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- 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.
- November 21, 2009BY BEN LOWE
Study after study has shown that cities prioritize development that lets visitors and residents walk, bicycle, or take public transit to get around, people are healthier and have far less negative impact on the environment. Now, a new study by TransForm entitled Windfall for All demonstrates another benefit to developing livable communities: people who do not use cars to get around spend far less money on transportation than people who do. Citing AAA estimates, the report shows that, on average, it costs $8,097 per year to own, maintain, register, insure, and fuel a vehicle. In all, individuals in the Bay Area spend $34 billion on private transportation, most of which on owning and operating cars.
Especially in current tough economic conditions, finding ways to cut costs is critical, and that includes money spent on transportation. Yet many Bay Area towns and cities have prioritized development that not only encourages auto use, but precludes other ways to travel. As the study asserts, people can only move away from expensive auto use toward more affordable transportation means if cities give them the means to do so by putting housing near transit, ensuring pedestrians and bicyclists can get around safely, and investing in pleasant places that are nicer to be in than to drive past.
- November 16, 2009BY LAURA TAM, SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT POLICY DIRECTOR
This Wednesday, join the Alaska Conservation Foundation for an evening with National Geographic photographer James Balog. Mr. Balog, an award wininng photographer for over 25 years, will share his groundbreaking work to capture the reality of climate change by photographing the world’s shrinking glaciers. Through time-lapse footage, Mr. Balog will share his efforts to design equipment, underwrite, and produce one of the world’s most convincing records of climate change. For more information (and stunning photographs), visit www.extremeicesurvey.org. Half of the U.S. coal reserves, by the way, lie in Alaska—making it a very important front line for stopping global climate change.
Event details: Wed, Nov. 18, Fort Mason Officer's Club, 1 Fort Mason, San Francisco
Program (Free, but RSVP required): 6:30-7:30 pm
RSVP: Lorraine Guyer, at firstname.lastname@example.org
, or call (907) 276-1917.
- November 12, 2009BY JORDAN SALINGER
How fast do you have to be to outrun rising tides? According to Will Travis, of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission this is a challenge that the Bay Area faces. Travis informed and entertained a large crowd at a forum at the Urban Center this past Tuesday, covering a wide range of issues including environmental justice, adaption strategies, importance of tidal wetlands, and his thoughts for the future of the bay.
Climate change poses a severe threat to the San Francisco Bay. Ocean water temperatures will continue to increase, sea levels will inevitably rise, and storms will become more violent. Decreases in the Sierra snowpack will mean less fresh water in the spring and summer months, allowing salt water to travel further up the delta than ever before.
While his prognosis was certainly bleak, Travis offered a wide range of strategies aimed at combating these changes. Some of these strategies included the protection of tidal wetlands, continued compact mixed use development near transit, and planning for future, and not present, conditions. Travis concluded his remarks by quoting hockey legend Wayne Gretzky who said the goal is to "skate not where the puck is, but to where it will be," emphasizing the importance of making sure our plans stay ahead of changing conditions and rising tides.Tags: good government
- November 10, 2009BY EGON TERPLAN, REGIONAL PLANNING DIRECTOR
[Image: Green roof in Toronto from urbanneighbourhood]
How can cities best position themselves in the green economy? What is the role of manufacturing in urban areas? How can a city best choose an economic development strategy given its size and unique economic history? How should federal policy support policy innovation among cities?
Join us for an evening discussion with nationally-recognized visiting writer and professor Joan Fitzgerald. She will give us a preview of her new book, Emerald Cities: Urban Sustainability and Economic Development, to be published by Oxford University Press in early 2010. In the book, Joan Fitzgerald shows how in the absence of a comprehensive national policy, cities have taken the lead in addressing the interrelated environmental problems of global warming, pollution, energy dependence, and social justice. Her analysis includes a comparison of 24 cities throughout the United States - major cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco (of course) but also less known places such as Toledo and Syracuse.
Join us on Tuesday, November 17, 2009 6:00 pm
Where: SPUR Urban Center (654 Mission Street)
Joan Fitzgerald is a nationally-recognized writer and professor who directs the Law, Policy and Society Program at Northeastern University. Earlier this year, Fitzgerald edited The American Prospect’s April 2009 special report on “The Green Challenge: Will Cleaner Energy Produce New Industries and Good Jobs for Americans?” The answer, says Fitzgerald and the six other contributors to that report, is Yes—provided that governments at the federal, state and local level give green manufacturing the support it needs to flourish. That means much more thanfunding specific companies; it requires crafting and implementing a comprehensive industrial policy. Such a policy, Fitzgerald writes in her piece Cities on the Front Lines, would recognize how traditional sources of manufacturing strength can serve as the base of a renewable energy economy. She cites how a former glass technology and manufacturing center like Toledo, Ohio has now become a leader in solar energy.
And last month in an op-ed for the Boston Globe, Fitzgerald warns that absent a broad and coherent industrial vision that connects demand, supply and technology, the United States is likely to cede leadership in renewable energy production and other clean technologies to German, Japan and China.
- October 30, 2009BY BEN LOWE
On October 29, architects David Baker and Amit Price Patel of David Baker + Partners Architects and David Fletcher from Fletcher Studio presented Xero Energy, their winning entry in the Re:Vision Dallas competition. Sponsored by Urban Re:Vision of San Francisco, the competition asked designers to propose a fully sustainable city block.
The proposal envisions an array of energy-conservation and -generation methods used in concert to reduce the overall energy "footprint" of the building, from photovoltaic panels and geothermal energy generation to on-site community agriculture that would reduce the distance -- and concomitant fossil fuel use -- of residents' food. In reaching for sustainability, the Xero Energy proposal reached far beyond the 2.4-acre site they were assigned to work on as well, presenting a vision of an expansive greenway and connections to Union Station, a handsome Beaux-Arts rail station nearby.Tags: regional planning
- October 26, 2009BY JULIE KIM
Don't miss this presentation by Sam Lubell, editor of the California edition of The Architect's Newspaper and author of Living West: New Residential Architecture in Southern California, published this month by Random House.
Tuesday, October 27, 6 pm--presentation and book signing
SPUR Urban Center, 654 Mission Street, SF
Free for SPUR members; $5 general admission
See below (or here) for more info. See you tomorrow night!
A dense concentration of design talent, uniquely varied topography, and one of the world’s most pleasant climates have made Southern California a crucible of architectural innovation. There, forward-looking clients respond to dramatic modern interpretations of form and site that capitalize on natural light and magnificent ocean views, perch delicately on steeply graded land, or maximize privacy on a sliver of a city lot.
Thirty of the best designs by the most creative firms portray the diversity of Southern California’s architecture. Author Sam Lubell draws examples from Montecito to San Diego and the arid conditions of Joshua Tree to illustrate the wide range of responses to geography, budget, and space. Featured architects include Barbara Bestor, Belzberg, Griffin Enright, Lorcan O’Herlihy, Michele Saee, the Office of Mobile Design, and Predock Frane, among others.
- October 26, 2009BY JULIE KIM
SPUR is thrilled to welcome Ken Caldeira, head of the Carnegie Institution for Science's Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University, to the Urban Center for a lunchtime forum.
Wednesday, October 28, 12:30 - 1:30 p.m.
Free for SPUR members. General admission is $5.
Location: SPUR Urban Center, 654 Mission St. (between New Montgomery & Third).
Renowned for his groundbreaking research on ocean acidifcation, Caldeira's been in the news this month for publicly chiding Superfreakonomics authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner for misrepresenting his research on geo-engineering as a substitute for agressive mitigation strategies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (In fact, while Caldeira knows a lot about weather manipulation--perhaps more than any other climate scientist working right now--he views it as a last resort, only to be employed once we are certain about its many risks.)
Here's a bio of Caldeira from an Oct. 22 post on the Guardian Environment Network (which republished a great interview conducted by Yale 360):Atmospheric scientist Ken Caldeira first became known for his groundbreaking work on ocean acidification, a phrase originally coined as a headline for one of his papers. Of late, however, Caldeira's research has led him into the controversial area of geo-engineering — the large-scale, deliberate manipulation of the Earth's climate system.
Many scientists have shied away from the subject because they feel it is a wrongheaded and dangerous path to pursue. But Caldeira — who heads a research lab at the Carnegie Institution for Science's Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University — has not been so dismissive, in part because his climate modeling has demonstrated that some geo-engineering schemes may indeed help reduce the risk of climate change. In fact, few scientists have thought harder about the moral, political, and environmental implications of geo-engineering.
Caldeira has become a focal point recently in the controversy surrounding the publication of Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's SuperFreakonomics, the follow-up to their previous best-seller, Freakonomics. A chapter of the book that deals with geo-engineering and quoted Caldeira was circulated on the Internet prior to the book's publication and was widely criticized for its poor understanding of climate science and its cynical, contrarian perspective.