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    A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

Making Better Places: Urban Design Lessons Along the Peninsula

March 11, 2013 By Benjamin Grant, Public Realm and Urban Design Program Manager
How do we create the kinds of compact, walkable environments that can have a real impact on car use and carbon emissions? SPUR San Jose’s Urban Design Task Force is working to foster well-designed new development that will support the city’s 2040 General Plan goals of a more walkable, livable and transit-friendly built environment.

Sacramento County Approves New Sprawl, Rejects the Sustainable Communities Strategy

March 5, 2013 By Egon Terplan and Ethan Lavine
The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors is facing heavy criticism and a lawsuit for its decision to approve the Cordova Hills subdivision , a new development for 25,000 residents on what is now rolling hills and ranch land 22 miles east of downtown Sacramento. The development would add thousands of new homes far from the region’s center, violating the Sustainable Communities Strategy that every city and county in the region agreed upon last year. As the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) observes, the approval goes against decades of smart growth planning in the greater Sacramento area. Senate Bill 375, the 2008 statewide law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, requires each region in California to develop a coordinated plan — called a Sustainable Communities Strategy — to guide its long-term land use decisions and transportation investments. When the California Legislature approved SB 375 in 2008, many planners thought the law might...

Discovering San Jose by Bike

March 5, 2013 By Leah Toeniskoetter, SPUR San Jose Director
An enthusiastic group of 45 urbanists on bikes kicked off a crisp Sunday morning to tour a few of San Jose’s historic neighborhoods with SPUR. Using the new bike lanes on 10th and 11th streets, along with a number of established bike routes and separated bike paths, we wove our way through three amazing gems — Naglee Park, Palm Haven and Willow Glen. Setting off from the San Jose State University campus downtown, we made our way to our first stop. Naglee Park The first subdivision in Santa Clara County, Naglee Park was developed and marketed in 1902 as a complete neighborhood with paved streets, gas, water and sewer. Following the new bike lanes on 11th Street brought us to the oldest house in the area and the neighborhood’s namesake, the Naglee Mansion, built by Brigadier General Henry Morris Naglee in 1864. The original lot lines of the estate reached...

Reimagining the Caltrain Railyards

February 26, 2013 By Tomiquia Moss, Community Planning Policy Director, and Sarah Karlinsky, Deputy Director
Could the Caltrain station and railyards at 4th and King streets be San Francisco’s next big planning opportunity? The right type of development here could knit toogether the surrounding neighborhoods, capitalize on the extensive transit access — and even help pay for important transportation projects. We explore three scenarios for the site.

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...

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