Disaster Planning

Our goal: Make our cities resilient in a major earthquake.


SPUR Report Wednesday, February 25, 2015

It is our great pleasure to share with you our 2015 annual report, a look at how SPUR works and the approach we bring to solving urban issues. It is a celebration of city life, as well as a look at the serious challenges cities face and the work SPUR has done this year to address them.

SPUR Report Wednesday, March 12, 2014

SPUR’s Agenda for Change represents our vision for the central cities of the Bay Area. It condenses the big ideas behind our work and lays out our plan for making this vision a reality.

SPUR 2012-2013 Annual Report
SPUR Report Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The majority of the world’s population now resides in cities. This presents great challenges — and great opportunities for making a better world. Our annual report explores the potential of cities to solve the problems of our time. We invite you to learn more about the work we did this year in support of this vision.

SPUR Report Wednesday, February 6, 2013

When a major earthquake strikes the Bay Area, it could take months to reestablish essential services and years to rebuild. Good land use planning will be crucial to a successful recovery. If we make needed regulatory changes now, we will have the tools we need to rebuild our cities, and our region, after the earthquake strikes.

Article Wednesday, February 6, 2013

There is a 63 percent chance that a large earthquake will occur in the Bay Area in the next 30 years. We need to build a culture of preparedness around land use planning now so we can rebuild our cities, and our region, after the next earthquake strikes. This article is excerpted from the SPUR report On Solid Ground.


Our Priorities for Disaster Planning


When we select engineering standards for buildings and lifelines, we are really choosing how many deaths, how many building demolitions, and how long a recovery time we have for various levels of earthquakes. SPUR believes that San Francisco must adopt clear performance objectives for determining how our buildings should perform, with an eye towards facilitating a rapid and effective recovery after a major earthquake.


There are many things we could be doing right now to improve the safety and performance of San Francisco's existing buildings, new buildings (i.e. those yet to be built) and lifelines. In a February 2009 report, SPUR recommended policy steps including retrofitting the most vulnerable structures, upgrading our building code to ensure new buildings are built better, and forming a lifelines council to help coordinate upgrades to our critical utility systems.


When disaster strikes, San Franciscans must be prepared. We need to be ready to care for family members, assist our neighbors and work effectively in teams and alongside first responders and other emergency workers. We will need adequate stores of water, food and supplies to support a citywide response. Comprehensive public disaster education and neighborhood-based training and resource coordination are necessary for engaging all residents of the city in an ongoing preparedness effort.


San Francisco needs to be thinking not just about the days and weeks following a disaster, but the months and years it will take to rebuild our city and our region. This means developing plans for how to access and make the best possible use of recovery funding. When the Big One strikes, we should be prepared to rebuild San Francisco rapidly and in accordance with our best-laid plans to help make our city stronger and more resilient.

Disaster Planning Projects


Which existing buildings must be retrofitted and to what standard of performance? How do we encourage better performance from our new buildings? How do we shore up our vital services and infrastructure so that our buildings are serviceable after an earthquake? SPUR has established a "Before the Disaster" task force to focus on what we should do now—before a major earthquake—to make sure we can recover quickly. We published our findings and recommendations in a series of policy papers.


When a disaster strikes, are we positioned to rebuild our city even better than before? What plans and systems of governance must be in place for San Francisco to be effectively positioned to rebuild? What lessons are to be learned from the recent recovery experiences in New Orleans, lower Manahattan and beyond? These are some of the questions SPUR will address in a forthcoming series of four major policy papers on disaster recovery as it relates to transportation, housing, planning and governance.


This effort focuses on planning for the days and weeks following a major earthquake by creating a culture of preparedness. The first step toward creating a culture of preparedness is individual awareness and self-reliance. The second step is community awareness, cooperation, planning and preparedness. SPUR has recommended several steps towards creating a culture of preparedness, including strengthening the City's Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) program, establishing community disaster response hubs and improving public information in San Francisco's neighborhoods.


The Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety (CAPSS), a project of the Department of Building Inspection, seeks to develop programs for privately owned buildings that help reduce earthquake risk. In February of 2009, CAPSS project delivered a major report detailing recommendations for the upgrade of multiunit, wood-frame, soft story buildings. SPUR is pleased to be a participant in CAPSS and looks forward to working to help CAPSS continue its important work.

Disaster Planning Updates

To get updates on SPUR's disaster planning policy efforts contact SPUR Deputy Director Sarah Karlinsky at skarlinsky@spur.org.