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    A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

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...

Will the City's Pension Proposal Really Solve the Pension Crisis?

In the coming weeks, the SF Board of Supervisors Rules Committee will be hearing the "consensus" proposal for pension reform, which Mayor Ed Lee and a coalition of the city’s labor unions released May 24. The board has until July to make amendments and vote on the proposal. The proposal, which projects savings of $1 billion over ten years, would: Require that city employees pay more for their benefits, rather than reducing benefits. Employee contributions to the pension fund would increase as the city’s contributions increase. Employees earning less than $50,000 per year would be exempted. Increase the retirement ages for new employees from 62 to 65 for most employees and from 55 to 58 for public safety employees. For new employees, calculate pensions based on the average of the last three years of service (instead of the last two years, as is the current practice). Amend the composition of...

San Francisco Crowned the ‘Coolest’ Climate-Ready City

The 108 Treasure Island bus. Photo by flickr user juicyrai . According to a recent analysis by the carbon-offset managers at CO2IMPACT , San Francisco tops the list of U.S. cities ready for climate change. The study gave us high marks for having committed political leaders, a proactive university community (11 SF schools are members of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) and the largest number of LEED certified buildings per capita in the United States. While it comes as no surprise to see San Francisco leading the way, a lot can be learned from other U.S. cities positioning themselves as leaders in "climate capitalism." Coming in second is Seattle, home to the country’s first major utility to become carbon neutral . Other West Coast cities in the top ten are San Diego — for making great strides in transitioning to an economy with reduced carbon...

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...

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