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Good Government Awards: How Capital Planning Manages SF's Investment Priorities

April 19, 2011 BY COLE ARMSTRONG
SPUR’s 31st annual Good Government Awards, held earlier this year, honored five City of San Francisco employees and teams who have performed exceptionally, becoming models for other agencies and cities around the country. The city’s Capital Planning Program team was honored for its ability to bring together a large group of city officials and reach a consensus on capital investment priorities. Created by city legislation in August 2005, the four-person team analyzes the city’s existing infrastructure and determines the need for maintenance and improvements. The team studies data on past construction costs, maintenance costs, inflation and market trends in order to estimate the costs of maintenance to existing infrastructure, the costs of completing new projects, and the fiscal consequences of delaying these undertakings. Based on these estimates, Capital Planning then makes recommendations about which projects should take priority and how they should be funded — a vital service during times...

SPUR Tours: Discovering District 8 With Supervisor Scott Weiner

April 19, 2011 BY MICAH HILT
SF Supervisor Scott Wiener led a tour of District 8 on April 14. All too often what’s great about living in a city can become a blur: just shops and people and buses and sidewalks we quickly pass while rushing off to our next thing to do. Thursday's District 8 walking tour with San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener gave 20 SPUR and community members a welcome chance to slow down and look deeply at a small piece of our city. Supervisor Wiener talks about the success of merchants on 18th Street. Walking west on 18th Street, taking us from the district boundary to the heart of the Castro, Wiener focused on change. He pointed out the booming success of merchants on 18th and Gurerro and the upcoming 70th anniversary of Cliff’s Hardware on Castro Street. The tour stops at the former site of Harvey Milk's camera shop on Castro Street...

Park Circa: Can an iPhone App Facilitate More Compact Living?

April 18, 2011 By Jordan Salinger
According to the SFMTA, 30 percent of traffic in San Francisco is simply drivers looking for parking . That’s not just a huge waste of time — it’s also a carbon-emissions nightmare. But new digital tools are helping city dwellers engage with the automobile in smarter and more efficient ways. Last week San Francisco launched extended hours on some SFPark smart parking meters , which aim to use real-time data to reduce the difficulty of finding public parking spaces. And earlier this year, two entrepreneurs launched Park Circa , a smart phone app that makes better use of another urban resource: privately owned parking spots. Park Circa establishes relationships between car drivers and parking-spot owners, allowing SF residents to charge a minimal fee to park in their driveway or other private space whenever they’re not occupying it. Drivers use the app to select the neighborhood they intend to visit, look...

Saltworks Debate: the Pros and Cons of Bayfront Development

April 11, 2011
California’s continued population growth was not up for debate at the SPUR Urban Center on March 29, but the Saltworks development project in Redwood City certainly was. At the latest event in our Debates Worth Having series, co-sponsored by The Bay Citizen, architect and urban planner Peter Calthorpe, the chief designer of Saltworks, and David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay, presented their pointed arguments for and against the proposed project, which would occupy 1,400 acres of bayfront property adjacent to the Port of Redwood City. The plan would remediate the site, a former salt-harvesting operation, as a combination of housing, schools, parks, ball fields and restored wetlands. Calthorpe argued that the development would place affordable housing near existing jobs and integrate with transit, making it among the most environmentally sound options for the Bay Area — a region, he pointed out, that has been exporting housing to outlying...

Behind the Scenes at SFO's New Terminal 2

April 8, 2011 By Jordan Salinger
After lying dormant for a decade, San Francisco International Airport's Terminal 2 will be re-opening this month. Last week, 45 SPUR members had the unique opportunity to tour the final stages of construction on the $383 million renovation project. The 640,000 square foot building has 14 gates and will serve 5.5 million visitors per year. American Airlines, a tenant of the original terminal when it opened in 1954 , will be joined by Virgin Airlines in this revamped space. Here are a few highlights that stood out during the tour: Technology - Free wi-fi will be available throughout the terminal. - Flat-panel screens display arrival/departure information, a "visual paging" system, and informative notes, such as nearby pet-waste facilities and medic stations. Photo by Noah Christman Design - According to project manager Ray Quesada, the space has been designed to create a "club" like atmosphere. Travelers familiar with Virgin America's cabins...

Weekly Snapshot: Rethinking Minnesota's Zombie Skyways

April 8, 2011 BY ANIKA JESI
MinnPost.com photo by Steve Berg Skyways -- enclosed, elevated sidewalks -- have protected pedestrians from the brutal weather in Minneapolis and St. Paul for decades. But these 1970s relics have also been accused of killing pedestrian activity on city streets. To start a public conversation about alternatives, Architecture Minnesota magazine held a video competition and screened the hilarious results at a lively public event. The six finalists included a rap comparing Twin Cities pedestrians to hamsters and a haunting clip of zombie pedestrians piling up in a dead-end skyway to nowhere. Read full story at MinnPost More from the week in urbanism: How Mountain View Revived Its Downtown Bruce Liedstrand, the former city manager and redevelopment director for Mountain View, CA, explains how the city revitalized its core and changed its image from sleepy dormitory community to lively, vibrant downtown. Read full story at New Urban Network Places That Work:...

Caltrain Scores Short-Term Funding -- Now We Need a Long-Term Plan

April 6, 2011 BY STEPHEN TU
After threats to reduce service by nearly half, Caltrain officials last night agreed to scale back their drastic proposed cuts. The rail system’s governing agencies have brokered a deal to avoid the worst-case scenario, which would have run only 48 trains on weekdays, a dramatic drop from the current 86. Through a patchwork of solutions — including a 25-cent fare hike and eliminating some trains and stations — Caltrain will preserve most of its current level of service. In July, Caltrain will reduce the number of trains to 76 on weekdays and close the Hayward Park station in San Mateo, the Capitol station in San Jose and the Bayshore station in Brisbane. But this short-term solution, which if approved would extend only through fiscal year 2012, doesn’t solve Caltrain’s deeper problem: it’s managed by a coalition of three different counties and lacks a dedicated funding source. Meanwhile, Bay Area commuters...

SPUR to SF Supervisors: Don't Let the Next Google Get Away

April 4, 2011 BY GABRIEL METCALF AND JENNIFER WARBURG
While the Bay Area is still climbing out of the great recession, we’re simultaneously experiencing the makings of a second dot-com boom. The Chronicle reports that tech jobs have climbed near to their year 2000 peak of 34,116. Silicon Valley is hiring again. And so is San Francisco. Between Twitter, Zynga, Yelp, Salesforce and others in social media, gaming and cloud computing, a growing sector of the economy is based right here in the city. We can’t predict in advance which companies will succeed: Google launched during the last boom, but so did Webvan, whose only traces today are the eponymous cup holders at AT&T Park. Nevertheless, it’s encouraging for all of us who promote economic development to see this kind of growth and investment in a niche well-suited to our city. The question is, will San Francisco be able to retain the successful companies as they grow and begin...

Seattle Planning Director Marshall Foster at SPUR

April 4, 2011 POSTED BY JENNIFER WARBURG
Known for its quality of life and access to nature, Seattle has long prided itself on refusing to be “world class.” But rapid growth and a diversifying population mean Seattle is changing — whether it wants to or not. Booming biotech, software and gaming sectors are transforming the economy, new light rail and streetcar lines are expanding, and the city is about to reclaim its downtown waterfront from the shadows of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. On Friday, April 8, SPUR will host a lunchtime forum with Seattle City Planning Director Marshall Foster on the big issues facing the Emerald City as it continues to grow. A longtime friend of SPUR, Foster is a former Bay Area planner known for his work on projects large and small for the San Francisco City Planning Department. SF’s director of City Greening Initiatives until 2006, Foster was instrumental in the Better Neighborhoods plans, the...

How Leftover Urban Spaces Can Fix Big Problems for San Francisco

March 31, 2011 BY KAREN STEEN
The City of San Francisco owns 1,625 parcels of unmaintained paved land, odd alley-like spaces behind industrial buildings and beneath overpasses. Most are no wider than a city street, but together they have a combined surface area half the size of Golden Gate Park. That’s a lot of city-owned land just sitting there collecting plastic bags. Their shape, size and location — often alongside highways or near industry — make these leftover lots unusable for traditional development. But what if there was a way to reclaim them for public use? That’s the question UC Berkeley architecture professor Nicholas de Monchaux asks with his project “ Local Code: Real Estates ,” on view at the SPUR Urban Center gallery through April 20. Inspired by the artist Gordon Matta-Clark’s “Fake Estates” project from the 1970s, de Monchaux has proposed a reinvention of these spaces as a hybrid of public park and public...

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