Community Planning

Our goal: Build great neighborhoods.

SPUR's community planning agenda:

• Conduct neighborhood planning within a regional context.
• Preserve our most important historic resources while allowing for growth and change.
• Create new buildings that exemplify the highest quality architecture.
• Make public spaces that people love to spend time in.

Read more from SPUR’s Agenda for Change

Neighborhood Planning

  • SPUR Report

    Taking Down a Freeway to Reconnect a Neighborhood

    Highway 280 and the Caltrain railyards create barriers between SoMa, Potrero Hill and Mission Bay. But San Francisco has the opportunity to advance bold new ideas to enhance both the transportation system and the public realm.

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  • SPUR Report

    The Future of Downtown San Francisco

    The movement of jobs to suburban office parks is as much of a threat to the environment as residential sprawl — if not a greater one. Our best strategy is to channel more job growth to existing centers, like transit-rich downtown San Francisco.

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  • SPUR Report

    The Future of Downtown San Jose

    Downtown San Jose is the most walkable, transit-oriented place in the South Bay. But it needs more people. SPUR identifies six big ideas for achieving a more successful and active downtown.

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  • SPUR Report

    A Downtown for Everyone

    Downtown Oakland is poised to take on a more important role in the region. But the future is not guaranteed. An economic boom could stall — or take off in a way that harms the city’s character, culture and diversity. How can downtown grow while providing benefits to all?

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  • Urbanist Article

    The Future of the Berryessa BART Station

    As BART arrives in Silicon Valley, San Jose has a unique chance to shape growth around its first station. Land uses that support BART ridership will be key to the success of Berryessa Station — and the future of the area around it.

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Public Spaces

  • SPUR Report

    Getting to Great Places

    San Jose's ambitious General Plan imagines a dramatic shift away from suburban landscapes to “complete neighborhoods” that provide services and amenities close to homes, jobs and transit. SPUR recommends changes in policy and practice to get there.

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  • White Paper

    A Roadmap for St. James Park

    Like older downtown parks throughout the country, San Jose’s St. James Park has suffered from disinvestment in recent years. SPUR recommends steps to create a renewed vision for the park through improved stewardship and governance.

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  • SPUR Report

    Secrets of San Francisco

    Dozens of office buildings in San Francisco include privately owned public open spaces or “POPOS.” SPUR evaluates these spaces and lays out recommendations to improve existing POPOS and guide the development of new ones.

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  • Piero N. Patri Fellowship

    The Piero N. Patri Fellowship in Urban Design offers firsthand experience working in the urban design and planning field on a project that will have a positive impact on San Francisco and the Bay Area.

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Historic Resources

  • SPUR Report

    Historic Preservation in San Francisco

    San Francisco's distinctive architecture is one of its great assets. It’s critical to protect this historic fabric while supporting growth and change in the right locations. How can the city integrate preservation into its processes for land use planning?

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New Buildings

  • Project Review

    SPUR’s Project Review Committee evaluates proposals for individual buildings in San Francisco based on their potential to enhance the vitality of city life. The committee ams to create a greater constituency for good urbanism through practical example.

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  • White Paper

    Cracking the Code

    Great urban design is essential to creating sustainable, walkable cities. But some city codes undermine urban design principles. How might San Jose raise the bar? By addressing the ground rules of design within the municipal code.

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Advanced Search

  • Find more of SPUR's community planning research

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Updates and Events

Raising the Bar, and the Park

News June 23, 2009
Earlier this month, after ten years of advocacy from neighbors, activists and artists alike, the first of three sections of New York's High Line park opened for visitors. The 1.45 mile-long park is situated on a defunct 19th century elevated train track that used to carry cattle into the Meatpacking District, but had been left standing since 1980, when nature adopted it, and turned it wild with grasses and wildflowers--a magical place for those who knew about it. James Corner, the landscape architect endeavored with transitioning the old rail into public space, created a design that maintains some tenor of abandonment and "retain[s] that quality of wildness and melancholy." At three stories high, the park runs from the Hudson, between buildings and crosses avenues and streets, giving the visitor a new prospect of the city and a fantastic place to be a voyeur.

Market Street Draft Study Released

News May 19, 2009
The Transportation Authority today released the draft Strategic Analysis Report on " Transportation Options for a Better Market Street ." SPUR has long considered potential improvements to Market Street, and advised the Transportation Authority on the scope of this SAR. We urged the agency to be bold, but positive. That is, we emphasized that a study of Market Street ought to focus on the goals first before proposing solutions such as banning car traffic. We cited five goals: - speeding transit vehicles by 20%, at least. - a contiguous, carfree bicycle path of travel - elegant bus stops, that are comfortable and more like "stations" than "stops." - more convenient and safer pedestrian conditions on the north side, where the "pork chop" intersections damage the walking experience - beautiful streetscapes with plenty of options for sitting How did they do? Plesae review the study and give them, and us, your feedback.

When Urbanism and Accessibility Aren’t in Step

News May 13, 2009
Accessibility for persons with disabilities, New Urbanist planners and architects will tell you , is an important principle. Still, other New Urbanist principles can come into conflict with accessibility; or, at least, they often clash with interpretations of the Americans With Disabilities Act, or with accessibility as defined by disability-rights advocates. Take February’s “Lifelong Communities” charette in Atlanta, at which Congress for the New Urbanism co-founder Andres Duany and Eleanor Smith, of the organization Concrete Change, were able to agree on the removal of requirements for elevated entries from the Duany Plater-Zyberk SmartCode—prized by New Urbanists for the privacy they enable, but a barrier for wheelchairs—but had to agree to disagree on issues including the utility of walk-up apartments located above retail.

Greening Towers in a Park

News May 13, 2009
Toronto, Ontario, is, by any measure, one of North America’s greenest and most sustainable cities. It is also, by some accounts, the continent’s densest metropolis – but this is due in large part to the hundreds upon hundreds of “slab” highrises that sprouted across its outer neighborhoods in the postwar era. While Toronto’s “commie blocs,” as they’ve been derisively dubbed, provide the sort of residential density necessary to support transit and walkability, they are limited in their effectiveness by acres of surrounding lawn. Enter the Mayor’s Tower Renewal Program , which would first retrofit the buildings to make them more energy-efficient during long Canadian winters, then, over the long term, would encourage urban food gardens and mixed-use development on their grounds. Refitting, rather than demolition and new construction, could save the city as much as $55 billion. In the name of efficiency, the plan calls to house all decision-making parties...

When Modernism was Futuristic

News May 13, 2009
What did modernist planning and architecture look like from the perspective of the modernist? It was progressive, forward-thinking—and may have had more in common with contemporary planning than we'd care to admit. A 1959 time capsule recently unearthed in Burbank included these predictions by a local city planner: in 50 years, seven of every eight residents would be living in garden apartments made of plastic, and incorporated into mixed-use complexes; and a “rapid monorail” system would connect “metro centers” including malls. These ideas have more space-age characteristics than our current thinking (we have no goal to inhabit plastic pods, have automated parking at every destination or live in homes connected to a shopping mall), but the ambition of having an urban density connected to mass transit is still alive. Perhaps another 50 years will realize our ideas.

Reinventing America's cities

News March 30, 2009
Nicolai Ouroussoff presents one of the most cogent arguments for reinvestment in our cities ever written in the New York Times. His vision is eco-urbanist, to use a term to describe the current era of urban planning, prevalent today after a half dozen previous eras that will be explicated brilliantly in the exhibit to mark the grand opening of SPUR's Urban Center

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