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    A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

Budget Update--High Speed Rail Funding In Jeopardy

If the Fiscal Year 2011 budget debate in Washington has been dramatic, it has also unfolded utterly predictably. But though threats to HSR funding were foreseeable, their ultimate effect is still highly uncertain. The GOP-controlled House proposes cuts to HSR that do three things: 1. Eliminate all 2011 funding for high speed rail projects 2. Rescind unobligated funds for high speed rail appropriated in 2010 and 2009 3. Bar other states from using the $2.4 billion in high speed rail funds rejected by Florida, as well as the $614 million passed up by Wisconsin and Ohio. According to Californians For High Speed Rail, if these cuts pass, they could jeopardize “$2.3 – $3 billion in expected federal funds” for California’s HSR project alone. But can the unobligated funds be rescinded? The answer is unclear. Most reside in a legal grey area were they have been “committed” but not “obligated.” And...

An Update on Van Ness BRT

Several weeks ago, I attended a briefing at the SFCTA on the progress of the Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit project. BRT along Van Ness is currently in the midst of final environmental studies and preliminary engineering. Public comment will be solicited this spring on the Environmental Impact Report, after which the project team will recommend a preferred alternative for adoption by the Authority and SFMTA boards. The Van Ness BRT project is true Bus Rapid Transit – it is not a simple rebranding of an existing line with a new paint scheme and logo. Van Ness BRT calls for the conversion of one lane in each direction to a dedicated bus lane, with overhead wire to power clean electric buses. The project will feature all-door, level boarding and proof of payment to speed up passenger boarding and drop-off. Buses will get transit signal priority for green lights at intersections,...

The Future of Redevelopment Debate

Untitled from SPUR on Vimeo . Early this year Governor Jerry Brown shocked state and local leaders with his proposal to eliminate all of California’s 425 redevelopment agencies. Since then, debate has raged in the press over the ramifications of shuttering these agencies. While the future of San Francisco’s own redevelopment areas is in question (Transbay, Treasure Island, Hunters Point), similar questions arise across the state. On Thursday, March 3, SPUR and the Bay Citizen brought together Fred Blackwell of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency and Karen Chapple of UC Berkeley’s Department of City and Regional Planning to argue the merits and liabilities of eliminating redevelopment agencies. Fred Blackwell began by acknowledging redevelopment’s contentious history and mixed-record of achievement, but he insisted that well-functioning redevelopment agencies are essential to economic growth, sustainable development and social justice, pointing to successful projects in San Francisco’s Mission Bay, Yerba Buena and Hunter’s Point...

Initial Vision Scenario Released for the Bay Area

March 11, 2011 By Egon Terplan
The Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission released their Initial Vision Scenario for growth in the Bay Area at a meeting in Oakland today. The scenario is the first major milestone in the development of the Bay Area’s Sustainable Communities Strategy, a plan designed to accommodate growth while reducing greenhouse gases from driving,

Weekly Snapshot

Largest Mall in the World is a Chinese Ghost Town The world's largest mall, located in Southern China, is a vast ghost land with occupancy rates that hover at 1%. The mall, built to serve what may someday become a Chinese mega-city, is a glimpse at what can occur when development precedes growth. http://i.gadling.com/2011/03/ 02/largest-mall-in-the-world- is-a-chinese-ghost-town/?ncid= &a_dgi=aolshare_twitter A Place-Based Approach to Food Access: Creating a Healthier Future for Birmingham Birmingham, Alabama, the country's second most obese city, is creating a new system of outdoor markets to increase resident's accessibility to fresh, healthy food as well as to create vibrant neighborhood hubs in a city where public space is lacking. http://www.pps.org/blog/ creating-a-healthier-future- for-birmingham/ Greenest Homes Are Those Near Public Transportation A new study by the Environmental Protection Agency finds that homes located near public transportation use less energy than homes specifically designed to be "energy efficient," such as ones with Energy...

2011 Piero N. Patri Fellowship

March 10, 2011
Call for Applicants SPUR, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, is pleased to issue a call for applicants for a twelve-week fellowship in the summer of 2011. The Piero N. Patri Fellowship in Urban Design is a hands-on position for a graduate student or 2011 graduate in landscape architecture, urban design, or architecture. The fellowship provides the opportunity for the Fellow to gain firsthand experience working in the urban design and planning field on a project that will have a positive impact on the city of San Francisco and the Bay Area. Projects are intended to provide career-related work experiences that will challenge graduate-level students, contribute to San Francisco, contribute to SPUR's mission, and reflect the values of Piero N. Patri. SPUR will cooperate with the Fellow in obtaining academic credit, if his or her institution allows. The selected Fellow will be based in the San Francisco office...

SFCTA's Long Range Transportation Plan Explores Future Transportation Patterns

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority is working on an update to the city’s Long Range Transportation Plan. As part of the update, the authority has been conducting analysis of transportation patterns in the city, and looking at projected growth, and its implications. Some of the results have already been released (pdf), and the findings should provide advocates and governments in the Bay Area some food for thought: 1. The growth in traffic across the city’s southern border isn’t going to stop. The region is expecting some improvement in the jobs-housing balance in the South Bay, but it won’t be enough to stop increases in trips across the SF-San Mateo boundary. This makes the search for steady funding for Caltrain even more urgent, and also raises the question of whether we need to think about road pricing on I-280 and US-101. 2. San Francisco will need to address transit time...

Thoughts on GOOD Design (and Good Design) and Social Responsibility

GOOD Design Bay Area: Challenge #6 from SPUR on Vimeo . In the spring of 2004, I was a grad student at UC Berkeley, and about half way toward a master's degree in architecture. I'd already been having doubts about the program, and my future as an architect, when I didn't get my first pick for a class and ended up in a blobitecture studio with a visiting professor from Columbia who had made a name for herself designing, uh, plastic-looking blobs based on forms supposedly found in nature. The design studios at Berkeley were on the top floor of a Brutalist nine-story tower that hovered above the rest of campus. Looking out the window, the world seemed far away, and people looked small and insignificant. Humans are hard to draw, and even harder to Photoshop, and so we often left them out of drawings. Luckily my assignment at the...

Treasure Island Moves Forward to Planning Commission

March 2, 2011
Plans for Treasure Island are moving forward to the Planning Commission in March. SPUR is a big supporter of this plan, which will create 8,000 units of housing, 30 percent of which will be affordable, and 450,000 square feet of retail space; rehabilitate historic structures; create 300 acres of open space; and add new ferry service. We especially like the way in which the proposed new development is clustered around the new ferry terminal, as opposed to dispersed across the island. Interested in lending your support to this important project? Contact Sarah Karlinsky at skarlinsky@spur.org . More information is available here .

Pay-As-You-Drive Auto Insurance Comes To California

February 28, 2011 POSTED BY STEPHEN TU
Beginning this month, Californians will have a new option for auto insurance. It’s called Pay As You Drive (PAYD), and it could save money and reduce our impact on the environment at the same time. Traditional auto insurance policies charge customers in a lump sum and do not price risk according to driving volume. There have been attempts by insurance companies to incorporate driving volume into insurance rates, but these types of plans are based on estimated mileage only. In contrast, PAYD bills consumers for the amount that they actually drive. California insurance regulations that went into effect this month will now allow insurance companies to check odometer readings themselves, hire vendors such as smog-check technicians and car dealers to record mileage, track mileage through the GM OnStar system, or install automatic mileage recording devices. PAYD policies are already being offered in California by State Farm and AAA, with potentially...

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