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    A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

Cultivating Public Spaces for Urban Farming

March 15, 2012 by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
Two sites owned by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in San Francisco moved closer to becoming urban agriculture projects this week. Since October, PUC staff members have been conducting an urban agriculture feasibility study of open space adjacent to two facilities: College Hill Reservoir (at 360 Elsie Street ) in Bernal Heights and the perimeter of the Southeast Treatment Plant (at Phelps and Evans streets ) in the Bayview. They presented a progress report and future timeline at the March 13 commission hearing. The PUC’s assessments of each site shows that both are suitable for growing food, with the necessary access to water and sun. Beyond the technical specifications, the PUC staff reported having had numerous conversations with community groups in the neighborhoods surrounding the two sites. Based on these conversations, the PUC is leaning toward different uses at each site. For the College Hill Reservoir site, the PUC is...

Signs of an Upswing for SF Economy in 2012

February 24, 2012 by Corey Marshall, Good Government Policy Director
As the economy struggles to recover in the Bay Area, what are the prospects for city revenues in San Francisco? City budget staffers and experts on the local economy gathered at the 2012 Annual Economic Briefing, hosted by SPUR's Municipal Fiscal Advisory Committee, to discuss regional trends and projections for the city’s major revenue streams. The upshot: Our experts are starting to see some good news on the horizon. Unemployment has finally begun to decline, and San Francisco appears to be poised for revenue growth.

Bay Area Cities Adjust to Life After Redevelopment

February 23, 2012 By Sarah Karlinsky, Tomiquia Moss and Leah Toeniskoetter
Redevelopment agencies across the state closed their doors on February 1, marking the end of an era for planning in California. How are San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose dismantling their agencies? What’s going to happen to the on-going projects and existing assets held by redevelopment agencies? And will any new planning tools emerge to do some of the work previously done by redevelopment agencies?

Making a Living as an Urban Farmer

February 22, 2012 by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
Can you make a living selling what you grow in a city? That’s a question a number of urban farming entrepreneurs have been working to answer in the past few years, and initial numbers are beginning to become public. The short answer is … maybe. For many new urban-farming businesses that have started in the past couple of years, it may be too soon to judge — just as it would be with any small business getting off the ground. It’s also a question of what level of income you consider livable. A recent article from the two co-owners of Little City Gardens and a study in Vancouver provide some initial data. Little City Gardens grows a variety of vegetables on a three-quarter acre plot in the Mission Terrace neighborhood of San Francisco. During the past year — their first of intensive production and sales — they marketed their produce...

Walk the Bay Area with SPUR

February 1, 2012
Members-only walking tours are one of the great benefits of joining SPUR . Tour leaders such as planners, architects, elected officials and other insiders spend a few hours with us, sharing their expert lens on our region. Want to know what's in store for 2012? Our new calendar of spring tours and other events is now online. For a peek at the kind of insight SPUR tours offer, check out William Leddy, principal of Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, showing us Berkeley's Ed Roberts Campus in this short film by SPUR's video intern, Michael Waldrep. The mixed-use project integrates advanced strategies for universal and sustainable design in a campus for organizations serving the disabled community: We hope you'll join us for these upcoming SPUR walking tours: Sneak Preview: Bi-Rite Market’s New Store >> A Forest in the City: Tenderloin National Forest Tour >> Urban Menagerie: Raising Animals in a City >>...

The Future of Chinatown’s Stockton Street

January 25, 2012 By Sam LaTronica
How can a rich historical space welcome visitors and new community members while ensuring that it continues to work for current residents? This question is central to the future of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Stockton Street, one of the busiest corridors in the city, must decide how to accommodate additional growth and change in the coming years. To address these concerns while maintaining affordable housing, transit equity, pedestrian safety and a sense of community, SPUR and the Chinatown Community Development Center are undertaking a re-envisioning process for Stockton Street. Join us!

Life After Redevelopment

January 24, 2012 by Gabriel Metcalf, Executive Director
On December 20, the California Supreme Court upheld the legislature’s elimination of redevelopment agencies. Each city now needs to figure out how to do what has been traditionally been done with redevelopment funds. What does this surprising turn of events mean for the urbanist agenda in California?

The Trouble With Ranked-Choice Voting

January 6, 2012 By Corey Cook
Professor Corey Cook responds to Professor Rich Deleon's criticism of Cook's original Urbanist article covering ranked choice voting.

In Defense of Ranked-Choice Voting

January 6, 2012 By Rich DeLeon*
Professor Corey Cook’s article in the December 2011 Urbanist assesses San Francisco’s ranked-choice voting (RCV) system in the 2011 mayoral election. His opening statement concludes that “by most objective measures the system held up rather well: The election results were clear and uncontroversial, individual ballots contained fewer errors than in past contests and most voters chose to participate fully by ranking their first-, second- and third-choice candidates.” This would seem to be an occasion for high-fives and popping champagne corks. But Cook sees problems with RCV, lots of them. He has “deeper questions” about the effects of RCV on such things as the degree to which the election outcome “accurately reflects popular opinion,” the voter turnout rate, the level of negative campaigning, the perceived legitimacy of election results viewed as a mandate to govern, the informational burdens placed on voters in ranking candidates, and the incidence of voting errors. He...

Starting a Garden or Farm in San Francisco

January 3, 2012 by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
Starting a garden or farm in San Francisco just got a little bit easier. Pulling together the most recent changes to city laws, the San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance recently released a guide to the regulations for growing and selling food within San Francisco . The guide covers a host of topics including: Finding land Gardening on private versus public land Water access Selling what you grow Specific sections on rooftop gardens, animal husbandry, and soil testing. The booklet was produced based on the guidance of staff from eight city agencies, ranging from the County Agricultural Commissioner to the Department of Building Inspections . It consolidates, for the first time, the specific wording of agency rules as well as relevant departmental contact information. The guide won't help your plants or animals thrive, but it does serve as a road map to the rules and policies specific to the City for...

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