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    A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

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...

Ocean Beach Word Cloud

February 22, 2011 POSTED BY JAVIER DEL CASTILLO
Click to enlarge A “word cloud” or “weighted list” is a way of portraying the text in a document so that the higher the incidence of a word or term, the larger its font will be. After SPUR interns Sarah Favrot & Javier del Castillo spent a great deal of time and effort transcribing the many responses and comments of the January 15 th Ocean Beach Master Plan openhouse, t hey thought it would be fun to turn all that information into something a little less dense and slightly more visually appealing. Wordle.net is a website that turns any text into a word cloud such as this one. So here it is, the feedback of over 200 Bay Area participants represented as a word cloud. Enjoy!

Budget Wars in Washington—Will Infrastructure Investment Make the Cut?

February 21, 2011 POSTED BY JENNIFER WARBURG
The next several weeks in Washington promise to offer extremely important insights into the future of public transportation spending in this country. Watershed moments are ahead for most every item on the SPUR agenda. Here’s a quick primer of why and of what’s at stake for advocates of smart growth: In October 2010, we anticipated that infrastructure spending would anchor the legislative agenda for 2011. Such nuts-and-bolts spending has often provided an area of consensus in a divided legislature, and the Obama Administration has repeatedly endorsed national infrastructure investment as vital for immediate job creation, as well as long term U.S. economic growth and competitiveness. The recent election of a wave of deficit hawks to the House will challenge this idea. Last week President Obama upped the ante when he released his Fiscal Year 2012 budget. Most striking is that amidst nearly across-the-board cuts, transportation and clean-energy technology stand out...

New PPIC Report Argues for Jobs, Not Homes, Near Transit

February 17, 2011 By Egon Terplan, Regional Planning Director
The Public Policy Institute of California has just released a new series of reports assessing how prepared California is to implement Senate Bill 375, a state mandate to reduce driving through better land use planning. One report focuses on the connection between transit and jobs . The other focuses on the tools planners can use to reduce driving and the willingness of local officials to use them. The reports are also summarized in a single report , which was presented and discussed at an event today in Sacramento. The report on transit and jobs, “ Making the Most of Transit: Density, Employment Growth, and Ridership around New Stations ,” is of particular interest to SPUR's work. Based on extensive analysis of new development since 1992 around new rail stations in California, the report argues that achieving the state’s mandated reductions in driving will require increased attention to the location and...

Twitter's Possible Relocation Opens Debate over How to Keep Jobs in the City

February 10, 2011 POSTED BY ED PARILLON
San Francisco might be the cultural center of the region, but in the technology sector the city has generally played second fiddle to the Silicon Valley. That began to change during the dot-com boom and then again more recently, a new generation of startups is setting up in neighborhoods like SoMa and Potrero Hill. (SPUR discussed the trend in its “ year in urbanism ” recap.) One of the most well-known of these emerging technology companies is Twitter, which has been headquartered in SoMa since its founding. So the announcement a few weeks back that Twitter is looking at moving its headquarters southward to Brisbane is a worrying development. This has led to a response by San Francisco to try to keep Twitter in town – specifically, the Board of Supervisors is considering a payroll tax break for firms that move into the Mid-Market neighborhood, which is where the city...

The Datablog Takes to the Road

February 9, 2011 POSTED BY JORDAN SALINGER + COLLEEN MCHUGH
When I entered Stamen’s offices in the Mission district of San Francisco, I saw four people gathered around a computer screen. What were they doing? Nothing less than “mapping the world,” not as it appears in flat dimension, but how it reveals itself. And they weren’t joking. Stamen, a data visualization firm, has always kept the concept of “place” central to many of their projects. They achieved this most famously through their crimespotting maps of Oakland and San Francisco, which give geographical context to the world of crime. This week they are taking on a world-sized challenge as they host a conference focusing on cities, interactive mapping, and data. This conference is part of Stamen’s Citytracking project, funded in part by a Knight News challenge grant . The project is an effort to provide the public with new tools to interact with data as it relates to urban environments. The...

Let’s Not Miss the Boat on What the America’s Cup Could do for San Francisco

February 4, 2011 POSTED BY JENNIFER WARBURG + GABRIEL METCALF
When it comes to global sporting events, almost as intense as the competition between star athletes is the competition between cities to play host. That’s because hosting a major international sporting event presents a unique opportunity for a city to redefine its development goals, stimulate investment and boost tourism. Just last month it was decided that San Francisco would host the 34 th America’s Cup. There is no doubt that the San Francisco Bay will provide a breathtaking venue for yacht racing, and no doubt that there will be an infusion of spending in the city tied to the event. But the real opportunity comes from leveraging the America’s Cup to make some major long-term investments in our city. SPUR calls for the City to come together to make some important public realm improvements before the race happens; and to make sure we get high-quality private development that will stand...

SPUR POPOS Guide Now in Google Maps!

February 3, 2011 BY JAVIER DEL CASTILLO
Update: our POPOS guide is now available as an iPhone app , too! A year and a half ago SPUR revealed some of San Francisco's best kept secrets : a rich network of privately owned public open spaces (POPOS) scattered throughout the city's downtown urban area. These are great spots around downtown to eat lunch, hold an informal meeting, or simply soak up some nature. Our web version of the POPOS guide will lead you to these many spaces from your desktop or phone. Big or small, park or "snippet," north or south of Market: know your city's POPOS and swear to never eat lunch in your cube again! View SPUR's POPOS guide in Google Maps >> Read our report on POPOS: Secrets of San Francisco >>

It Takes a Village... to Close a Power Plant

January 25, 2011 Joshua Arce
The December 21, 2010 announcement that San Francisco's polluting Potrero Power Plant would shut down by the end of the year was as much a cause for celebration as it was a reason to recount the twists and turns that it took to finally shutter the city's last fossil fuel-burning commercial power plant. For many years, the preferred method of closing Potrero was to build three new power plants to replace it smack dab between the Bayview-Hunters Point and Potrero Hill communities where San Francisco's dirty power plants have been located for over a century. The environmental, social justice, and sustainability advocacy required to flip the switch on Potrero is certainly a lesson in the heavy lifting that any city must undertake in seeking to end its reliance on fossil fuel power plants. The Potrero Power Plant itself was built in 1965, but its location has been a site of...

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