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    A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

Realizing the Potential of Bay Area Boulevards

August 22, 2012 By Tony Vi
Los Angeles is in the midst of discarding its stereotype of exclusive auto-mobility and reshaping itself as a transit metropolis. (See the August/September issue of The Urbanist for more on the expansion of transit in L.A.). Pedestrian plazas, food trucks, CicLAvia (L.A.’s version of Sunday Streets ), planned bike sharing, 1,600 miles of planned new bike lanes, and $40 billion for transit over the next 30 years all indicate this change. Metro, the region’s transit agency, has an estimated 1.4 million riders a day . (In comparison, the Bay Area’s seven largest transit agencies have a combined average of 1.5 million weekday riders.) Iconic boulevards, such as Sunset and Atlantic, are becoming places for people rather than just cars. Can the Bay Area follow in Los Angeles’ footsteps in re-envisioning its boulevards and arterials? Our region has an abundance of boulevards connecting multiple destinations and different land uses. Streets like...

A Farmers’ Market in the Heart of the City

August 21, 2012 by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
For more than three decades, San Francisco's Heart of the City Farmers’ Market has been operating at UN Plaza, along Market Street and within sight of City Hall. The market is unique not only for its central location but also for its dedication to offering fresh produce to low-income customers living in the nearby Tenderloin neighborhood while also supporting the livelihood of California farmers. Since its start in 1981 as a joint project of the American Friends Service Committee and Market Street Association, Heart of the City Farmers’ Market has been governed by its farmer-vendors. As a result, the farmers have worked to keep stall fees – what they pay for space at the market – low. Currently the fees are $30 per day, per 10 foot by 10 foot stall, which may be the lowest rate in the city. The low stall fees are a prime reason this farmers'...

New Challenges to Funding Affordable Housing in San Jose

August 9, 2012 By Leah Toeniskoetter, SPUR San Jose Director
In January 2010, San Jose passed an inclusionary housing law to help do three things: address the city’s affordable housing needs, meet the state’s requirement for regional fair share housing and promote economic integration. But now a successful legal suit has thrown the future of this law into question.

A New Season for San Francisco’s Support of Urban Agriculture

August 2, 2012 by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
San Francisco will soon have a new urban agriculture program. On July 17, the Board of Supervisors passed legislation — introduced by Supervisor David Chiu and co-sponsored by Supervisors Avalos, Cohen, Mar and Olague — that sets clear goals and timelines for how the city government can better support urban farmers and gardeners. The following week, the board put funding behind the program when it included $120,000 for the initiative in the 2012-2013 city budget. The supervisors made two amendments to the version of the legislation that passed out of committee before giving it the final nod: 1. The goal of reducing wait times for a garden plot at community gardens to less than 1 year by 2014 was changed to a goal of developing a strategy to reach that same target by the end of this year. 2. The language regarding creating resource centers was altered slightly to prioritize...

Status Report: Bus Rapid Transit Around the Bay

August 1, 2012 By Tony Vi
Bus rapid transit projects are in the works around the Bay Area, but progress has been intermittent. Oakland and San Leandro have voted to approve a 9.5-mile line in the East Bay. After delays, San Francisco is making progress on designs for Van Ness adn Geary. Meanwhile, the South Bay's plan to implement BRT on El Camino Real has hit a hurdle.

$195 Million Parks Bond Goes to November 2012 Ballot

July 26, 2012
Following extensive community outreach and planning — and months of negotiations over specific projects — the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has placed the $195 million 2012 Neighborhood Parks Bond on the November ballot. That's nearly $200 million that will help repair and upgrade facilities throughout San Francisco. The bond follows others in 2000 and 2008 to maintain and rebuild a parks system that makes up 12 percent of land in the city. So what do we get for $195 million? Quite a bit: · $99 million for neighborhood park improvements; · $34.5 million for waterfront open spaces; · $21 million for regional parks; · $15.5 million to repair failing playgrounds across the city; and · $12 million for a Community Opportunity Fund that leverages private funds for community-based park projects. You can learn more about the details of the proposed bond on the Recreation and Parks Department’s website ...

Housing Trust Fund Heads to Voters in November

July 26, 2012 By Sarah Karlinsky, Deputy Director
After many months of work by SPUR and other housing advocates, the Housing Trust Fund , has made its way through San Francisco’s legislative process and been placed on the November ballot. We were very involved in crafting this measure, which would provide a permanent source of funding for affordable housing, encourage the creation of moderate-income housing and stimulate the production of market-rate housing. This measure is a very big deal for San Francisco, especially now that the State of California has eliminated its redevelopment agencies. Roughly half of all redevelopment funds in San Francisco went to support affordable housing. Without redevelopment, San Francisco’s capacity to produce affordable housing is severely reduced. Without a redevelopment agency, funding for affordable housing in San Francisco will plummet. Image courtesy the Mayor’s Office of Housing The Housing Trust Fund is a general fund set-aside, meaning it would dedicate a portion of San Francisco’s...

Historic Vote Kicks off the Real Journey for High-Speed Rail

July 17, 2012 By Stuart Cohen, Executive Director, TransForm
An epic battle over the California high-speed rail project ended with a nail-biter on July 6, when the state senate got exactly the 21 votes needed to move ahead with funding the first segment of the project. The California Assembly had already passed the bill authorizing $2.6 billion in state bonds for the first segment, and Governor Brown’s signature is assured. [Update: Governor Brown signed the bill on July 18.] “Californians have always embraced bold visions and delivered public projects that chart the way for the rest of the nation,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Today’s vote continues that tradition.” Media reports have made out the construction of high-speed rail as either a panacea for all of our woes or the beginning of Armageddon . But the final outcome is still to be written — not just whether high-speed rail is fully built and achieves projected ridership but whether...

Silicon Valley Lands One of Four New U.S. Patent Offices

July 9, 2012 By Leah Toeniskoetter, SPUR San Jose Director
Word of a big win for Silicon Valley came July 2 from the U.S. Commerce Department. For the first time in its history, the United States Patent and Trademark Office will open four offices outside of Virginia, and the western region office will be located in Silicon Valley.

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