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- October 17, 2009BY MARY
It's not too late to catch some sessions at the National Conference in Planning History taking place at the Oakland Marriott this weekend. Organized by the Society for American City and Regional Planning History, many of the panels and tours are focused on the Bay Area, as well as their Sunday tours, which include "Historical Development and Ethnic Change in Oakland," "Urban Renewal in San Francisco" and "North of the Golden Gate: Growth Control, Open Space, and Alternative Agriculture on the Urban Fringe." The Marriott is an easy two blocks from the Oakland City Center BART station.
- October 14, 2009BY MARY
Want to know the person behind all of SPUR's good sustainability work? Check out planetshifter.com's interview with Laura Tam, SPUR's Sustainable Devepment Policy Director and hear Laura's thoughts on the necessary relationship between environmentally responsible practices and making good cities, how SPUR moves beyond important research to implement policy and how she works on reducing her ecological footprint at home.
- October 8, 2009BY LAURA TAM, SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT POLICY DIRECTOR
A climate conference in Oxford concluded last week that whatever we can do to slow carbon emissions, it won't be enough to stop accelerated sea level rise. In fact, a German scientist who's widely regarded as one of the world's foremost experts on sea level rise, said his best guess was 1 meter this century (a lowball figure compared to the latest projections for California), and 5 meters in 300 years. Expect a lot of bleak climate news to be revealed over the next few months, as the world prepares for the U.N. climate change conference taking place in Copenhagen in December. The conference's web site is a great source of daily climate news from around the globe. And if you don't like what you see coming out of Copenhagen, try visiting Hopenhagen instead.
- October 8, 2009
SPUR members toured the Mission Armory, the 200,000 square foot Moorish Castle Reproduction completed in 1914. From it's completion until 1976, the Armory was used as a National Guard facility, and later joined the National Register of Historic Places.
The drill court, spanning nearly an acre, served not only as a military training facility, but also as boxing arena, and hall for social events for the City's national guardsmen. Future use as a community space will be managed by The Armory Community Center (TACC).
The interior space contains 160 rooms grossing 190,300 square feet. Decor ranges from utilitarian to the more decorative, as seen in the Main Entrance Hall:
Filming By CyberEntertainmnet, Inc, which acquired the Armory in 2006, occupied many areas of the Armory, sadly restricting the SPUR visit. Tours conducted by employees of CyberEntertainment are offered the 2nd Friday of the month. For more information, please visit: http://www.sfarmory.com/
- October 1, 2009BY MARY
Some of the first calculations of the benefits of green roofs are coming back and they're even better than expected: replacing typical roofing materials with plants across a city the size of Detroit would be the equivalent of removing the pollution of 10,000 SUVs in a year. This study is the first to measure the amount of carbon that could be captured by the extensive use of green roofs.
Meanwhile, The New York Times is reporting the trend in real estate to use green roofs to lure potential tenants. More than the environmental benefits--including catching water run-off, absorbing carbon and providing excellent insulation--that people have become to expect in newer buildings, providing green space for workers is seen as an investment in the well being and health of their workers.
- October 1, 2009BY MARY
Today was the second day of the six-week Better Market Street Project trial number one, which diverts cars headed north off of Market Street at 8th and 6th avenues, in an attempt to reduce traffic on the oft-clogged street. What a transformation! The morning bicycle commute has become a breeze and we hope will encourage more workers to choose their two-wheeled vehicle.
The Better Merket Street Project hopes his traffic reduction trial will be the beginning of the metamorphosis of Market Street into one of the great city boulevards of the world. More trials to come will include new mini-plazas with tables and chairs. See our own SPUR Deputy Director Sarah Karlinksy share her thoughts on the matter here.
- September 28, 2009BY MARY
Two weeks ago the great parade of cars covered in the white desert dust returned from Black Rock City, Nevada, Burning Man's annual week-long home. Along with the many tales, burners brought back news of next year's theme: Metropolis: the life of cities. Besides celebrating Black Rock City's own urban elements--a population of 40-50,000 people with (temporary) homes on lots within blocks; a system of streets with a main car-less promenade and plazas; a non-commercial economy; and public services (medics, cops, transportation, postal service)--the organization wants to bring together planners and participants to explore what makes a city livable.Tags: Burning Man
- September 28, 2009BY LAURA TAM, SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT POLICY DIRECTOR
This summer, somewhere in California, the state Energy Commission denied an application for a new urban natural gas-burning power plant, citing that urban solar (PV) might be a better alternative. The CEC said that new "peakers" were not obviously the most cost-effective or environmentally preferable option to close that city's energy reliability gap. For years, SPUR and a loose coalition of environmental advocates, led by the Brightline Defense Project, have suggested that our own City consider more environmentally-friendly alternatives to closing the Potrero Power Plant than siting new gas-fired peakers. Although we are on the brink of success here, the CEC's decision sets a precedent that other cities will be required to analyze rooftop PV as a feasible alternative to new gas-fired generation. Read Brightline's brief legal analysis of the decision here.
A little backstory illustrates why this is so important. In the wake of the 2001 energy crisis, to help bolster the state's grid reliability, many cities built new natural gas-burning 'peaker' power plants that could be fired up to meet local energy needs on days of unusually high demand. More often than not, low income communities, or communities of color, were the recipient locations for these peakers - increasing emissions in places that were many times already shouldering disproportionate environmental burdens. The new CEC decision means that this could be reversed, and in a way that brings green jobs and environmental justice along with a more sustainable energy supply. Let San Francisco (er, Chula Vista), lead the way!
- September 23, 2009BY JULIE KIM
New York Times columnist Allison Arieff penned a piece yesterday on the temporary parks and open spaces sprouting up in San Francisco and New York City--and the opportunity for land owners (in this soft economy) to lend their empty lots to grassroots greeners.
This image, from Arieff's column, shows the site of one of San Francisco's newest temporary plaza at the intersection of San Jose Avenue and Guerrero Streets:
The San Jose/Guerrero parks use simple materials--many of them recycled--to create instant atmosphere.
Arieff's column also featured many great images from PARK(ing) Day last week, as well as a link to a Streetsfilms segment featuring PARKS by SPUR and other members of the San Francisco Great Streets Coalition.
- September 23, 2009BY JULIE KIM
Last Friday, we teamed up with the San Francisco Great Streets Project and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition to participate in 2009 PARK(ing) Day, an event-cum-social movement started by Rebar in 2005.
Before the big day, architect and SFBC volunteer Riyad Ghannam spent countless hours in the Urban Center's basement designing and building wooden platforms to create a seamless transition between the sidewalk and PARK:
We're hoping the installation can be a model for restaurants and other small businesses to create temporary outdoor eating and sitting spaces as an extension of their storefronts. The model was a hit among North Beach restaurant owners, for whom PARK(ing) Day turned into a PARK(ing) Weekend! (See Streetsfilm's clip below for the whole story.)
Finally, what would PARK(ing) Day be without a little bellydancing by Calamity Sam, who literally stopped Mission Street traffic.
Thank you to plant-provider Flora Grubb, furniture-maker Miles Epstein, belly-dancer Calamity Sam and cellist Leo Suarez-Peringer for making 2009 PARK(ing) Day a raging success! And we're thrilled that Dwell, Streetsblog and Streetsfilms all had a chance to stop by.