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    A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

SPUR POPOS Guide Now in Google Maps!

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...

Re-thinking Redevelopment

January 24, 2011 BY JORDAN SALINGER
Our new governor is proposing to eliminate redevelopment in California. Yesterday, SPUR's executive director, Gabriel Metcalf, weighed in on the debate with an opinion piece in the Chronicle , arguing that we should reform, rather than eliminate, redevelopment.

SF Muni Buses Become Canvases for Mobile Public Art

January 19, 2011 BY HEATHER MACK
[Photo Credit: flickr user Todd Gilens ] After the interminable wait for a San Francisco Muni bus, its eventual arrival is a cause for celebration and relief. And for the next three months, it could also prove to be a rare treat if your route happens to feature one of the four city buses serving as vehicles for a public art project from local artist Todd Gilens . Starting this month, four Muni buses will go under the disguise of Gilens’ “wraps” displaying images of four local endangered species– the Coho Salmon, the Mission Blue Butterfly, the Brown Pelican and the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse. Like the rare animals they exhibit, the buses in the aptly dubbed Endangered Species project will make guest appearances to all neighborhoods as they circulate throughout the city, dispatched to different routes every day. A far cry from the assault of gaudy advertising that we...

Civic Labs

December 29, 2010 BY JORDAN SALINGER
As part of their Technology Horizons Program the Institute for the Future just released “A Planet of Civic Laboratories: The Future of Cities, Information, and Inclusion.” This study takes some of the most significant trends in technology and forecasts the potential social applications in urban environments. It’s fascinating. Here were a few highlights: -Facing budget deficits, city governments will increasingly turn to crowdsourcing as a cost-effective way to monitor resources and provide services. Crowdsourcing, which has flourished online, uses the power of the open call to mobilize communities.Check out these examples: Urban Forest Map SeeClickFix -The proliferation of data will accelerate as the prices of both hand-held phones and sensors plummet. The ability to constantly monitor populations, referred to as “continuous counting” will evolve, increasing the number of on-demand surveys. -The conversation surrounding digital infrastructure such as cloud computing will grow more contentious as governments compete against private entities. The...

California's Groundbreaking Green Building Ordinance

December 16, 2010 BY ALEX SMITH
The LEED Silver San Francisco Federal Building set a standard for green construction in the city [Photo Credit: flickr user Oldvidhead ] Green building regulations are nothing new. For over a decade, cities have taken the lead in the adoption of green building standards. States have been slower to follow suit, but at present 35 states have adopted green building ordinances that either outline policies to encourage green construction or require green construction for state-owned and state-funded buildings. However, on January 1 California will become the first state to enact a mandatory, state-wide green building code applicable to both private and public development. It’s difficult to overstate the significance of a mandatory green building standard for the entire state. State policies to date have created exceptional green buildings that effectively raise the ceiling for green building. By setting minimum standards, California is doing something equally important: raising the minimum floor...

Bay Area Visionary, Richard Goldman, Dies at 90

December 6, 2010 BY JENNIFER WARBURG
Last week the Bay Area lost one of its most generous and influential environmental leaders. Richard Goldman, co-founder of the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, died at home on November 29. Through their family foundation, Richard and his wife Rhoda have given away hundreds of millions of dollars to a variety of arts and environmental initiatives. The Goldmans are perhaps best known for the Goldman Environmental Prize, a grant awarded to grassroots environmentalists around the world, often referred to as “the Green Nobel” and the most prestigious award of its kind. Yet, Mr. Goldman was also extremely engaged locally. He and his wife both grew up in San Francisco and spent their entire lives in this city. Richard has said in interviews that his commitment to the environment was first inspired on walks through Golden Gate Park. His charitable donations to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area have helped fund...

Are Smaller Homes Here to Stay?

November 18, 2010 BY FABIANA MEACHAM
[Photo Credit: flickr user Dean Terry ] The post-recession trend toward smaller homes in suburban communities has grown over the past few years – and as the economy continues to lag, it’s likely these more modest homes will only rise in popularity. It remains unclear, however, if Americans have really begun to reevaluate the excesses of 6.5 bathrooms and a “celebrity-style media and screening room,” or whether they’re just putting those dreams on hold for the time being. The building industry has certainly reacted to the American home-buyer’s current need for a more affordable, pared down lifestyle. A recent New York Times article featured Builder magazine’s 2010 “concept home,” a 1,700 square foot “Home for the New Economy.” A virtual tour of the house emphasizes the house's “roominess and livability,” low energy load and flexible interior spaces. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has also released a report on...

How to Improve the Bay Plan's Guidelines for Sea Level Rise

November 16, 2010 By Laura Tam, Sustainable Development Policy Director
Over the last two years, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) has been working to amend its guidance document, the Bay Plan, to include new policies related to climate change and sea level rise.

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