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    A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

4 BART Stations, 1,000 New Residences, 0 Added Footprint

Photo by Karen Chapple Accessory dwelling units — better known as cottages, in-law apartments or granny flats — could provide an estimated 1,000 new residences near selected BART stations, research by UC Berkeley Professor Karen Chapple shows. ADUs diversify and increase the housing stock without enlarging a neighborhood's footprint, while allowing senior citizens to find a smaller dwelling without leaving their neighborhood, or college graduates to afford of a modest room of their own. With Bay Area housing in perpetual short supply, ADUs could provide a much-needed supply-side boost. The catch? Existing zoning laws in the five-city study area of Albany, Richmond, El Cerrito, Berkeley and Oakland. Minimum lot sizes disqualify small properties from building ADUs, lot-coverage maximums and property-setback minimums restrict ADU placement and architectural design, and parking requirements—well, these stop many projects before they’re even started. Several cities require an additional unit of off-street parking for an added...

The Numbers: San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont Has 91.7% Transit Coverage

June 2, 2011 BY MICAH HILT
BART station in the East Bay, photo by flickr user travesty01 We definitely have work to do--that was the take home point of a recent Brookings Institute study , examining the top 100 metropolitan areas in the nation for transit access to jobs. While the study found that our area ranked fifth in the nation for access of transit to resident, only 35% of jobs are reachable within 90 minutes using public transportation. Overall though, California cities faired well nationally having four of the top 10 metro areas in the state, including Modesto, Silicon Valley and number two in the nation, Los Angeles. The study, while recognizing the successes of many transit systems, recommends that transportation leaders and local, state and national government should make transit access to jobs their explicit priority in spending and service decisions. This includes coordinated and strategic decisions regarding land use, economic development and housing...

Hidden Histories: The Oakland Museum of California

The recent renovation of the Oakland Museum of California by Mark Cavagnero Associates has brought much-deserved attention to this important Modernist design. But the original design of this Modern masterpiece deserves a closer look.

Good Government Awards: How JobsNow Put San Franciscans Back to Work

June 1, 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. The JobsNow Program was arguably the most innovative and effective subsidized employment program in the United States. During a time of high unemployment, the JobsNow team quickly built a local structure that put thousands to work in San Francisco. By acting fast and getting the word out to private and nonprofit employers, they were able to capture the largest amount per capita of any city in the country out of the Federal government's $5 billion in funding for subsidized employment. They were consistently ahead of target and had 1,000 people already enrolled in San Francisco at a time when no other city in the country had anyone enrolled. Upon termination of the program they had employed 4,127...

Ocean Beach Master Plan - Public Workshop #2

Please join us at the Golden Gate Park Senior Center on Saturday, June 4th for the Ocean Beach Master Plan Public Workshop #2 . The project team has been hard at work analyzing the impacts of different courses of action at Ocean Beach. You will have a chance to review several "test scenarios" and compare their outcomes in categories like ecology, infrastructure, and public access over a 100-year period. You can then work with us to assemble an approach that best serves the future of Ocean Beach. This session will include both presentation and interactive participation. If possible, please arrive at the beginning and stay for the whole session If you missed our first workshop or would like a refresher on the complex issues at Ocean Beach, please read our article in the SPUR Urbanist , or have a look at the workshop materials here . WHEN : Saturday, June...

The Numbers: 96% of U.S. Transportation Energy Comes from Oil

A recent editorial by the Regional Plan Association cites this sobering stat (from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers ) to make the argument for a higher tax on gasoline as a way to both reduce carbon emissions and raise revenues in a time of huge fiscal shortfalls. Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy recently included a three-cent-per-gallon increase in the gasoline tax in his proposed budget, but the legislature cut the measure. Attempts to raise the national gasoline tax, or to enact a cap-and-trade system, have been rejected even more quickly. The RPA calls this penny pinching short sighted, suggesting that we'll look back on this era of history as a time when oil extraction peaked and demand grew — a recipe, ironically, for drastic increases in gas prices. The editorial argues that governments, both local and national, must take action if our country is to reduce its dependency on...

Weekly Snapshot: Good News for Seattle Bikers and Walkers? Kinda.

May 27, 2011 BY ANIKA JESI
Seattle is consistently ranked one of the nation's most bikeable and walkable cities, with low pedestrian fatality rates, bicycle-friendly legislation and a high percentage of commuters who bike or walk to work. However, some worry that these high scores have made Seattle "too cocky," and that the city still has a ways to go in providing acceptable bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Residents hope Seattle's relative success does not defer the city from investing in better and more extensive facilities for traveling by bike and foot. Read full story at PubliCola More from the week in urbanism: Don't Fear the City: Urban America's Crime Drops to Lowest in 40 Years Recent data from the FBI reports that cities, especially those with a population of more than 1 million, are seeing a sharp decline in urban crime rates. Read full story at The Atlantic Lights on Market Street A short film by...

The Numbers: SF's Compost Program Offsets 2 years of Bay Bridge Traffic

San Franciscans have been throwing compostable waste into the “third bin” for 15 years now, since we began a composting pilot program in 1996. But anyone who thinks the third bin has only tertiary importance should know that since its beginning, San Francisco’s composting program has offset 354,600 metric tons of greenhouse gasses, equivalent to the emissions of all vehicles crossing the Bay Bridge for over two years. San Francisco has collected over 907,000 tons of compostable waste since the program began. Recology, the company that collects our garbage and recyclables, has converted that matter into 95,000 cubic yards of finished compost a year. Last year, 77% of San Francisco’s waste was diverted to compost and recycling programs. This surpassed the goal of 75% waste diversion by 2010 set by the Board of Supervisors in 2002. The city has adopted a long-term goal of reaching zero waste, and the Department...

7 Phone Apps That Can Make Cities Better

One of the greatest allures of a smart phone is the time it saves at the bus stop. Having real-time transit info and nearby stop locations at your fingertips makes city living just a little easier. But popular transit apps are just the beginning. Increasingly, smart phone technology is fundamentally changing the way we physically experience our cities. We have written before about SFMTA’s SFpark program , whose new iPhone application displays real-time parking availability and pricing data, and about Park Circa , an app that lets residents rent out their private parking spots. Below are 7 more apps that can transform our understanding of urban space, provide tools for affecting physical change, help us connect with our neighbors, and generally make our cities better. Blockboard Aiming to be a mobile bulletin board, Blockboard is a new neighborhood-based app currently in beta form for residents of the Mission District. Users...

Weekly Snapshot: Imagining Detroit

May 20, 2011 BY ANIKA JESI
Mark Bittman of the New York Times calls Detroit a model of "self-reliance and growth," citing the residents ability to look within the city for solutions to challenges posed by a shrinking population. The key to Detroit's recent successes, Bittman argues, is food. The city's food system is integrated with a sense of justice, community, and a commitment to smart land use that unifies residents across race and socioeconomic boundaries. "If the journey is as important as the destination, Detroit is already succeeding," Bittman suggests. Read full story at the New York Times More from the week in urbanism: SFMOMA Addition Design Being Revealed Soon In anticipation for the release of the SFMOMA addition designs on Wednesday, John King gives readers the tools they will need to critique the proposed building plans from an architectural perspective. Read full story at SF Gate: Urbanisation An interactive map shows how the world's...

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