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    A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

A New Season for San Francisco’s Support of Urban Agriculture

August 2, 2012 by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
San Francisco will soon have a new urban agriculture program. On July 17, the Board of Supervisors passed legislation — introduced by Supervisor David Chiu and co-sponsored by Supervisors Avalos, Cohen, Mar and Olague — that sets clear goals and timelines for how the city government can better support urban farmers and gardeners. The following week, the board put funding behind the program when it included $120,000 for the initiative in the 2012-2013 city budget. The supervisors made two amendments to the version of the legislation that passed out of committee before giving it the final nod: 1. The goal of reducing wait times for a garden plot at community gardens to less than 1 year by 2014 was changed to a goal of developing a strategy to reach that same target by the end of this year. 2. The language regarding creating resource centers was altered slightly to prioritize...

Status Report: Bus Rapid Transit Around the Bay

August 1, 2012 By Tony Vi
Bus rapid transit projects are in the works around the Bay Area, but progress has been intermittent. Oakland and San Leandro have voted to approve a 9.5-mile line in the East Bay. After delays, San Francisco is making progress on designs for Van Ness adn Geary. Meanwhile, the South Bay's plan to implement BRT on El Camino Real has hit a hurdle.

$195 Million Parks Bond Goes to November 2012 Ballot

July 26, 2012
Following extensive community outreach and planning — and months of negotiations over specific projects — the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has placed the $195 million 2012 Neighborhood Parks Bond on the November ballot. That's nearly $200 million that will help repair and upgrade facilities throughout San Francisco. The bond follows others in 2000 and 2008 to maintain and rebuild a parks system that makes up 12 percent of land in the city. So what do we get for $195 million? Quite a bit: · $99 million for neighborhood park improvements; · $34.5 million for waterfront open spaces; · $21 million for regional parks; · $15.5 million to repair failing playgrounds across the city; and · $12 million for a Community Opportunity Fund that leverages private funds for community-based park projects. You can learn more about the details of the proposed bond on the Recreation and Parks Department’s website ...

Housing Trust Fund Heads to Voters in November

July 26, 2012 By Sarah Karlinsky, Deputy Director
After many months of work by SPUR and other housing advocates, the Housing Trust Fund , has made its way through San Francisco’s legislative process and been placed on the November ballot. We were very involved in crafting this measure, which would provide a permanent source of funding for affordable housing, encourage the creation of moderate-income housing and stimulate the production of market-rate housing. This measure is a very big deal for San Francisco, especially now that the State of California has eliminated its redevelopment agencies. Roughly half of all redevelopment funds in San Francisco went to support affordable housing. Without redevelopment, San Francisco’s capacity to produce affordable housing is severely reduced. Without a redevelopment agency, funding for affordable housing in San Francisco will plummet. Image courtesy the Mayor’s Office of Housing The Housing Trust Fund is a general fund set-aside, meaning it would dedicate a portion of San Francisco’s...

Historic Vote Kicks off the Real Journey for High-Speed Rail

July 17, 2012 By Stuart Cohen, Executive Director, TransForm
An epic battle over the California high-speed rail project ended with a nail-biter on July 6, when the state senate got exactly the 21 votes needed to move ahead with funding the first segment of the project. The California Assembly had already passed the bill authorizing $2.6 billion in state bonds for the first segment, and Governor Brown’s signature is assured. [Update: Governor Brown signed the bill on July 18.] “Californians have always embraced bold visions and delivered public projects that chart the way for the rest of the nation,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Today’s vote continues that tradition.” Media reports have made out the construction of high-speed rail as either a panacea for all of our woes or the beginning of Armageddon . But the final outcome is still to be written — not just whether high-speed rail is fully built and achieves projected ridership but whether...

Silicon Valley Lands One of Four New U.S. Patent Offices

July 9, 2012 By Leah Toeniskoetter, SPUR San Jose Director
Word of a big win for Silicon Valley came July 2 from the U.S. Commerce Department. For the first time in its history, the United States Patent and Trademark Office will open four offices outside of Virginia, and the western region office will be located in Silicon Valley.

Reinvesting in the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market

July 9, 2012 by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
Update: On July 17, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the expansion proposal and new lease for the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market. The San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market, the city’s hub for fresh produce, is looking to modernize and expand. And, this month, the SF Board of Supervisors will be considering a proposal to allow it to do just that. The market is a critical piece of the region’s food system infrastructure . Its loading docks, warehouses and offices allow more than 25 wholesalers and distributors to link farmers from the region — and from around the world — with grocery stores, restaurants and other food retailers. The market infrastructure, however, is getting old. Most of the warehouses were built in the early 1960s, and its earlier generation of technology and design are limiting the growth of many market tenants and making it more difficult to comply with evolving...

San Jose Passes New Incentives for More Active Streets Downtown

June 26, 2012 By Leah Toeniskoetter, SPUR San Jose Director
Many downtown areas have policies in place that restrict ground-floor storefronts for walk-in businesses such as retail, restaurants and entertainment. The idea is to encourage people to continue exploring (and hopefully shopping) on foot. But in an economic downturn, when retail stores may remain vacant for years, dark storefronts can create dead spaces of their own, further challenging the success of surviving retail tenants. With ground-floor retail vacancy rates hovering between 15 and 20 percent for several years in a row, San Jose has adopted a temporary policy change allowing non-retail uses such as banks and business support services to occupy certain ground floor spaces without a special use permit — an investment of time and money that the city says has deterred several companies from locating downtown. The city also argues that ground-floor space occupied during part of the day is better than ground-floor space vacant all day. In...

The Sunol AgPark: Farming City-Owned Land Outside SF

June 20, 2012 by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
Thirty miles east of San Francisco, four farm businesses are growing food for market amidst the hills of Sunol. Though the rows of tomatoes, strawberries, kale, and other crops are typical of the region the land use arrangement at the site, known as the Sunol AgPark , is anything but typical. That’s because the park is on public land owned by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (PUC) directly adjacent to the Sunol Water Temple . In 2006, the PUC began an innovative land stewardship partnership and lease with the non-profit organization Sustainable Agriculture and Education (SAGE) , who, in turn, subleases the 18 acres to local farmers. In other words, for-profit farmers are cultivating publicly owned land managed by a nonprofit. It’s an arrangement that works for the PUC, SAGE and the farmers. From the PUC’s perspective, farming is compatible with this site, as it is with many others...

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