Sustainability + Resilience

Our goal: Reduce our ecological footprint and make our cities resilient.

SPUR’s sustainability and resilience agenda:

• Reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
• Plan for the inevitable realities of climate change.
• Create earthquake-resilient communities.
• Restore urban watersheds and coastal wetlands.
• Develop local and recycled water supplies.
• Meet energy needs with renewable sources.
• Strengthen our regional food system and reduce waste.

Read more from SPUR’s Agenda for Change

Climate Change

  • SPUR Report

    Climate Change Hits Home

    We have known about the perils of climate change for more than two decades. But global efforts to slow it down have largely failed. Even if we could stop producing greenhouse gases tomorrow, the climate will continue changing. As a result we must not only intensify our efforts to reduce climate change but start preparing for its inevitable effects.

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  • Ongoing Initiative

    Ocean Beach Master Plan

    Ocean Beach, one of San Francisco’s most treasured landscapes, faces significant challenges. Since 2010, SPUR has led an extensive interagency and public process to develop the Ocean Beach Master Plan, a comprehensive vision to address sea level rise, protect infrastructure, restore coastal ecosystems and improve public access.

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  • Ongoing Initiative

    Climate Adaptation

    In the fight against climate change, the Bay Area has two important responsibilities. We must continue to reduce our carbon emissions and we must prepare for some inevitable environmental change. SPUR's ongoing research and recommendations are laying the groundwork for how local governments can plan for both of these challenges.

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  • New Project

    Sea Level Rise at Mission Creek

    San Francisco’s Mission Creek is highly vulnerable to flooding from sea level rise and storms. SPUR is working with the city, Arcadis, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, and the Delta Alliance of the Netherlands to propose design concepts that will provide resilience for this rapidly growing neighborhood. This project will be completed in 2016.

  • New Project

    Designing With Nature for a Rising Bay

    The San Francisco Bay is a beloved and complex place. How do we manage it as sea levels rise? SPUR is partnering with the San Francisco Estuary Institute to develop a region-wide assessment of the shoreline. By dividing the Bay into distinct, manageable areas, we can develop tailored adaptation strategies that will actually work. The project will launch in 2016.

Earthquakes

  • SPUR Report

    Safe Enough to Stay

    When the next major earthquake strikes, a significant amount of San Francisco’s housing may be too damaged to live in as it’s being repaired. This means the city is at risk of losing its most important asset: its people. To prevent this loss, San Francisco must take steps to ensure that residents can stay in their homes in the weeks and months after the disaster.

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  • SPUR Report

    On Solid Ground

    How well will the Bay Area recover after a disaster? The answer depends on whether or not we make good land use planning decisions now. By understanding local earthquake hazards and addressing them before the next disaster, we can reduce the damage our cities will face.

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  • SPUR Report

    How Safe Should Our Buildings Be?

    How do we decide when a structure is "safe enough”? Engineering standards define how many deaths, how many building demolitions and how long a recovery time we will have. Currently, the City of San Francisco has no adopted performance objectives for these factors. SPUR provides a new framework for improving San Francisco's seismic mitigation policies.

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  • SPUR Report

    Lifelines

    Much attention is paid to how buildings will perform in a major earthquake. But what about our utility systems for water, electricity and natural gas — or our roads, public transit, ports and airports? Here’s how San Francisco can strengthen these “lifelines” and increase its resilience to a major earthquake.

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  • Ongoing Initiative

    The Resilient City

    We know that another major earthquake will strike San Francisco — we just don’t know when. Since 2008, SPUR has led a comprehensive effort to retrofit the buildings and infrastructure that sustain city life. Our Resilient City Initiative recommends steps the city should take before, during and after the next big quake.

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Energy

  • New Project

    Fossil-Free Bay Area

    Fossil fuel use is the single-largest contributor to human-caused climate change. SPUR is investigating what the Bay Area can do to completely eliminate the use of fossil fuels. Our goal is to create a model that other urban regions can follow. Research is underway and will be published in 2016.

  • SPUR Report

    Greening Apartment Buildings

    Two-thirds of San Francisco’s housing is in multi-family buildings. While new green building codes are important, changing the environmental impact of existing buildings can have a more immediate effect. What will it take to green the buildings we already have?

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Water

  • SPUR Report

    Future-Proof Water

    Most of the Bay Area’s water is imported from outside the region. Today these supplies are regularly threatened by drought, earthquakes and other risks — all of which will intensify with future climate change. Meanwhile, our region of 7 million people will add 2 million more by 2040. Do we have the water we need as we grow?

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  • Article

    Water, Water Everywhere

    Since 1934 San Francisco has relied on the Tuolumne River in Yosemite for almost all of its water. But to protect the health of the river and establish a more resilient water source in times of drought and disaster, the city is introducing the use of recycled and groundwater, as well as furthering conservation efforts.

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Food

  • SPUR Report

    Public Harvest

    Urban agriculture has captured the imagination of San Franciscans in recent years. But the city won't realize all the benefits of this growing interest unless it provides more land, more resources and better institutional support.

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  • SPUR Report

    Locally Nourished

    The Bay Area’s food system supports our greenbelt, employs hundreds of thousands of people, and helps reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. SPUR recommends a series of policies to help us more effectively capture the benefits of our regional food system.

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  • SPUR Report

    Healthy Food Within Reach

    One in 10 adults in the Bay Area struggle to find three meals a day, while more than half of adults are overweight or obese. To meet our basic needs, improve public health and enhance our quality of life, Bay Area residents must have access to healthy food. SPUR recommends 12 actions that local governments can take to improve food access in Bay Area communities.

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  • Ongoing Initiative

    Food and Agriculture

    The Bay Area is known for its passion for food and its forward-thinking policy. Since 2011, SPUR has spearheaded an effort to combine the two. Our region can lead the nation, demonstrating how municipal policy can catalyze the development of urban agriculture, build a stronger regional food system and create healthier communities.

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Green Infrastructure

  • SPUR Report

    Integrated Stormwater Management

    San Francisco must start viewing stormwater as a resource and reduce the amount of it that is shunted into the city’s treatment system. SPUR explores four inter-related strategies that allow for greater stormwater storage and infiltration of rainwater into the ground while providing numerous community and environmental benefits.

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  • White Paper

    Greener and Better Roofs

    Many cities around the world have incentives and regulations to encourage green roofs in new construction. San Francisco lags substantially behind others such as Portland, New York, Chicago and Toronto. What can be done to support the development and broader implementation of green roofs in San Francisco?

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  • White Paper

    Greening Up

    San Francisco is poised to channel significant new investment to integrated urban watershed planning and green infrastructure through a planning process called the Urban Watershed Assessment. In partnership with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, SPUR convened an advisory group to ask: What is needed to scale up green infrastructure in San Francisco?

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Advanced Search

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Updates and Events

Public Harvest

SPUR Report April 23, 2012
Urban agriculture has captured the imagination of San Franciscans in recent years. But the city won't realize all the benefits of this growing interest unless it provides more land, more resources and better institutional support.

Rethinking Oakland's School Food Program

News April 10, 2012
Meals cooked from scratch. At least a quarter of the ingredients locally sourced. Fresh produce from the 1.5-acre farm adjacent to the new central kitchen. These are just a few of the goals in a new vision for Oakland’s school food program detailed in a recently released report.

SF Approves First "Neighborhood Urban Agriculture" Permit

News April 5, 2012
On March 9, 2012, San Francisco issued its first zoning permit for “neighborhood urban agriculture.” The change of use permit, given to Little City Gardens , allows the small urban farming business to grow produce for sale at its three-quarter-acre market garden in the Mission Terrace neighborhood. It is the first permit issued under San Francisco’s pioneering urban agriculture zoning guidelines , which Mayor Lee signed into law in April 2011. The permit is both a victory for Little City Gardens and the culmination of a multi-year effort to legalize commercial urban farming in residential neighborhoods in San Francisco. The permit, is, at its core, a simple recognition that the previously vacant lot is now being used to grow food according to basic guidelines. Securing the permit, however, was not simple. The process involved: four visits to the permitting office plan review by the Planning Department, Department of Building Inspection,...

Selling What You Cook at Home

News April 3, 2012
Let’s say you’ve got a great jam recipe. Or perhaps you make some mean pickles. Your friends keep telling you that you should quit your day job and follow your culinary passion. But unless you’ve got quite a bit of savings or other access to capital, following your friends’ advice is a pricey proposition. That’s because in California, you can’t sell any food prepared in a home kitchen. And access to a licensed commercial kitchen costs money — usually starting at around $30 per hour in the Bay Area. Add your ingredient and labor costs, and it becomes a decent investment to test your business idea. A proposed piece of state legislation, the California Homemade Food Act , would change all that. Called the “cottage food bill,” the legislation would allow Californians to sell certain items produced from their home kitchen. Similar to legislation already enacted in more than 30...

Cultivating Public Spaces for Urban Farming

News March 15, 2012
Two sites owned by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in San Francisco moved closer to becoming urban agriculture projects this week. Since October, PUC staff members have been conducting an urban agriculture feasibility study of open space adjacent to two facilities: College Hill Reservoir (at 360 Elsie Street ) in Bernal Heights and the perimeter of the Southeast Treatment Plant (at Phelps and Evans streets ) in the Bayview. They presented a progress report and future timeline at the March 13 commission hearing. The PUC’s assessments of each site shows that both are suitable for growing food, with the necessary access to water and sun. Beyond the technical specifications, the PUC staff reported having had numerous conversations with community groups in the neighborhoods surrounding the two sites. Based on these conversations, the PUC is leaning toward different uses at each site. For the College Hill Reservoir site, the PUC is...

Making a Living as an Urban Farmer

News February 22, 2012
Can you make a living selling what you grow in a city? That’s a question a number of urban farming entrepreneurs have been working to answer in the past few years, and initial numbers are beginning to become public. The short answer is … maybe. For many new urban-farming businesses that have started in the past couple of years, it may be too soon to judge — just as it would be with any small business getting off the ground. It’s also a question of what level of income you consider livable. A recent article from the two co-owners of Little City Gardens and a study in Vancouver provide some initial data. Little City Gardens grows a variety of vegetables on a three-quarter acre plot in the Mission Terrace neighborhood of San Francisco. During the past year — their first of intensive production and sales — they marketed their produce...

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