Blog » blog
- 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.
- September 22, 2009BY JULIE KIM
Last month, AIA San Francisco, CEOs for Cities, GOOD Magazine and SPUR issued a "call for problems" to a handful of city leaders, and asked six up-and-coming designers to develop responses and present them at an evening forum later this month.
The challenges we got ranged from improving public schools, to designing a more welcoming storefront for the Ferry Building, to coming up with a better, i.e. less cumbersome, way for homeowners to store recycling bins.
Six local design teams--some of the brightest minds in architecture, graphics, interactive systems and industrial design--will present their solutions to their "clients" at a public forum at the Urban Center on September 29.
We are thrilled to welcome GOOD contributing editor Alissa Walker as moderator.
Full event details are below...see you next week!
Tuesday, September 29, 6-8 p.m.
SPUR Urban Center, 654 Mission Street, SF
$10 General Admission; Buy tix at aiasf.org/archandcity
The GOOD Design SF lineup:
- Problem #1: Create a scalable program that improves local public education. Submitted by Carlos Garcia, San Francisco Unified School District. Design response by Kuth Ranieri.
- Problem #2: Expand the Ferry Plaza's vibrant food experience out into the street. Submitted by Chris Meany, Wilson Meany Sullivan. Response by Surface Design.
- Problem #3: Make recreational movement safer along our waterfronts. Submitted by Monique Moyer, Port of San Francisco. Design response by Min Day.
- Problem #4: Reinvent San Francisco's Broadway as a vibrant commercial corridor. Submitted by Michael Cohen, Mayor's Office of Workforce and Economic Development. Design response by Mike and Maaike.
- Problem #5: Design a citywide bicycle parking system. Submitted by Nathaniel Ford, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Design response by Stamen.
- Problem #6: Devise a more effective residential recycling program. Submitted by Zahid Sardar, author, design editor and columnist. Design response by Volume.
Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the Architecture and the City website.
Tags: good design
- September 15, 2009BY JULIE KIM
Maureen Futtner of the San Francisco Examiner asks SPUR Executive Director Gabriel Metcalf about the trajectory of his career (from SPUR intern to Executive Director), the role of optimisim in affecting social change and his thoughts on what makes a great city leader.
- September 9, 2009BY DAVID BONOWITZ
Twenty years after Loma Prieta, are we better prepared for our next big earthquake? A new website takes a grassroots approach to the question.The site lets anyone post photos and descriptions of retrofitted buildings on a Google-based map. It launched in mid-August with an eye on the October anniversary. Results from the first two weeks are compelling: hundreds of structures, everything from houses to high-rises, posted by owners, engineers, contractors--and even local governments.
The mapped projects show what can be done and suggest what needs to be done still. But do they add up to something? SPUR has made the case for public policy that focuses on resilience, not just survival, and that's going to take some planning. Whatever the policy, however, earthquake risk reduction will almost always get done one building at a time, as the website illustrates.What's the point of mapping hundreds (maybe thousands) of retrofits? The organizers (full disclosure: I'm one of them) acknowledge that the site started as a way to quantify progress, but it's morphed into something different. Since the content is user-generated, it's not controlled enough to support a research project. Instead, the site is about community and shared purpose, a way for anyone and everyone to say "I retrofitted!" Twenty years of progress, even if slow or scattered, is worth documenting in a public way.
- August 13, 2009BY LAURA TAM, SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT POLICY DIRECTOR
Transportation-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are the fastest growing source of emissions in the U.S., and are currently responsible for almost 30% of the nation's total GHG output. A new ULI report, Moving Cooler, presents different strategies for making our transportation systems more sustainable. It proposes nine categories for improvement, including pricing/taxes, land use and smart growth, transit improvements, ridesharing, intelligent systems, and more. Going beyond other reports of its kind, it not only looks at the costs and effectiveness of different strategies, but considers them in various combinations. Although you have to buy the book, you can get an overview of its findings here.
- July 14, 2009BY MARY
Should you be driving on the highway in rural northwest Norway keep your eyes peeled for more than just the natural beauty. The Norwegian national road agency is in the midst of a $1.6 billion project that attempts to lure tourists to this often over-looked area by highlighting the landscape with architecture--in the shape of viewpoints, rest stops, benches, winding foot bridges and stairs leading you to the sea. It has already hired more than 45 architects, landscape architects and artists to create these eye-catchers. And you don't need a car to enjoy it! Some of the projects include resting shelters for bicyclists.
A rest house for cyclists.
- July 1, 2009BY LAURA TAM, SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT POLICY DIRECTOR
NRDC has just released a guide to SB 375, the nation's first legislation to link transportation and land use planning with global warming. The goal of this legislation is to foster development patterns that reduce the need to drive. Household transportation is the single largest and fastest-growing source of global warming pollution in California. SB 375 will also help save money for households and taxpayers (through reduced infrastructure costs), reduce air pollution, conserve water, and protect farmland and open space.