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    A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

San Francisco Passes Landmark Earthquake Retrofit Law

April 24, 2013 By Sarah Karlinsky, Deputy Director
Last Thursday, on the 107th anniversary of the 1906 Earthquake, SF Mayor Ed Lee signed the mandatory soft-story retrofit program into law . SPUR has long advocated for this legislation, which will help make San Francisco more resilient in a major earthquake. Soft-story buildings are those with large openings for storefront windows or garages, which cause the ground floor to be weak, leaving it vulnerable to damage or even collapse in an earthquake. The legislation focuses on wood-frame apartment buildings with three or more stories and five or more units that were built before modern code changes adopted in 1978. San Francisco’s Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety (CAPSS) estimates that at least 2,800 of these buildings have a soft-story condition. Combined they are home to roughly 58,000 people and 2,000 businesses. Currently, these buildings pose a significant threat to San Francisco’s ability to recover from a disaster. The city...

Three State Bills Worth Watching: Urban Ag, Farm Protection and a Soda Tax

April 2, 2013 by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
Of the many food and agriculture bills California legislators have introduced this year, three stand out for their potential impact on the Bay Area’s food system: a tax incentive to promote the use of private land for urban agriculture; a change to CEQA to require agricultural land preservation for certain projects; and a statewide sugary-beverage tax. Here’s a closer look at these bills, which we will be tracking this year. Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone Act ( AB 551 ) Introduced by San Francisco’s recently elected assembly member Phil Ting, this legislation would incentivize the use of private land for urban agriculture by reducing the property tax assesment on qualifying parcels dedicated to city farming. The bill would permit counties to pass ordinances establishing “Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones” within their boundaries. In these incentive zones, private property owners would be eligible to apply to enter a contract with the county restricting...

Bay Area Bike Sharing Moves Closer to Reality

March 25, 2013 By Molly Schremmer
After a number of delays, the wheels are finally turning on a bike-sharing program for the Bay Area. Earlier this month, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) signed a contract with Alta Bike Share, which runs successful programs in Washington, D.C., and Boston.

Good Government Awards: How Jaime Flores-Lovo Modernized SF Public Works

March 21, 2013
Jaime Flores-Lovo was honored at SPUR's 33rd annual Good Government Awards for his vision and leadership in the development of enterprise-level technology projects for the Department of Public Works, most significantly in the system migration for the department’s contract automation.

Good Government Awards: How Lea Militello Tamed the Streets of San Francisco

March 21, 2013
SPUR’s 33rd annual Good Government Awards , held March 19, 2013, honored City of San Francisco employees who have performed exceptionally, becoming models for other agencies and cities around the country. Lea Militello was honored for her critical leadership in building a security plan for San Francisco streets, especially during public events. Her accomplishments over the October 2012 “busiest weekend in San Francisco” — when more than 1 million people converged to stress the city’s street infrastructure to maximum capacity with events including America’s Cup/Fleet Week, the Castro Street Fair, the Italian Heritage Parade, Giants and 49ers games, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival and the Double Ten Parade — exemplify her ingenuity and creativity. Her skills in staff management and resource allocation help to create world-class venues that generate visibility and income for the city. Lea implemented the federal government’s Incident Command System, which is now the model for San...

Making Better Places: Urban Design Lessons Along the Peninsula

March 11, 2013 By Benjamin Grant, Public Realm and Urban Design Program Manager
How do we create the kinds of compact, walkable environments that can have a real impact on car use and carbon emissions? SPUR San Jose’s Urban Design Task Force is working to foster well-designed new development that will support the city’s 2040 General Plan goals of a more walkable, livable and transit-friendly built environment.

Sacramento County Approves New Sprawl, Rejects the Sustainable Communities Strategy

March 5, 2013 By Egon Terplan and Ethan Lavine
The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors is facing heavy criticism and a lawsuit for its decision to approve the Cordova Hills subdivision , a new development for 25,000 residents on what is now rolling hills and ranch land 22 miles east of downtown Sacramento. The development would add thousands of new homes far from the region’s center, violating the Sustainable Communities Strategy that every city and county in the region agreed upon last year. As the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) observes, the approval goes against decades of smart growth planning in the greater Sacramento area. Senate Bill 375, the 2008 statewide law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, requires each region in California to develop a coordinated plan — called a Sustainable Communities Strategy — to guide its long-term land use decisions and transportation investments. When the California Legislature approved SB 375 in 2008, many planners thought the law might...

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