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

Sea Level Rise and the Future of the Bay Area

Urbanist Article November 1, 2009
In the last 10 to 15 years, the rate of global sea level rise has increased by about 50 percent. California is likely to see waters rise by 16 inches by 2050 and 55 inches by 2100. What characterizes this global climate threat? And how can we plan to manage it locally?

Strategies for Managing Sea Level Rise

Urbanist Article November 1, 2009
In the last 10 to 15 years, the rate of global sea level rise has increased by about 50 percent. California is likely to see waters rise by 16 inches by 2050 and 55 inches by 2100. What characterizes this global climate threat? And how can we plan to manage it locally?

This Week at SPUR: World Renowned Climate Scientist Ken Caldeira

News October 26, 2009
SPUR is thrilled to welcome Ken Caldeira , head of the Carnegie Institution for Science's Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University, to the Urban Center for a lunchtime forum. The details: Wednesday, October 28, 12:30 - 1:30 p.m. Free for SPUR members. General admission is $5. Location: SPUR Urban Center, 654 Mission St. (between New Montgomery & Third). Renowned for his groundbreaking research on ocean acidifcation, Caldeira's been in the news this month for publicly chiding Superfreakonomics authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner for misrepresenting his research on geo-engineering as a substitute for agressive mitigation strategies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (In fact, while Caldeira knows a lot about weather manipulation--perhaps more than any other climate scientist working right now--he views it as a last resort, only to be employed once we are certain about its many risks.) Here's a bio of Caldeira from an Oct...

Sea Level to Rise 5 Meters in 300 Years

News October 8, 2009
A climate conference in Oxford concluded last week that whatever we can do to slow carbon emissions, it won't be enough to stop accelerated sea level rise. In fact, a German scientist who's widely regarded as one of the world's foremost experts on sea level rise, said his best guess was 1 meter this century (a lowball figure compared to the latest projections for California), and 5 meters in 300 years. Expect a lot of bleak climate news to be revealed over the next few months, as the world prepares for the U.N. climate change conference taking place in Copenhagen in December. The conference's web site is a great source of daily climate news from around the globe. And if you don't like what you see coming out of Copenhagen, try visiting Hopenhagen instead.

Growing on Our Buildings

News October 1, 2009
Some of the first calculations of the benefits of green roofs are coming back and they're even better than expected: replacing typical roofing materials with plants across a city the size of Detroit would be the equivalent of removing the pollution of 10,000 SUVs in a year. This study is the first to measure the amount of carbon that could be captured by the extensive use of green roofs. Meanwhile, The New York Times is reporting the trend in real estate to use green roofs to lure potential tenants. More than the environmental benefits--including catching water run-off, absorbing carbon and providing excellent insulation--that people have become to expect in newer buildings, providing green space for workers is seen as an investment in the well being and health of their workers.

Solar = 'Peaker' Power, without the EJ Issues

News September 28, 2009
This summer, somewhere in California, the state Energy Commission denied an application for a new urban natural gas-burning power plant, citing that urban solar (PV) might be a better alternative. The CEC said that new "peakers" were not obviously the most cost-effective or environmentally preferable option to close that city's energy reliability gap. For years, SPUR and a loose coalition of environmental advocates, led by the Brightline Defense Project , have suggested that our own City consider more environmentally-friendly alternatives to closing the Potrero Power Plant than siting new gas-fired peakers. Although we are on the brink of success here, the CEC's decision sets a precedent that other cities will be required to analyze rooftop PV as a feasible alternative to new gas-fired generation. Read Brightline's brief legal analysis of the decision here . A little backstory illustrates why this is so important. In the wake of the 2001 energy...

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