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.

    Read More
  • 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.

    Read More
  • 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.

    Read More
  • 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.

    Read More
  • 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.

    Read More
  • 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.

    Read More
  • 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.

    Read More
  • 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.

    Read More

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?

    Read More

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?

    Read More
  • 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.

    Read More

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.

    Read More
  • 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.

    Read More
  • 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.

    Read More
  • 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.

    Read More

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.

    Read More
  • 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?

    Read More
  • 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?

    Read More

Advanced Search

  • Find more of SPUR's Sustainability + Resilience research

    Read More

Updates and Events

A Primer on Federal Climate Policy

News June 30, 2009
Our friends at the Sightline Institute in Cascadia have put together a primer on the federal climate bill, aka the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), aka Waxman-Markey, that passed the U.S. House of Representatives late last week. Cap and Trade 101 features what you need to know about cap and trade, pollution auctioning, offsets, and why national climate legislation is good for families. For one slightly technical analysis of the bill, also check out Sightline's blog post, " 14 Things I Love - and 6 I Hate - About Waxman-Markey ". Get ready for a showdown as this groundbreaking legislation is debated in the Senate in the fall.

A better, or at least higher, use of open space

News June 17, 2009
We spend much of our days with a roof over our heads, but rarely think of how roof exteriors could be so much more than just a weather shield. The growing urban rooftop farming movement just may change that. An article in today's New York Times describes how the green roof movement and the healthy food movement are converging. City policies can play a role in acclerating plantings - Chicago and New York provide tax incentives - though the urban farmers surveyed in the article admit rooftop gardening is more a labor of love. Although they can be expensive (even if subsidized) and not suitable for every type of roof, green roofs also provide public benefits through reducing urban heat island effects, cleaning air, and producing local food. For a vertical spin on growing food and plants in an urban setting, check out the blog Veg.itecture.

SPUR Supports Recycling and Composting Legislation

Policy Letter May 28, 2009
SPUR’s most recent policy paper, “Critical Cooling,” found that a mandatory recycling rule is one of the most significant policies the city can enact to reduce emissions, reducing more than 186,000 tons per year if we increase diversion just 5 percent. The reason that a small increase in recycling and composting makes such a huge difference in terms of global warming emissions is that food scraps emit a much stronger greenhouse gas than CO2 when put into a landfill. Those emissions are avoided if food scraps are broken down using typical composting processes. This can all be accomplished with no additional impact on the city budget. We strongly urge the Board of Supervisors to pass this well-vetted and readily implementable piece of legislation.

How Will Shoreline Cities Respond to Sea Level Rise?

News May 20, 2009
Just wanted to point your attention to the Bay Conservation Development Commission's upcoming design competition . The jury is seeking ideas inspired by "the common characteristics of estuaries" to prepare and adapt shoreline cities to the challenges of sea level rise. Entries will be displayed in the Ferry Building on July 14-19. Designers: still time to enter your proposal! Here's an excerpt from the competition brief: Some techniques for dealing with sea level rise are fairly obvious. Other ideas, however, are less tested and still other concepts may not yet have been conceived. The best ideas will be products of innovation and creativity, be it by expanding upon traditional design solutions, such as seawalls and levees, or by offering an entirely new perspective. Proposals may involve any type of project within the built and natural environments, at any scale relative to an estuary like the San Francisco Bay. Your idea...

Green Roofs in SF's Civic Center--and Around the World

News May 6, 2009
National Geographic recently featured a photo essay of green roofs around the world. Featured projects included the Academy of Sciences (of course!), but also a Civic Center bus shelter that SPUR's green roofs task force worked hard to design and build. Diane Loviglio, a task force leader, came up with the idea that was later funded by the Academy as a way to bring green roofs to the pedestrian realm.

Follow Our Work

Get the latest updates on Sustainability + Resilience projects and events.

Sign up for our email newsletters