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    A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

SF Approves First "Neighborhood Urban Agriculture" Permit

April 5, 2012 by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
On March 9, 2012, San Francisco issued its first zoning permit for “neighborhood urban agriculture.” The change of use permit, given to Little City Gardens , allows the small urban farming business to grow produce for sale at its three-quarter-acre market garden in the Mission Terrace neighborhood. It is the first permit issued under San Francisco’s pioneering urban agriculture zoning guidelines , which Mayor Lee signed into law in April 2011. The permit is both a victory for Little City Gardens and the culmination of a multi-year effort to legalize commercial urban farming in residential neighborhoods in San Francisco. The permit, is, at its core, a simple recognition that the previously vacant lot is now being used to grow food according to basic guidelines. Securing the permit, however, was not simple. The process involved: four visits to the permitting office plan review by the Planning Department, Department of Building Inspection,...

Selling What You Cook at Home

April 3, 2012 by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
Let’s say you’ve got a great jam recipe. Or perhaps you make some mean pickles. Your friends keep telling you that you should quit your day job and follow your culinary passion. But unless you’ve got quite a bit of savings or other access to capital, following your friends’ advice is a pricey proposition. That’s because in California, you can’t sell any food prepared in a home kitchen. And access to a licensed commercial kitchen costs money — usually starting at around $30 per hour in the Bay Area. Add your ingredient and labor costs, and it becomes a decent investment to test your business idea. A proposed piece of state legislation, the California Homemade Food Act , would change all that. Called the “cottage food bill,” the legislation would allow Californians to sell certain items produced from their home kitchen. Similar to legislation already enacted in more than 30...

SPUR Announces June 2012 Ballot Positions

April 2, 2012 By Corey Marshall, Good Government Policy Director
This June’s primary election will bear little resemblance to the contentious ballot San Franciscans considered last November. Gone are the competing pension reform measures, sales taxes and bonds. We’re left with two measures, both placed on the ballot by voter petition. While the June slate may be lean, voters should take the time to fully research the measures on the ballot this spring. They’re important not just to how the city operates but also to how we choose to fund city services. Prop. A addresses how the city contracts for garbage-collection and recycling services; this measure would require the city to own all supporting facilities (it currently does not) and competitively bid the service. Prop. B limits how the Recreation and Parks Department funds Coit Tower, which could create a precedent for similar limitations at other facilities throughout the parks system. These measures could both have potentially expensive implications. After...

SPUR Honors Ed Harrington with Life Achievement Award

March 22, 2012
This year at our 32nd annual Good Government Awards, SPUR honored Ed Harrington with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his service to the City and County of San Francisco, including unparalleled fiscal leadership and managerial excellence through five mayoral administrations.

Good Government Awards: How Harlan Kelly Led the Next Generation of SF Utilities

March 22, 2012
SPUR's 32nd annual Good Government Awards , held March 19, honored City of San Francisco employees who have performed exceptionally, becoming models for other agencies and cities around the country. Harlan L. Kelly, Jr. was honored for his outstanding leadership in the delivery and implementation of the SF Public Utilities Commission’s 10-year capital improvement program for water, sewer and power, and his specific innovation on the Construction Management Information System (CMIS) to address inefficiencies in large, complex capital projects. By streamlining and coordinating tasks, and enhancing transparency and accountability with a cloud-based system, the new CMIS allows project managers throughout dispersed project areas to make faster and more informed decisions. The system has already contributed to an overall Water System Improvement Program cost savings of $167.6 million. Watch our video on Harlan’s work:

Good Government Awards: How SF’s Tax Automation Team Took the City Paperless

March 22, 2012
SPUR's 32nd annual Good Government Awards , held March 19, honored City of San Francisco employees who have performed exceptionally, becoming models for other agencies and cities around the country. The Municipal Tax Automation Team — Darrell Ascano, Tajel Shah and Rebecca Villareal-Mayer — was honored for its outstanding teamwork and achievement in upgrading the technology used to collect and process the majority of the city’s General Fund revenue. By choosing an aggressive, non-incremental approach — upgrading the entire system over eight months — the team executed a complex project that has changed the way tax information is collected and funds are received. This has resulted in increased taxpayer compliance and expense savings. Watch our video on the tax team’s work:

Good Government Awards: How Jocelyn Quintos Modernized Public Works

March 22, 2012
SPUR's 32nd annual Good Government Awards , held March 19, honored City of San Francisco employees who have performed exceptionally, becoming models for other agencies and cities around the country. Jocelyn Quintos was honored for her outstanding leadership and management of the Department of Public Work’s accounting operations. Her diligence and dedication in working across many city departments led, in a mere six months, to the automation of the department’s Contract Service Orders, Change Orders, and HRC Compliance/Payment Authorization systems. This resulted in a significant reduction in processing times, faster mobilization of contractors to start work, and complete elimination of delays associated with paper-based approval processes. Watch our video on Jocelyn’s work:

Good Government Awards: How Steven Castille Made SF Parks World Class

March 22, 2012
SPUR's 32nd annual Good Government Awards , held March 19, honored City of San Francisco employees who have performed exceptionally, becoming models for other agencies and cities around the country. Steven Castile was honored for his commitment to preserving public access to parks while ensuring environmental sustainability of parkland, managing the city’s agronomical practices for five golf courses, three stadiums (including Candlestick and Kezar Stadiums) and 220 parks. His particular accomplishments in bringing Harding Park up to the standards of the PGA Tour exemplify his ingenuity and creativity in staff management and resource allocation to create a world-class golf venue that generates visibility and income for the city. Watch our video on Steven’s work:

Lean, Mean Ballot for San Francisco This June

March 19, 2012 by Corey Marshall, Good Government Policy Director
As the rest of the country eagerly watches the Republican presidential primary drama unfold, San Francisco prepares for a comparatively uneventful June election. Five proposed initiatives have dropped off the ballot, leaving the city to consider just two measures this election. Prop. A would change the competitive procurement and franchising for solid waste disposal in the city. Passage would end Recology’s regulated monopoly, and could put the city’s goal of zero waste by 2020 in jeopardy. And Prop. B, a non-binding declaration of policy, aims to protect and maintain Coit Tower and beautify surrounding Pioneer Park by strictly limiting commercial activities and private events. Just two measures ... in San Francisco? Is it ballot fatigue? Has the recession depressed ballot activity? Did SPUR’s work on ballot reform strike the balance we hoped for? Regardless of the reason, San Francisco’s initiative process is clearly changing. In recent years, ballots have gotten...

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