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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  • Design Study

    Sea Level Rise at Mission Creek

    San Francisco’s Mission Creek is highly vulnerable to flooding from sea level rise and storms. SPUR worked with the city, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the Delta Alliance of the Netherlands to propose design concepts that could provide resilience for this rapidly growing neighborhood.

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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

    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

  • SPUR Report

    Fossil-Free Bay Area

    Fossil fuel use is causing runaway global climate change, but we still have time to reverse course if the world can transition to renewable sources for almost all energy uses. We propose three big ideas for how the Bay Area can end its dependence on fossil fuels and become a model for other urban regions.

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  • 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

Farming the City

News August 20, 2010
Hayes Valley Farm extends to the very edge of a more traditional urban scene [Photo Credit: Fabiana Meacham ] Spend a few hours walking through any sector of the city and you will inevitably stumble upon a small patch of toiled earth, usually surrounded by chain-link fencing and accompanied by the all too familiar odor of manure. Urban farms have surfaced throughout the country in recent years -- in both major and not-so-major urban areas -- and San Francisco has been no exception . We now have a proposed legislation to loosen zoning restrictions on urban agriculture -- a measure that would profoundly affect small scale farms' capacity to do business. The reasons for practicing urban farming are copious: a closer connection to food sources, reclamation of vacant land in blighted areas, education about healthy eating habits, a source of employment in hard economic times. But for many city dwellers,...

Wind Power Possibilities for San Francisco

News August 17, 2010
[Photo Credit: flickr user notaboutwill ] The US Department of Energy released their 2009 Wind Technologies Market Report outlining the current state of wind technology in the United States. The report is an exhaustive study of what is generally seen as solar power's less glamorous and less popular cousin. Some interesting facts from the report include: Wind power made up 39% of all new generating capacity in the United States last year In 2009 $21 billion were invested and cumulative wind power grew by 40% in the United States At the end of 2009 the United States led world cumulative installed wind capacity, however China surpassed us in new additions last year for the first time ever Wind turbines provide enough energy in an average year to meet about 2.5 percent of electricity consumption in the nation. It is expected that wind power development will be slower in 2010 than...

Challenges (and High Hopes) for Electric Vehicles in San Francisco

News August 11, 2010
Plug-in cars in San Francisco [Photo Credit: flickr user felixkramer ] PG&E's clean energy blog, Next 100 , recently explored the idea of the rise of electric vehicles in the Bay Area . At the recent Plug-In 2010 conference, PG&E President Chris Johns predicted that the Bay Area will see around 500,000 electric vehicles (EVs) "plugging in" over the next decade. From a sustainability perspective, electric vehicles are a big improvement over their traditional alternatives, to be sure. But all of these new vehicles "plugging in" will create a huge demand for energy from the grid. According to PG&E, one EV can draw as much power as three homes in San Francisco. Compounding this supply problem is the challenge of supplying this energy from clean, renewable sources, and determining whether new technologies to move energy around more efficiently — such as through a "smart grid" — could satisfy new demand...

Getting High Speed Rail Right-Enough

News August 6, 2010
The California High Speed Rail Authority met yesterday in San Francisco. The agenda was packed with many interesting things including a new station area development policy . But the real controversy was about the section between San Jose and San Francisco . I joined hundreds of people during public comment to weigh in on this one small segment. Over the past few years, a group of high speed rail opponents has been gathering strength in some of the Peninsula communities such as Atherton and Menlo Park, arguing that the train will impact their views, be too noisy, and otherwise ruin their quality of life. There is certainly a lot of design work to do as the High Speed Rail Authority and Caltrain explore the peninsula segment and figure out how to make "joint operations" work. But what some of the residents of the Peninsula seem to be asking for is...

New Study Highlights Untapped Energy Potential of Existing Commercial Buildings

News July 29, 2010
[Photo Credit: flickr user Snapsi42 ] Next 10 , an independent, nonpartisan organization that studies the intersection between the economy, the environment, and quality of life in California, has just released a new report on the untapped energy efficiency potential associated with existing commercial buildings. The paper outlines the energy efficiency benefits associated with making improvements to commercial buildings and analyzes the market barriers which make these improvements difficult. Key Facts: Commercial buildings account for almost 40 percent of primary energy usage in the U.S. Existing commercial buildings can be made 80 percent more efficient with new and existing technology New buildings can be designed to use one-third to one-half less energy with as little as two percent increase in construction costs The three primary ways to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings include climate controls and equipment, lighting, and changes to the building's thermal envelope Split incentives, upfront capital...

New Bay Area Air Quality Guidelines Among Most Stringent in the Nation

News July 15, 2010
[Photo Credit: flickr user Sam Williams ] Earlier this month, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) unanimously adopted new air quality guidelines related to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and particulate matter (PM 2.5) from land use projects. The comprehensive new guidelines, among the most stringent in the nation, address the impacts of air pollutants, as well as recent changes in state and federal air quality. The guidelines also include air quality significance thresholds and mitigation measures local agencies can use when preparing air quality impact analyses under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Some significant changes to the guidelines include: Single family housing projects of 56 dwelling units or greater, hotels with more than 83 hotel rooms and general office buildings with more than 53,000 square feet will all be considered to have a significant impact on GHG emissions under CEQA. Local governments are encouraged to adopt qualified...

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