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    A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

Saving San Francisco Building Owners Millions in Energy Costs

October 4, 2013 By Laura Hobbs and Laura Tam
Earlier this year a new ordinance requiring energy audits for existing commercial buildings in San Francisco went into effect. The audits identify upgrades a property owner can make to improve overall building efficiency. So far, the first 195 building audits have identified 32 gigawatt-hours of potential annual energy savings, with a value of $6 million. With thousands more audits slated to happen over the next two years, what kind of savings might we expect to see from this simple reporting requirement?

California’s New Urban Agriculture Property Tax Incentive

October 2, 2013 by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
One of the biggest challenges urban farmers face is access to land. Signed into law on September 28, the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act — introduced by Assembly Member Phil Ting and supported by more than 25 organizations across the state — will increase the use of privately owned, vacant land for urban agriculture and improve land security for urban ag projects.

How Will BART Expand to Serve Its Growing Ridership?

September 25, 2013 By Ritu Garg
As BART ridership continues to grow much faster than expected, the agency is exploring ways to increase capacity and improve service. The study currently underway, called BART Metro Vision, looks to when BART would serve more than double today's ridership, and works to measure which investments will deliver the most benefits to Bay Area rail transit.

Making Way for Bus Rapid Transit on Van Ness Avenue

September 24, 2013 By Ritu Garg
This month the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) unanimously approved the final environmental impact statement/environmental impact report (EIS/EIR) for the Van Ness Avenue Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Project. When finished in the spring of 2018, the BRT line will serve the two miles on Van Ness Avenue from Lombard Street to Mission Street. The idea behind bus rapid transit is to infuse bus service with the high quality and reliable attributes of rail while retaining the flexibility and lower capital costs of bus service. The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy emphasizes segregated transit-only lanes and frequent operation as key defining features of BRT service. While other BRT projects have struggled to retain some of these important aspects , the Van Ness project meets the standards for true BRT service. Its approved design, known as the Locally Preferred Alternative, runs in dedicated...

Next Steps for Fixing the San Francisco Housing Authority

September 19, 2013 By Tomiquia Moss, Community Planning Director
The City of San Francisco has embarked on an ambitious plan to re-envision the troubled San Francisco Housing Authority (SFHA). SFHA is a federally recognized public corporation with a commission appointed by the local government and a mission to provide affordable housing to low- and moderate-income people. Concerned over the SFHA’s growing financial woes and poor organizational management, Mayor Ed Lee asked the city administrator and the director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development to lead an inclusive community process to identify strategies that would address the severe financial challenges facing the agency while still providing high-quality affordable housing to the more than 31,000 low-income residents it serves. This month, the city released its findings as the re-envisioning process concluded. SPUR credits the City of San Francisco for conducting an inclusive process, and we believe that the findings are a good first step on the road to...

Design Competition Considers Life After Highway 280

September 17, 2013 By Allison Arieff
In the June issue of The Urbanist , we explored the idea of removing Highway 280 north of 16th Street in San Francisco in order to reconnect the Mission Bay and Potrero Hill neighborhoods. This summer, the Center for Architecture presented a design competition to consider what might happen next. Here’s a look at the winning entries and the ideas they propose for transforming this urban barrier into a healthy neighborhood connection.

A New App for Discovering the City That Might Have Been

September 17, 2013 By Ritu Garg
In connection with our current exhibition , SPUR is thrilled to announce The Museum of the Phantom City: Unbuilt San Francisco, a free phone app that brings lost treasures of architecture and planning into contemporary life. Created by Irene Cheng and Brett Snyder, the Phantom City iPhone app evokes an alternate city on a mobile phone platform by mapping architectural designs and master plans that were conceived but never built. First brought to life with the support of the Van Alen Institute’s New York Prize Fellowship, the app initially featured visionary projects in New York and then Chicago. In its latest incarnation, the Museum of the Phantom City has expanded to San Francisco. Launched as part of our five-institution exhibition Unbuilt San Francisco , the new version enables all who walk the city to discover visions from the past that once competed with what exists today. When juxtaposed with reality,...

The Bay Area’s Housing Market: Where Will It Go Next?

September 17, 2013 By Sarah Karlinsky, Deputy Director
As rents and home values in San Francisco continue to explode, residents and policy makers are trying to make sense of what this means for the city. Is San Francisco an anomaly within the region or a prophecy of things to come? SPUR will co-host two forums on the housing market to explore some of this question and more.

8 Shades of Green Infrastructure

August 8, 2013 By Kurt Pelzer and Laura Tam
This article is an exploration into the many urban water management challenges and solutions.

A City Within the City: Exploring the San Jose Flea Market

August 7, 2013 by María Gabriela Huertas Díaz
The San Jose Flea Market hosts one of the country’s most extensive collections of items for sale, building upon San Jose’s legacy as a city of many people and cultures. The flea market opened in 1960 with 20 vendors brought together by George Bumb, a man with a vision to sell usable items that he saw being sent to landfills. Since then it has grown to become the largest continuous flea market in the nation, welcoming 4 million visitors a year. The 120-acre site carries 6,000 vendors each week and is staffed by 350 part-time employees. On a recent walking tour of the market, SPUR members discovered a nearly complete city unto itself. The main entrance to the flea market. Entering the market, we found ourselves in a mini-citadel, complete with a street grid, street signs, street names and maps offering solace to the lost explorer. As we ventured further...

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