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    A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

How to Negotiate a Greener Office

October 25, 2011 By Laura Tam, Sustainable Development Policy Director
Last week, the Bay Area's Business Council on Climate Change — which SPUR is a part of — released the Green Tenant Toolkit , an online resource for improving the sustainable performance of existing commercial buildings in San Francisco. The toolkit is designed to help commercial tenants, building owners and property managers collaborate to improve the energy efficiency and other sustainability metrics of their buildings. It is divided into three sections: 1. Green leases , including sample leases and key negotiation points in the leasing process; 2. Stakeholder engagement , which defines what the roles can be for owners, tenants and occupants in making buildings more green and outlines best practices in how they can interact and set goals; 3. Check lists , which include questions or metrics for understanding the sustainable performance of an existing building and identifying opportunities for the future. (For example, is electricity sub-metered? Does the...

San Francisco Gets Serious About Earthquakes

October 24, 2011 By Sarah Karlinsky, Deputy Director
Many of us in the Bay Area felt a series of sharp tremors on October 20 and 21 — coincidentally the same day that Christian radio broadcaster Harold Camping predicted would bring the Apocalypse. It might not be time for the Rapture just yet, but we do know the Big One is coming, and we want our buildings to be prepared. Fortunately, Mayor Ed Lee has released the first draft of San Francisco's Earthquake Safety Implementation Program.

Hidden Hub of the SF Food System: the Wholesale Produce Market

October 12, 2011 By Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager, and Jesse Sleamaker
At three in the morning, a four-block stretch of Jerrold Avenue in the Bayview neighborhood is abuzz with business. The San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market , which is busiest during the graveyard shift, is a hidden hub of San Francisco’s fresh food system. On a recent Friday, fifteen early-rising SPUR members gathered for a walking tour at 8 a.m. — the end of the day for most businesses at the market. Much of the Bay Area excitement around food focuses on either the farms where food is grown or the tables where it is consumed. Our tour of the Wholesale Produce Market gave us an inside look at the infrastructure and people between farm and table. The more than 25 wholesalers and distributors at the market serve as brokers between producers and retailers, balancing the fickle demand of buyers on one hand with a highly variable supply of produce on...

SPUR's 2011 Voter Guide Now Online

October 11, 2011 By Corey Marshall, Good Government Director
Absentee ballots will start to arrive this week, which means it's time for the annual SPUR Voter Guide, our in-depth analysis of all local San Francisco ballot propositions. With only eight measures on the docket, this is a short ballot for our fine city — but it's certainly not short on substance. Voters will weigh in on dueling pension reform plans, bonds for schools and roads, and even a sales tax increase. These measures place billions of dollars at stake, making it more important than ever for San Francisco voters to know the details. Get out and vote on November 8, but first arm yourself with our in-depth analysis. Download the SPUR 2011 Voter Guide >> Brought to you by SPUR. We pore over the mind-numbing details so you don't have to. Support SPUR today >>

Why the MTC's Toll Lane Plan Won't Meet the Goals of Road Pricing

September 27, 2011 By Aaron Bialick
The Bay Area has a lot to gain from pricing its freeways. Two of the major benefits are money for transit and less highway congestion. High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes are a miniature form of road pricing, offering solo drivers the option to buy their way into High-Occupancy Vehicle lanes and bypass the congested, more heavily-subsidized highway lanes. In 2008, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) proposed a plan to expand the region’s network of HOT lanes to 800 miles by 2035. This week , the agency is expected to approve a new plan for submission to the California Transportation Commission (CTC), but it would be scaled back significantly to 570 miles and would fall short of achieving the benefits of road pricing on several levels: Much of the planned network will expand highway lanes rather than converting existing ones to use them more efficiently. SPUR’s analysis shows that this will increase...

A Vision for New Greenspace in Southeastern SF

September 14, 2011 by Gretchen Hilyard
SPUR’s 2011 Piero N. Patri Fellow, Sarah Moos, spent this summer studying San Francisco's unmaintained and underused rights-of-way. The resulting project, Unaccepted Streets: From Paper to Reality, proposes to transform some of San Francisco's overlooked spaces into a network of public pathways that would better link local communities to open spaces and to each other.

Is City Soil Really More Toxic Than Rural Soil?

September 14, 2011 by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
As someone who works on urban agricultural policy, I'm often asked, "Is city-grown food safe?" The question comes from aspiring urban gardeners and concerned eaters alike. And it seems to stem from both a fear of the known and a fear of the unknown. First, the fear of the known: Common urban contaminants include lead, arsenic and other heavy metals leaked into soil from old paint, leaded gasoline, modern car exhaust and industrial land-use. These metals are responsible for a whole host of maladies. Heavy exposure to lead, for example, can harm the nervous system and result in other developmental disabilities, especially in children. Here in San Francisco, a recent study of garden soils confirmed the presence of residual lead in many parts of the city. Similar studies have taken place or are in the works in Minnesota , Chicago and Indianapolis . They all show considerable evidence of lead...

Why a Gas Tax Extension Is No Longer Enough to Save Our Roads, Jobs — or Economy

September 8, 2011 By Jennifer Warburg
On Tuesday, Congress returned to Washington with only 11 days to pass essential legislation: the reauthorization of all major national transit and highway projects and the gas tax that funds them. Stalemate or delay will cost billions of dollars and millions of jobs , shutting down highway and transit construction projects nationwide and putting hundreds of thousands of Americans out of work in the midst of an unstable, jobless recovery. Passage of regular infrastructure spending packages used to be routine in Washington, but in today’s fractious Congress, all bets are off. Already this summer we’ve witnessed costly Congressional standoffs over the raising of the debt ceiling and the funding of the FAA — other spending measures that used to attract bipartisan support. In less contentious times, a federal surface transportation bill is passed roughly every six years. This regular package uses our current gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon...

How to Solve San Francisco’s Parks Funding Crisis

September 8, 2011 By Corey Marshall, SPUR Good Government Director
Our latest SPUR Report, Seeking Green , takes a hard look at the many factors that make funding San Francisco’s parks so difficult: diminishing public funds, political forces that prevent raising new revenues and, more recently, a recession of historic proportions. How can the Recreation and Parks Department navigate these competing pressures to maintain services and care for our parks? Our task force found 11 ways to save San Francisco’s parks, from stabilizing public financing to strengthening philanthropy to expanding revenue opportunities.

How Can We Reclaim Market Street?

September 1, 2011 Gretchen Hilyard
San Francisco’s Market Street has a long and fascinating history: from its ambitious beginnings as an over-scaled boulevard, laid out by Jasper O’Farrell in 1847, to its heyday as the city’s vibrant theater district in the early twentieth century. Market Street rose to prominence after the 1906 Earthquake, survived a series of urban planning experiments in the mid-twentieth century, and absorbed the important yet disruptive insertion of BART beneath its surface in 1972. Today, Market Street displays the varied, accumulated layers of intervention. How can we remedy the vacant storefronts, improve pedestrain and traffic circulation, and reduce crime and other issues that prevent Market Street from being a true civic spine? Several city agencies, including the Mayor’s Office, the Department of Public Works, the Planning Department, the Transportation Authority and the SFMTA, along with residents, merchants and community groups, are trying to answer these questions with the Better Market Street...

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