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    A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

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

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,...

Should We Plan for Sprawl?

June 23, 2011 By Egon Terplan, Regional Planning Director
Work on Senate Bill 375, California's anti-sprawl legislation, continued last month with a joint meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Association of Bay Area Governments. The question at hand: Should MTC and ABAG approve a set of five alternative growth scenarios to further analyze? Each scenario includes a set of assumptions about where growth will go, what will be spent on transportation in the region's urban core vs. at its edge, and what tools will be used to change travel behavior and development.

Good Government Awards: How Susan Fernyak Prevented an H1N1 Disaster

June 22, 2011
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. In recognition of her vital role in the City, her leadership in developing the City's Infectious Disease Response Plan and for her exemplary response to the 2009 outbreak of the H1N1 Influenza, Dr. Susan Fernyak has been selected for a 2011 MFAC Public Managerial Excellence Award. Dr. Fernyak's response to the H1N1 epidemic was not only an exceptional response for the City and County of San Francisco, but also influenced and changed the way the state and federal government as well as many other cities responded to the epidemic. It allowed for vaccines to be available in San Francisco a week before any neighboring counties and kept the number of H1N1 cases per capita lower than in...

Traffic Safety in the Age of the Bicycle

After observing aggressive and dangerous behavior by drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians on New York City streets, designer Ron Gabriel decided to focus his master’s thesis at the School of Visual Arts on the danger posed by a single NYC intersection. He shot hours of video footage of Park Avenue and 28th Street, edited together clips of accidents and near-accidents, and used video-game-like graphics to highlight the motorists, cyclists and pedestrians involved. The resulting video focuses on the “bad behavior” that causes dangerous situations at intersections, where, according to Gabriel, 74 percent of NYC’s accidents occur. He calls the video “an attempt to clearly illustrated very specific behaviors that, if adjusted, would make a huge difference in our streets and our quality of life.” 3-Way Street from ronconcocacola on Vimeo . It’s easy to point out what activities are dangerous and illegal in Gabriel’s video: pedestrians jaywalking, bikes travelling against traffic,...

The Chronicle Building's Latest Transformation

Since the DeYoung Brothers first founded the The Daily Dramatic Chronicle in 1865, the home of San Francisco’s pioneering newspaper has been an incubator for ideas and innovation. Within a decade of its founding, the San Francisco Chronicle had the largest circulation of any newspaper west of the Mississippi River. The company has moved twice since then, and its headquarters buildings have always represented changing ideas about design and planning in the city. Today that's more true than ever: the Chronicle’s current home at 901 Mission Street is part of the 5M project , a redevelopment project that fosters innovation by providing space, funding and counseling to startup companies. This Tuesday, June 21, SPUR will hold a forum on artisan manufacturing at TechShop, a member-based workshop located at 926 Howard Street and part of the 5M block. Before we visit this latest incarnation, let's look back at the history and...

How Do We Get DENSER?

June 20, 2011 BY DALEEN SAAH
Image credit: flickr user baldheretic Due to overwhelming demand pre-registration for this event is closed. A limited number of tickets will be available at the door. This Tuesday night SPUR will host DENSER , a "Pecha Kucha" night on density, infill and urban development. What's Pecha Kucha? Named after the Japanese word for conversation or “chit chat,” it's a place for designers and other thinkers to showcase their work to the public. In Pecha Kucha's patented fast-and-furious format, presenters are allowed to show 20 slides -- each for just 20 seconds. That's a total of about 6.5 minutes to quickly convey one's ideas or work to the audience, allowing for a greater number of voices and more idea swapping. Pecha Kucha originated in Tokyo in 2003. Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham Architecture came up with the events as a way for young designers in architecture and other...

Will Bay Area Cities Survive the Next Big Disaster?

June 16, 2011 By Sarah Karlinsky
What happens the next time we have a major earthquake on the Hayward or San Andreas Fault? What should we be doing right now to make sure we are prepared? The Association of Bay Area Governments considered these questions at its forum “ Shaken Awake: Creative Ways to Strengthen Housing and Promote Resilience in Today’s Economy .”

The Bay Plan Amendment Closes in on Consensus

There’s something in it for everyone to hate and something for everyone to love, but after two years, we are optimistic: We may be very close to a consensus on how to amend the San Francisco Bay Plan with new information about climate change.

Exploring Ideas for the Future of Ocean Beach

The Ocean Beach master planning process took a big step forward this month. The project team, led by SPUR, presented four “test scenarios” at its second public meeting on June 4. Based on input from our first public meeting in January, the scenarios explore the outcomes of very different approaches to managing coastal erosion, infrastructure and ecology at Ocean Beach until the year 2100. None was presented as a final answer; instead these test scenarios are extreme cases, intended to inform the conversation by mapping out the widest possible range of options. Here’s what they look at: Test Scenario A: Maximum Habitat This scenario prioritizes ecological restoration and accommodating natural processes through “managed retreat,” or allowing the shoreline to advance inland. It is the only scenario in which the project boundary moves inland, requiring major infrastructure reconstruction and the gradual acquisition of private property to allow for a wide beach...

Good Government Awards: How Dana Ketcham Modernized SF's Park Permits

June 15, 2011
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. Dana Ketcham became involved in the Recreation and Park Department as a full-time volunteer when she spent two years redesigning the 103 athletic fields' reservation and permit system. She surveyed all field users and helped with public meetings to develop a season-by-season plan and online reservation and permit system. This new process added 35,000 hours of field playtime, more than doubling total field availability and capacity. Field users have enthusiastically received the outcome. She was then hired as the Reservation and Permits Manager and has completely automated all permits and reservation customer service functions by incorporating them into the recreation management database system – SFRecOnline. She led a staff reorganization to optimize customer service delivery, which has...

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