. Barbara Jane Reyes shared poetry of a walking tour through San Francisco’s cultural landscape, Elaine Katzenberger spoke from a speech given by City Lights founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti during his acceptance in 2000 as San Francisco’s first Poet Laureate, and Stephen Elliott read from his critically acclaimed new book The Adderall Diaries. What followed was a debate over the extent to which San Francisco remains a center of bohemian culture that nurtures artistic expression. The panelists spoke to rising rents and gentrifying neighborhoods. But when asked why writers continue to live in this city when it may make little financial sense, the speakers referenced family, a strong writing community, history, and a counter-culture unique to San Francisco. Stephen Elliott expressed, “There is something nourishing about this place.”
Ultimately, the evening’s panelists agreed that a certain culture of resistance – to the norm, to consumerism, to war – permeates this city’s literary community. Moderator Matthew Zapruder reasoned that San Francisco might be the most “American” city in the country in that it embodies this ideal of personal freedom.