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    A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

Feathers Fly Over Backyard Farming Rules in Oakland

July 26, 2011 By Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
It’d be unthinkable to ban dogs, cats, and many other types of pets in cities. But if you want to raise other types of animals (like chickens, ducks and rabbits) for their eggs or meat, you might run into a lot more regulation. How much more regulation was a hot topic at a recent community meeting about urban agriculture hosted by the Oakland Planning Department . Nearly 300 people turned out to debate the laws around backyard animal husbandry. Currently in Oakland, gardeners who want to sell what they grow must get a relatively expensive conditional use permit. And, by the planning department’s own admission, rules about raising animals for personal consumption are vague and contradictory. Oakland is in the process of updating its code. The cost and regulations of cultivating plants is moving toward a simpler, less-expensive regulation. But on the issue of animals, there was little resolution. Though...

Coastal Commission Slams Armoring at Ocean Beach

July 22, 2011 by Ben Grant, Public Realm and Urban Design Program Manager
On July 13, the California Coastal Commission unanimously denied a permit application from the City and County of San Francisco for coastal armoring along the Great Highway South of Sloat Boulevard. The application was submitted by the City's Department of Public Works, which is responsible for the protection of city infrastructure, including the Lake Merced Tunnel, a 14-foot diameter sewer pipe under the Great Highway. DPW constructed rock revetments (i.e., linear piles of boulders) on the beach in 1997 and 2010 in response to erosion caused by severe winter storms. The permit would have 1.) retroactively approved the un-permitted 1997 revetment, 2.) made permanent the temporary emergency permit for the 2010 revetment, and 3.) added new armoring, extending revetments and adding tangent pile walls (made from reinforced concrete piles) behind the bluffs. The surprise ruling, against the recommendation of commission staff, is a significant victory for surfers and environmentalists, who...

Take a Virtual Tour of SPUR's Climate Change Exhibition, "Adapt!"

July 21, 2011 By Noah Christman and Karen Steen
Taking down a show at the SPUR Urban Center Gallery is always a sad moment. An exhibition is one of the best ways to de-nerdify our policy research and make it accessible to a wide audience. But once it comes down from our walls, we lose that public window into our work. So when we heard about Microsoft’s Photosynth technology , we got excited. Photosynth creates a virtual environment by collaging together hundreds of very high resolution photos. In short, it could allow anyone to visit our exhibitions from their computer any time — even days, weeks or years after the display panels have come down. Our current exhibition, Adapt! Climate Change Hits Home , provides a great chance to test out this technology. We're proud of the research behind it, and we want as many people as possible to know about the coming affects of climate change and the...

The Numbers: LA Cross-Town, 85% Longer for a Plane Than a Bike

July 19, 2011 By Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
L.A.’s highly hyped “ carmageddon ” — the two-day closure of the 405 freeway — was not the apocalypse many feared. But it did provide a great showdown of transit alternatives. In the starting gates were: bikes, mass transit and a plane (chartered by gimmick-savvy Jet Blue). The “track” itself: Los Angeles. Specifically, a 40ish mile north to south beeline from North Hollywood to the shore of Long Beach. Approximately: Twin Peaks to Petaluma, the Ferry Building to Palo Alto, or Oakland International Airport to SFO. And, as Slate’s Tom Vanderbilt reported, the bikes and mass transit enthusiasts smoked the plane . By more than an hour! Based on times reported in Vanderbilt's article, the plane trips (including getting to and from the airports) took 85 percent longer than the bike ride. Yes, the bikers were a good step above your run-of-the-mill commuter. And, no, this experiment does not actually...

What Will 4th Street Look Like in Twenty Years?

July 18, 2011 By Sarah Karlinsky, Deputy Director
The stretch of 4th Street between Market Street and the Caltrain station at 4th and King Street may not be one of San Francisco’s best-known neighborhoods (at least not yet), but it’s an important area for urbanists to be thinking about. Why? Because roughly $1.5 billion will be invested in transit infrastructure here, in the form of the Central Subway. The SF Planning Department has launched a Central Corridor Study to plan the future of the area.

New SPUR Program: Food Systems and Urban Agriculture

July 17, 2011 By Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
We are what we eat. It’s true for people — but also for cities and regions. The food we consume and the system that produces, distributes and disposes of it are as vital to San Francisco and the Bay Area as our systems for housing, energy, water and governance. That's why SPUR has launched a new Food Systems and Urban Agriculture policy program that will strengthen both the food system within the city and the region’s network of farms and distributors.

Redevelopment Is Dead. Long Live Redevelopment!

July 17, 2011 By Sarah Karlinsky, Deputy Director
This year has been a wild one for redevelopment agencies in in California. First California voters passed Proposition 22, which prevented the state from raiding redevelopment agency funds. Then Governor Jerry Brown vowed to abolish redevelopment agencies and got fairly close to doing so. Now redevelopment agencies have once again headed to the chopping block, only this time it’s for real.

Mapping the Parklet Craze: Where to See the Urban Design Trend of the Year

July 12, 2011 By Micah Hilt
In the history of San Francisco city planning, 2011 may go down as the year of the parklet. The idea to make streets more livable by converting parking spaces into public places debuted in SF in 2010, thanks to the city’s Pavement to Parks project , but the concept really took off this year. SF has welcomed 10 new parklets in 2011, for a current total of 15, and will add as many as 12 more by the end of the year.

Summer of Smart: Using Technology to Transform our Government

July 11, 2011 BY MICHAEL BARKER
Since President Obama launched his Open Government Directive in December 2009, tech-savvy urban thinkers have been asking, "How can technology improve government and empower communities?" Although the Open Government Initiative suffered a hit when its funding was cut from $35 million to $8 million, nonprofits around the country such as Code For America have continued bringing open government to the forefront of public discussion. This summer, the Gray Area Foundation of the Arts is hosting San Francisco's first annual " Summer of Smart ," a three-month-long program of interactive workshops and seminars exploring the emerging role of the Internet in government. SPUR is proud to be co-sponsoring these events. The Summer of Smart kicked off in June with programs including a 48-hour intensive "hackathon for everyone" that looked at community development and public art. The event drew a crowd of urban designers, programmers, artists, teachers and government officials, who broke...

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