• News

    A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

A Little Taller, A Lot Smarter

October 26, 2015 by Mark Hogan, Principal, OpenScope Studio and Kristy Wang, Community Planning Director, SPUR
Have you ever walked down a San Francisco street  and wondered, "Why aren’t these buildings taller?" If we’re in a housing shortage, why don’t we have six-, ten- and twelve-story residential buildings throughout the city? San Francisco is trying to change this with the Affordable Housing Bonus Program, a proposal to allow an increase in height and allowable density in exchange for building affordable housing.

SF’s Latest Tool to Save More Water: Pay Building Owners to Recycle It

October 26, 2015 By Laura Tam, Sustainable Development Policy Director
San Francisco just upped the ante on what building owners and developers can do to reduce our water deficit (and likely, their own water bills). Changes to the city’s nonpotable water program, approved this month, will provide grant funding for existing buildings to install onsite water treatment and reuse systems — and for buildings to connect to each other and recycle water as a district.

With El Nino Looming, Ocean Beach Gets Smarter About Storm Protection

October 21, 2015 By Benjamin Grant
The Ocean Beach Master Plan could face a major test this winter if predictions of El-Nino-driven storms come to pass. In previous storm seasons, San Francisco used large piles of boulders to armor the beach, but this degrades beach access and can even accelerate erosion. Based on recommendations from the master plan, the city is looking to weather the coming winter with less intrusive measures.

How Apps, Maps and Other Tools Can Help Activate Downtown San Jose

October 15, 2015 By Laura Tolkoff, San Jose Policy Director
In our report The Future of Downtown San Jose , we suggested that the city can bring more people and activity downtown by providing better wayfinding signage and other tools. Since the spring, San Jose’s Office of Economic Development has been working with City ID to lay the groundwork for a permanent wayfinding program downtown. Here’s a preview of where they’re headed.

Urban Ag Incentives Adopted in Santa Clara County and Sacramento

October 5, 2015 By Eli Zigas, Food and Agriculture Policy Director
This fall, multiple jurisdictions, including Santa Clara County and Sacramento, have followed San Francisco’s model and created urban agriculture incentive zones of their own or have taken official steps toward doing so.

New Report Says Mission Moratorium Will Only Make the Housing Crisis Worse

September 18, 2015 By Kristy Wang, Community Planning Director
In September, San Francisco Chief Economist Ted Egan released a report analyzing the impacts of a moratorium on new housing construction in the Mission District. While the rapid changes happening in the Mission neighborhood are real and of grave concern, the report showed that a moratorium on new housing would have many costs and few benefits.

Heeding the Call for Affordable Housing in Silicon Valley

August 18, 2015 By Kristy Wang, Community Planning Policy Director
San Francisco housing fights may make the headlines, but the median home sales price in the San Jose metropolitan area is the highest in the nation, at $980,000. A new advocacy group launched this year will focus directly on Santa Clara County’s affordable housing issues. SV@Home will advocate for more policies, programs, funding and land for affordable housing in the county. ​

What the Bay Area Can Learn From Hurricane Sandy

August 11, 2015 By Veronica Tien
Thanks to the threat of sea level rise, prolonged drought and the possibility of natural disaster brought on by climate change, the Bay Area could soon face devastating damage. How can we get ready for climate change before disaster strikes? SPUR invited designers and city planners to discuss lessons learned from the Rebuild By Design competition that helped revitalize the Northeast Coast after Hurricane Sandy.

The Return of Passenger Rail in the North Bay

July 29, 2015 By Zack Dinh
Many communities in Marin and Sonoma County grew up around rail. The remnants of this legacy are the walkable downtowns adjacent to former rail stations in many North Bay cities. Now, after decades of hard work by locals, passenger trains will once again connect the North Bay's communities: Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) will begin passenger rail service in December 2016.

Finding Your Way in Downtown San Jose

July 28, 2015 By Laura Tolkoff, San Jose Policy Director
Our report The Future of Downtown San Jose suggested that the city can bring more people and activity downtown by investing in clearer signage, more real-time information and better wayfinding. With support from the Knight Foundation, San Jose is now taking big steps to make that happen.

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