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    A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

South Bay Ag Tour: Many Farms, Many Business Models

February 26, 2013 by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
The array of food grown within a couple of hours of San Francisco makes our region truly unique. Along with an astounding amount of agricultural diversity, the Bay Area's farms and ranches employ a wide range of business models. This is an asset to their economic vibrancy, but it also means there are few "one size fits all" policy recommendations to support regional agriculture. I got a firsthand taste of this complexity on a tour of farms and ranches in San Mateo County hosted by the Ecological Farming Association in January. We visited four sites – all near Pescadero on the coastal side of the county. Jacobs Farm The first stop was Jacobs Farm , specifically the first parcel from which co-owners Larry Jacobs and Sandra Belin launched their culinary herb business, now one of the nation’s largest. The farm has a history of production stretching back 150 years with...

The Key to a Stronger Economy? Better Regional Governance

February 18, 2013 By Jennifer Warburg
The Bay Area economy has rebounded from the recession. Yet major regional challenges threaten our continued prosperity. At the 2013 State of Silicon Valley conference, SPUR made the case that some of the biggest threats to the Bay Area’s long-term economic competitiveness are challenges best addressed through better regional governance.

Two Bayview Corner Stores Turn a Healthy Corner

February 4, 2013 By Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
The crowd of a few dozen people that spilled off the sidewalk at Lee’s Market on an overcast morning had gathered to celebrate. The occasion: the grand re-opening of the corner store with new offerings of fresh fruit, vegetables and an expanded selection of healthy grocery items. The January 24 event marked the launch of the Healthy Corner Store project of the Southeast Food Access Working Group (SEFA). The community group’s Food Guardians, three staff members who work on a variety of food issues in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood, collaborated with the owners of Lee’s Market and Ford’s Grocery to increase the number of healthy products sold at each store. The initiative was inspired by a 2007 survey showing that residents were taking dollars outside of the community when they frequently traveled to other neighborhoods to buy groceries. SEFA believed that if those items were stocked in neighborhood retail...

The Year Ahead: SPUR's Agenda for 2013

January 15, 2013 By Gabriel Metcalf, Executive Director
2012 was a big year for SPUR and for the urbanist agenda. Years of work culminated in dramatic victories on the November ballot: San Francisco voters created a Housing Trust Fund , passed a parks bond and reformed the business tax . San Francisco also adopted the Transit Center District Plan for the part of downtown surrounding the new Transbay Transit Center. The Central Subway and the electrification of Caltrain were fully funded. State legislators gave the green light to begin building the initial segment of California’s high-speed rail system. And SPUR completed the Ocean Bean Master Plan and began its implementation. It was also the year we launched SPUR San Jose , marking a major expansion of our work to support the urbanist agenda in the Bay Area’s largest city. Can we top this in 2013? We’ll sure try. Here is a sneak preview of some of the big...

At Last: Bike Racks at the Urban Center!

January 10, 2013 By Molly Schremmer
Ever since the SPUR Urban Center opened in 2009, our bike-riding members have asked, “If SPUR supports cycling, why don’t you have bike racks?” It’s a long story, and it finally came to a close in December when the Yerba Buena Community Benefit District (YBCBD) unveiled the first of a new fleet of bike racks in the Yerba Buena district. Today, SPUR is happy to announce that three of these artful bike racks have been installed in front of the Urban Center at 654 Mission Street! The installation of a bike rack on January 9. The story begins in 2006, when a court injunction placed a hold on all projects laid out in San Francisco’s formerly approved Bicycle Plan , including bike lane striping and installation of any bike parking. The injunction was the result of a lawsuit by a local blogger who claimed the city ought to have done...

BART Metro: Bridging BART's Two Identities

December 12, 2012 By Molly Schremmer
In November, BART released conceptual plans for a multi-billion dollar rejuvenation that would introduce a new wave of service called BART Metro. BART expects vast ridership expansion in the next several years, and these changes would allow 50 percent growth by 2025.

A Future for Farming in the Coyote Valley?

November 19, 2012 by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
Southern Santa Clara County used to have a widespread and thriving agricultural sector, helping the area earn the name “Valley of the Heart’s Delight.” Today, much of that famed farmland has been replaced with homes and offices. One exception is the Coyote Valley, a narrow, 5-mile-long area between southern San Jose and Morgan Hill . Before the recent economic downturn, much of Coyote Valley was slated for development, and intense land speculation had driven up property prices. After 2008, however, local open-space and agriculture advocates saw a sharp drop in the development pressure and wondered whether it would be economically feasible for Coyote Valley to retain its agricultural character. That question led Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE) to conduct an in-depth feasibility study over the past eighteen months. In its report, Coyote Valley: Sustaining Agriculture and Conservation , SAGE concludes that an agricultural economy is feasible for the area if significant...

SPUR Ballot Endorsements Sweep Election 2012

November 19, 2012 By Corey Marshall, Good Government Policy Director
While the majority of voters were lost in a sea of presidential fervor, San Francisco was busy having a historic local election. On the ballot were a number of important issues — from education to parks, housing to taxation. Here’s how the verdicts came down on four important measures.

City Trip to Oakland: SPUR Explores the Sunny Side of the Bay

November 16, 2012 By Tomiquia Moss, Community Planning Policy Director
Last month, SPUR organized a two-day study trip to Oakland for our board and staff members to get a glimpse of what's happening in this great city. While recent media reports have focused on corporate protests and vandalism, Mayor Jean Quan describes Oakland as a “city on the rise” — and from what we saw, we strongly agree.

Prop. A Alone Won’t Save City College

November 15, 2012 By Corey Marshall, Good Government Policy Director
City College of San Francisco (CCSF) Interim chancellor Pamila Fisher offered a blunt assessment of the state of the college at a SPUR breakfast on October 17, just two days after the school released an action plan to address deficiencies identified by the Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. “Our commitment to San Francisco values has sometimes gotten in the way of making good decisions,” she told the audience. The words were striking given CCSF’s recent trajectory. With nine campuses, 100 instructional sites and just shy of 90,000 students, City College of San Francisco is the largest two-year community college in California. It is also a valued workforce development partner for the city and one of the largest providers of English as a second language (ESL) instruction in San Francisco. The days since submission of the action plan have revealed just how painful changes are going to be at...

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