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    A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

June Election Results: SF Votes to Save Murals — and Recology

June 19, 2012 By Corey Marshall, Good Government Policy Director
The shortest primary ballot in 16 years and the lowest turnout ever (30.83 percent) for a presidential primary. San Francisco’s ballot is experiencing a lot of interesting firsts in recent elections, but while the number of measures appears to be dwindling, their content is consistent: expensive implications. This election, San Franciscans considered two proposals to change city services. Proposition A, a proposal to require the city to use competitive bidding in the award of contracts for waste collection, was defeated by 76.6 percent of the vote. Proposition B, a nonbinding policy statement to restrict commercial activity in Coit Tower, a popular tourist destination that has degraded with time, passed with 53.5 percent of the vote. SPUR opposed both propositions . The results of Prop. A were very similar to previous attempts to change how waste is collected in the city. Efforts in 1993 and 1994 both went down to similar...

SF Takes Steps Toward New Urban Ag Program

June 14, 2012 by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
San Francisco may soon have a new urban agriculture program. On June 11, the Land Use and Economic Development Committee of the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed legislation introduced earlier by Supervisor David Chiu that seeks to increase the coordination, efficacy and breadth of city support for urban agriculture. Based on recommendations from SPUR's report Public Harvest as well as calls for change from community organizations including the San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance , the ordinance now moves to the full board for two consecutive votes, with the first vote likely on June 19. The version of the legislation that passed the committee included a number of amendments to the original version. Some of the notable changes include: Strategic plan: The strategic plan for implementation of the legislation must be presented to the board for approval Funding : For the coming fiscal year, the urban agriculture program should have funding...

Plan for New Transit Center District Moves Toward Adoption

June 5, 2012 By Tomiquia Moss, Community Planning Policy Director
Update: Mayor Ed Lee signed the Transit Center District Plan into passage on August 8, after unanimous approval by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Things are heating up again for San Francisco's Transit Center District Plan. On May 24, the SF Planning Commission voted 5-1 to certify the final draft of the environment impact report that will move the plan forward to the Board of Supervisors’ Land Use and Economic Development Committee. In addition, the commission voted to approve amendments to the general plan, planning code and zoning code that will be necessary to implement the plan. It will go before the Board of Supervisors for adoption sometime in July. SPUR has long supported this plan, recognizing its potential to transform San Francisco and the region. What Is the Transit Center District Plan? The Transit Center District consists of approximately 145 acres surrounding the new Transbay Transit Center, currently...

Reforming City Support for Urban Agriculture in San Francisco

May 29, 2012 by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
Seven city agencies spent nearly a million dollars supporting urban agriculture projects in San Francisco in 2010-2011. Yet there is no single staff person responsible for coordinating that funding, nor any overarching goals for how the money is used. Urban agriculture legislation introduced on April 24 by Supervisor David Chiu, however, would change that. The proposed ordinance, which implements a number of the recommendations in SPUR’s recent report Public Harvest , would: Set goals, with outcomes and timelines, such as: an audit of city-owned buildings to identify rooftops suitable for urban agriculture; five new resource centers for compost, mulch and tools; a streamlined application process; a reduction in community garden waiting lists to no more than one year wait time; 10 new urban agriculture projects on public land where residents show desire for the projects; Create an urban agriculture program that would coordinate the efforts of city agencies, engage with...

Business Tax Reform Heads to November Ballot

May 21, 2012 By Corey Marshall, Good Government Policy Director
As the deadline approaches to submit measures for the November ballot, the City and County of San Francisco is moving ahead aggressively with its effort to reform the city’s business tax. While the city has made significant progress in recent weeks, there are some signs that the complexity and commitment to reform are being further complicated by increasing calls for a tax that would not just replace revenue from the existing payroll tax but bring the city additional funds.

At Last: Progress on Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit

May 18, 2012 By Egon Terplan, Regional Planning Director
After more than six years of planning, we now have a clearer picture of what bus rapid transit might look like on Van Ness Avenue. This past Tuesday, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency unanimously approved a combination of two out of the four designs under consideration. SPUR has advocated for this blend as the best option for an effective system on Van Ness.

Why We Need Hetch Hetchy More Than Ever

May 17, 2012 By Laura Tam, Sustainable Development Policy Director
The Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite delivers water to 2.6 million Bay Area residents every day. This November, a group of environmental advocates will put forth a ballot measure that would require the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to develop a plan to drain Hetch Hetchy. But tearing down O’Shaughnessy Dam in order to restore Hetch Hetchy Valley would be a disaster. In fact this ballot measure is so problematic that SPUR has taken early action to oppose it.

What Can the Bay Area Learn From the First Crop of Sustainable Communities Strategies?

May 9, 2012 By Jennifer Warburg
In recent months, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego each passed their first Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) in response to Senate Bill 375 , the 2008 state bill requiring each region in California to create a coordinated land use and transportation plan to reduce per capita greenhouse gas emissions from driving. We in the Bay Area have the advantage of being the last among the big regions to pass an SCS. What can we learn from the other regions about the implementation of SB 375 and the prospects for better regional planning statewide? Last month, SPUR explored this question in a panel discussion with four of the state’s leading advocates for effective strategies: Ken Kirkey from the Association of Bay Area Governments, Eliot Rose from the Center for Resource Efficient Communities, Amanda Eaken from the Natural Resources Defense Council and Stuart Cohen from TransForm. Given each area’s distinct circumstances and...

Big Wins, Big Questions as High-Speed Rail Moves Ahead

April 24, 2012 By Egon Terplan, Regional Planning Director
Earlier this spring, high-speed rail in California took two very significant steps. First Bay Area leaders announced a plan to electrify Caltrain, which would make it possible for Caltrain and high-speed rail to share the same tracks between San Jose and San Francisco. Second the California High-Speed Rail Authority released an updated business plan that cuts the cost of the train system by a third. While these important steps will move the project forward, there are major unresolved questions about how we will extend Caltrain to San Francisco's Transbay Transit Center and conntect the Bay Area to the high-speed rail trunk like in the Central Valley.

SF Works to Reform Its Business Tax

April 24, 2012 By Corey Marshall, Good Government Policy Director
For the last decade, businesses in San Francisco have been adamant that the city’s payroll tax is holding back job growth. First, companies must pay the tax when they reach $250,000 in payroll, which discourages new hiring. Second, they must pay it when employees exercise their stock options — a strong incentive for any company considering an IPO to leave the city. SPUR, along with much of the business community, has argued that we should restructure the city’s tax system to remove these disincentives to hiring. Following payroll tax exemptions in 2011 for stock compensation and for businesses locating in the Mid-Market neighborhood, the call for payroll tax reform has sounded again. The city is finally responding, but will this effort lead to real reform? City Controller Ben Rosenfield and Chief Economist Ted Egan have for the last three months been hard at work designing a replacement for San Francisco’s...

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