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    A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

Restoring San Francisco’s Urban Watersheds

May 23, 2013 By Laura Tam, Sustainable Development Policy Director
Before we paved the streets of San Francisco, little creeks and wetlands were abundant. Today, as in most cities, these natural water features have been replaced by a sewer network that effectively throws away rainwater instead of finding ways to reuse it. The SF Public Utilities Commission is launching a new effort to change our approach to stormwater management.

Central Corridor: A Good Plan, But It Needs More Height

May 20, 2013 By Sarah Karlinsky, Deputy Director
Last month the San Francisco Planning Department released a draft of the Central Corridor Plan, the result of several years of planning efforts. The plan represents an enormous opportunity to build on the substantial transit investment in the area, including the $1.6 billion Central Subway project, as well as existing transit in the form of the 4th and Caltrain station and the N-Judah Muni line, as well as many frequent local buses. While the plan is a great step in the right direction, it doesn’t go far enough in concentrating housing and especially jobs in this transit-rich location — one of the key areas in San Francisco, and the region, where going big makes sense. With stations for Caltrain, BART, Muni and the new Central Subway, the Central Corridor Plan area is extremely well served by transit. What the Plan Gets Right Zoning There’s much to like in the Central...

Why We Love Alleys

May 16, 2013 By Benjamin Grant, Public Realm and Urban Design Program Manager
This week, SPUR and the Yerba Buena Community Benefit District will close Annie Alley to car traffic and host a series of outdoor public events. What is it about an alley that inspires urban invention? As we kick off our week of investigation, we pause to reflect on the humble alley and its role in the city.

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.

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