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    A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

Planning Action on San Francisco's Waterfront

September 11, 2012 by Sarah Karlinsky, Deputy Director
In recent decades, San Francisco’s waterfront has been home to some of the city’s most transformative projects, including Mission Bay, AT&T Park, China Basin and the South Beach neighborhood. Today the waterfront is once again where many of the city’s largest and most exciting development proposals are taking place. Several new plans along the bay — including Seawall Lot 337/Pier 48 (also known as Mission Rock), Pier 70 and the Warrior’s Stadium — are proposing to make their mark on the city. At the same time, San Francisco is hosting the America’s Cup races in 2012 and 2013 . Throughout the fall, SPUR will be hosting a series of forums exploring planning on the waterfront. Mission Rock Located just south of AT&T Park, Seawall Lot 337/Pier 48 is one of the most interesting development opportunities in the city. Currently home to a large surface parking lot serving AT&T Park, Mission...

North American Cities Produce Bumper Crop of Urban Agriculture Studies

September 5, 2012 by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
There may be a drought in much of North America, but this summer has produced a bumper crop of reports on urban agriculture in cities across the continent. Nonprofit groups in New York, Toronto and Boston have recently published studies examining what their cities can do at the policy level to support city gardeners and farmers. In the Big Apple, the Design Trust for Public Space and Added Value partnered together to produce Five Borough Farm: Seeding the Future of Urban Agriculture in New York City , the most comprehensive of the reports. The study’s snapshot of urban agriculture revealed: More than 700 farms and gardens (including school gardens) are producing food. This, the report pointed out, is more than three times the number of Starbucks in the city. In addition to 390 food-producing community gardens managed by the Department of Parks and Recreation , the New York City Housing...

SPUR San Jose Takes to the Streets on Two Wheels

September 4, 2012
A cadre of 45 urbanists gathered downtown on a recent Sunday morning to join SPUR San Jose Director Leah Toeniskoetter for a bike tour. Beginning in the urban plaza fronting Philz Coffee, our mighty bike train easily navigated its way along the brand new buffered bike lanes of Third Street, en route to Japantown. A project of the City of San Jose, the extra-wide bike lanes are a product of recent “road diets” on certain streets, where three lanes of auto traffic were reduced to two in order to add the buffered bike lane. The new lanes easily accommodated the group as it cruised past St. James Park and through the Historic Hensley District , known for having the highest concentration of Victorian homes in the city’s central core. San Jose Director of Transportation Hans Larsen noted that the district really came to life in 2005 when road diets were...

California's Water Wars: Three Decades, Same Issues

September 4, 2012 By Michael S. McGill*
California water policy is endlessly fascinating. It addresses the single most important resource problem facing the state. It is complex. And it changes with glacial slowness. This year, San Franciscans face two issues that reprise what occurred three decades ago: What should the city do regarding the long-term fate of the Tuolumne River? And what should the state do about moving fresh water through the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta for shipment to the south? Indeed, these two issues were the first water policy questions SPUR ever addressed. In 1982, the Modesto and Turlock Irrigation Districts and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission were proposing to build three dams and two powerhouses along the 20-mile stretch of the Tuolumne River between O’Shaughnessy Dam and New Don Pedro Reservoir. Also in 1982, Governor Jerry Brown was proposing to build a Peripheral Canal around the delta to move Sacramento River water directly to the...

Top SPUR Priorities Head to the Ballot

August 23, 2012 By Corey Marshall, Good Government Policy Director
It’s not often that the SPUR agenda features so prominently on the ballot in San Francisco. But the November 2012 election hits on three significant issues at the forefront of our work: affordable housing, business taxes and funding for parks. Our policy work has helped shape three important measures on the upcoming ballot, all of which we will support this fall. Housing Trust Fund (Prop. C) In the shadow of the governor’s elimination of redevelopment agencies, Prop. C is a Charter Amendment that would create a dedicated source of local funding for affordable housing for the next 30 years. SPUR and other housing advocates spent many months crafting this proposal to create a Housing Trust Fund for San Francisco. The measure would take advantage of the loss of redevelopment to recapture a portion of the local property tax receipts and dedicate up to $50 million annually toward the construction of...

Recycled Water Study Shows SF Will Still Need Hetch Hetchy

August 23, 2012 By Laura Tam, Sustainable Development Policy Director
This November, San Francisco’s Prop. F asks voters to approve an $8 million planning process to find a way to drain Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, the city’s most important water system asset. SPUR believes that this is a bad idea for many reasons , and we strongly oppose Prop F (stay tuned at www.spur.org/voterguide for our full ballot analysis in early October). The measure also calls for a task force to develop a long-term plan to improve water quality and reliability, and to identify new local water sources to supplement water currently diverted from the Tuolumne River into the Hetch Hetchy system. As we have said before , it is so obviously a good idea to plan for alternative supplies that such endeavors are already well underway in San Francisco (and we certainly don’t need a ballot measure to compel us to do planning that is already being done). The San...

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...

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