Issue 508 December 2011

What's Next for Big Planning?

San Francisco adopted two major plans this year. Will we see more of these in the future?
WHAT HAPPENED Two major projects—Treasure Island and Parkmerced—were adopted by the Board of Supervisors in 2011. Collectively these projects will lead to the creation of more than 13,000 new units of housing. WHAT IT MEANS While the passage of Treasure Island and Parkmerced represent a great accomplishment for the city, there are fewer and fewer opportunities for “megaprojects” like this left in the city. At the same time, there are not many new neighborhood plans in the works that propose major land-use changes. All of this raises questions about what the future of forward-looking planning will be in San Francisco. In the past ten years, San Francisco has completed a remarkable amount of planning work. The Eastern Neighborhoods Plans rezoned four neighborhoods, including East SoMA, the Mission, Potrero/Showplace Square and the Central Waterfront. The Better Neighborhoods Plans including the Market/Octavia Plan and the Balboa Park Plan also secured passage. Add... Read More »

The Rise of Tactical Urbanism

How a temporary project turned a series of vacant lots into a destination for food, art and culture.
How a temporary project turned a series of vacant lots into a destination for food, art and culture. Read More »

Urban Ag Goes Legit

New legislation makes it legal to grow and sell produce in San Francisco and Oakland
Both San Francisco and Oakland passed legislation this year making it legal to grow and sell produce within city limits. Selling homegrown fruits and vegetables was previously illegal in both cities. Read More »

Ranked Choice Voting

How ranked-choice voting affected San Francisco's municipal elections in 2011.
WHAT HAPPENED San Francisco’s first competitive mayoral election using ranked-choice voting is on the books, and by most objective measures the system held up rather well: The election results were clear and uncontroversial, individual ballots contained fewer errors than in past contests and most voters chose to participate fully by ranking their first-, se cond- and third-choice candidates. WHAT IT MEANS Despite these results, it’s still unclear whether ranked-choice voting accurately reflects popular opinion. While 73.2 percent of voters ranked three different candidates in the mayoral election, only 52.4 percent did so in the five-candidate race for district attorney and 42.6 percent in the four-candidate race for sheriff. Bullet voting (voting only for one candidate) remains prevalent: In the mayoral election 16 percent of voters indicated a preference for only one candidate, as did 27 percent in the DA’s race and 38 percent in the sheriff’s race. It’s not clear... Read More »

Prioritizing Neighborhood Schools

Has San Francisco finally gotten its student-assignment system right?
WHAT HAPPENED The San Francisco Board of Education adopted a new policy for the 2011–12 school year that again attempts to address community concerns and the academic needs of students. The new system gives greater weight to those applying to a neighborhood school, with priority given to students living in census tracts with low academic performance to provide increased opportunity. WHAT IT MEANS Even with greater neighborhood weighting, there was no increase in parents choosing their area school during the first year of the new system. The long term results of this policy change remain to be seen. San Francisco has a long and complicated history of striving toward a student assignment system that is fair and equitable for families and that provides the best academic outcomes for students. In the 1970s, the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) — like many urban districts — adopted the policy of busing... Read More »

Urban Field Notes: Five PG&E Substations Celebrate Light and Sculpture

Shortly after moving to San Francisco, I was wandering the many neighborhoods and streetscapes of the city, trying to get my bearings. One building in particular struck me — it was massive, with an outward Brutalist thrust. The style reminded me of some of the historic Fascist architecture of Italy. Along its base I found an engraving: the Pacific Gas and Electric Embarcadero Substation. Read More »

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