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    A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

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.

SPUR Tours Recycle Central

November 10, 2010 BY MARK DREGER
Just because you can recycle it, doesn't mean you should be using it San Francisco is successful at many things, but there is one place where we shine above all other cities in the country – our recycling and compost programs. San Francisco was the first major city in the U.S. to implement a citywide curbside composting program open to all residents and businesses. Almost a decade after the program's initial roll-out, alongside an ever-expanding recycling program, San Francisco now boasts the highest waste diversion rate in the country – 77% in 2010 . This whopping figure exceeded even our own goals for the year, and we’re on track to keep improving next year. (See SPUR's Urbanist article "Toward zero waste" here .) The cooperation of both Recology (San Francisco's waste management company) and the City has created a gold standard for waste management -- one that Cities around the...

DIY Urbanism: An Interview with PlantSF Founder Jane Martin

November 9, 2010 BY JENNIFER WARBURG
This fall SPUR has featured the projects of local "Do-It-Yourself" urbanists in DIY Urbanism: testing the grounds for social change . In lean economic times, individuals have become the driving force behind some of the most successful initiatives to make San Francisco a better city, often providing the crucial impetus to address problems on a larger scale. SPUR spoke with Jane Martin, whose image as a jack-hammer wielding advocate for greener sidewalks has made her emblematic of the do-it-yourself spirit. Jane is a local designer, professor and founder of PlantSF , a non-profit which helps homeowners turn excess concrete into exposed-earth gardens. Many San Franciscans are familiar with sight of sidewalks up to and over 20 feet in breadth. Such expanses of impermeable surface are are hostile to essential natural processes, exacerbating stormwater runoff, air pollution and urban heat islands. Since moving to San Francisco's Mission district, Jane had struggled...

World Series Also a Victory for BART

November 4, 2010 POSTED BY ED PARILLON
[Photo Credit: flickr user NicoleAbalde ] As those who follow the Bay Area transit blogosphere already know, Wednesday's Giants World Series victory parade spurred BART on to its highest ridership ever"” by a huge margin . The system carried over half a million riders — 522,000 to be exact, which beat the previous record (from Oct 29, 2009, when the Bay Bridge was closed for emergency repairs) by 18%. BART wasn't the only regional system with a bumper day either : Caltrain carried 25,000 — 30,000 more riders than an average weekday (about 37,000 riders), and Golden Gate Transit more than doubled its typical ridership of 5,200, taking 12,800 people into the city. While it was great for so many Giants fans to choose mass transit, the crowds put a spotlight on BART's capacity issues — at one point, the crowds were large enough to require a temporary closure of...

Exploring Future Job Centers of the Bay Area: Hacienda Park, a Midpoint for the Megaregion

November 2, 2010 BY POONAM NARKAR
Across the Bay Area, only one in 10 commuters takes transit work each day. And half of those transit commuters go to one job center: downtown San Francisco. But since most work is outside of downtowns, SPUR is trying to understand a little more about emerging suburban and non-downtown job centers. This series will look at the Bay Area's evolving and emerging business districts. For each district, we will ask four main questions: The Location: Where is this place located? How far or near to major transit? And how large from one end to the other? The Plan : What was the planning vision for this place? Was it master-planned? Did it grow up organically? The Market: What kinds of jobs and companies are located there? The Commute: How are workers getting to their jobs each day and why? In the second edition of this series, we will explore Hacienda...

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