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

San Francisco Passes Landmark Earthquake Retrofit Law

News April 24, 2013
Last Thursday, on the 107th anniversary of the 1906 Earthquake, SF Mayor Ed Lee signed the mandatory soft-story retrofit program into law . SPUR has long advocated for this legislation, which will help make San Francisco more resilient in a major earthquake. Soft-story buildings are those with large openings for storefront windows or garages, which cause the ground floor to be weak, leaving it vulnerable to damage or even collapse in an earthquake. The legislation focuses on wood-frame apartment buildings with three or more stories and five or more units that were built before modern code changes adopted in 1978. San Francisco’s Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety (CAPSS) estimates that at least 2,800 of these buildings have a soft-story condition. Combined they are home to roughly 58,000 people and 2,000 businesses. Currently, these buildings pose a significant threat to San Francisco’s ability to recover from a disaster. The city...

Three State Bills Worth Watching: Urban Ag, Farm Protection and a Soda Tax

News April 2, 2013
Of the many food and agriculture bills California legislators have introduced this year, three stand out for their potential impact on the Bay Area’s food system: a tax incentive to promote the use of private land for urban agriculture; a change to CEQA to require agricultural land preservation for certain projects; and a statewide sugary-beverage tax. Here’s a closer look at these bills, which we will be tracking this year. Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone Act ( AB 551 ) Introduced by San Francisco’s recently elected assembly member Phil Ting, this legislation would incentivize the use of private land for urban agriculture by reducing the property tax assesment on qualifying parcels dedicated to city farming. The bill would permit counties to pass ordinances establishing “Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones” within their boundaries. In these incentive zones, private property owners would be eligible to apply to enter a contract with the county restricting...

Future-Proof Water

SPUR Report March 18, 2013
More than two-thirds of the Bay Area’s water is imported from outside the region. Today these supplies are regularly threatened by drought, earthquakes and water quality impairments — risks that will intensify with climate change. Meanwhile, our region will add 2 million more people by 2040 — growth that will require more water. Do we have the water we need to support this projected growth?

SPUR Supports the Mandatory Seismic Retrofit Program

Policy Letter March 12, 2013
Currently, soft-story buildings pose a significant threat to San Francisco’s ability to recover from a disaster. The Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety estimates that at least 58,000 residents and 7,000 workers occupy buildings vulnerable to damage in an earthquake. SPUR urges the Board of Supervisors to move forward with the Mandatory Seismic Retrofit Program.

The Future of Water

Urbanist Article March 7, 2013
Monumental investments in water delivery and infrastructure — largely to move water from north to south and east to west — supported the state’s economic expansion and urban growth in the 20th century. Though the Bay Area’s water supplies are sufficient today, in the future and in times of drought, we will need more water than we currently have.

South Bay Ag Tour: Many Farms, Many Business Models

News February 26, 2013
The array of food grown within a couple of hours of San Francisco makes our region truly unique. Along with an astounding amount of agricultural diversity, the Bay Area's farms and ranches employ a wide range of business models. This is an asset to their economic vibrancy, but it also means there are few "one size fits all" policy recommendations to support regional agriculture. I got a firsthand taste of this complexity on a tour of farms and ranches in San Mateo County hosted by the Ecological Farming Association in January. We visited four sites – all near Pescadero on the coastal side of the county. Jacobs Farm The first stop was Jacobs Farm , specifically the first parcel from which co-owners Larry Jacobs and Sandra Belin launched their culinary herb business, now one of the nation’s largest. The farm has a history of production stretching back 150 years with...

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