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    A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

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...

Could Mid-Market Become SF's Next Hot Neighborhood?

July 7, 2011 By Sarah Karlinsky, Deputy Director
There's been a lot of hullabaloo about San Francisco's Mid-Market area lately, mostly focused on the new payroll tax exemption for businesses that locate in the neighborhood and the planned CityPlace Project , a major retail development, both approved by the city last September. But a gaggle of planners and economic development experts are already working hard to transform this area into an arts district anchored by a redesigned Market Street.

Measuring San Francisco's Ecological Footprint

July 5, 2011 By Laura Tam, Sustainable Development Policy Director
In the 1970s, we crossed a global threshold when the rate of human demand for natural resources began to outpace the rate at which nature could provide them. How do we know this? By measuring our “ecological footprint” — natural resource consumption as a function of goods and services purchased. Recently SPUR and the Global Footprint Network released a study of San Francisco's ecological footprint.

Urbanition: SF and Sydney Artists Re-think Our Use of Public Space

June 27, 2011 BY COLLEEN MCHUGH
What would make a morning commute on BART a more enjoyable, engaging and productive experience? Bike repairs? Coffee and snacks? Book clubs? Short films? Spinning classes? Speed dating? These are a few of the playful ideas local art collective REBAR explores as redesigns for BART car interiors in their project you are bART. The piece is part of the inaugural Sister City Biennial exhibition Urbanition , co-produced by the San Francisco Arts Commission and Sydney-based CarriageWorks and on view at the SFAC Gallery through this Saturday. Urbanition includes three works from San Francisco-based artists and three from Sydney-based artists, each tasked with proposing visionary solutions for a more humane, green and livable future for the two cities. This Wednesday, June 29, SPUR hosts a lunchtime forum with the exhibition's three San Francisco-based artists: REBAR , Amy Balkin , whose piece would transform the Sutro Baths into a Sydney-style public beach,...

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