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    A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

Fixing Transit in SF's Northeast Neighborhoods

May 7, 2013 By Lenka Belkova and Ratna Amin
How would you improve the transit system for neighborhoods in the northeast part of San Francisco? This was the key question SPUR asked at a transit planning workshop for the city’s northeast neighborhoods last month. The workshop brought together representatives from key public agencies, North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf businesses, the tourism industry and neighborhood advocacy groups, as well as transportation professionals. Neighborhoods in Chinatown, North Beach and other northeast environs are some of the densest in the city — similar in population density to the Upper West and Upper East sides of Manhattan. Sixty-eight percent of residents in the corridor from Chinatown to the waterfront do not own a vehicle. And Fisherman’s Wharf enjoys 9 to 12 million visitors per year, meanwhile acting as a job center for thousands of workers. These levels of demand in a city are generally enough to warrant very high-capacity and high-frequency public transit...

San Francisco Gets Its First Eco-District

May 6, 2013 By Laura Tam, Sustainable Development Policy Director
Over the last year, there’s been palpable buzz in San Francisco around eco-districts — sustainability plans that operate at the neighborhood scale. After studying models in Portland, Seattle, Brooklyn and Denver, the city has kicked off a planning process for its first eco-district. The project will target the Central Corridor, the 24-square-block area south of Market Street currently undergoing a neighborhood planning and rezoning process.

What You Need to Know About Plan Bay Area

April 29, 2013 By Egon Terplan and Ethan Lavine
SPUR has written several times about the development of Plan Bay Area since the planning process was kicked off a few years ago. Last month, the draft of the plan was finally released. What are the highlights in this 158-page plan and the accompanying 1,300-page environmental impact report? This post provides a summary of the draft and some of its key points.

Can SF’s Transportation Task Force Point the Way Forward?

April 25, 2013 By Ratna Amin, Transportation Policy Director
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has selected SPUR Executive Director Gabriel Metcalf to co-chair his 2030 Transportation Task Force. Like other task forces the mayor has convened, this one will tackle a seemingly intractable problem: transportation funding.

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...

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