Sustainable Development

Our goal: Reduce our ecological footprint and prepare for climate change.


Blog Monday, October 26, 2015

San Francisco just upped the ante on what building owners and developers can do to reduce our water deficit (and likely, their own water bills). Changes to the city’s nonpotable water program, approved this month, will provide grant funding for existing buildings to install onsite water treatment and reuse systems — and for buildings to connect to each other and recycle water as a district.

Blog Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Ocean Beach Master Plan could face a major test this winter if predictions of El-Nino-driven storms come to pass. In previous storm seasons, San Francisco used large piles of boulders to armor the beach, but this degrades beach access and can even accelerate erosion. Based on recommendations from the master plan, the city is looking to weather the coming winter with less intrusive measures.

Blog Thursday, August 13, 2015

SPUR, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and a top-notch team of coastal and structural engineers have completed a significant engineering study that validates the Ocean Beach Master Plan approach to coastal management. The plan's approach combines managed retreat, beach nourishment and low-profile protection structures. At issue is severe coastal erosion that threatens the Lake Merced Tunnel, a key piece of the SFPUC's wastewater infrastructure.

Article Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Resilience and adaptation have become buzzwords in public policy, but the experience of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina shows how imperative these ideas are as we face a changing world. SPUR's recent city trip to New Orleans brought back lessons from planners, engineers, policymakers and residents who are tackling pressing challenges that were neglected for generations, yielding exciting ideas and impressive results. 

Blog Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Healthy food incentive programs — which provide low-income families with matching dollars to buy fruits and vegetables — have been gaining traction in policy circles recently. Why the increased attention? Because these programs work. Expanding them in California would significantly improve healthy food access.


Our priorities for Sustainable Development


Our water and wastewater systems are aging and in need of repair and reinvestment. Reliability of these lifelines is essential to the future of the City's environment and economy. We can rebuild them in a way that more sustainably manages resources than we have in the past.


San Francisco has many options to achieve greenhouse gas reductions from major emissions sources: energy, waste, land use and transportation. The City has set an aggressive target for reductions, and a cost-effective approach will help us reach it most efficiently.


The concept of waste is not a sustainable one. To the extent possible, we should maximize the use of resources and prevent them from becoming wastes. This means diverting waste from landfills, composting organics, and putting rainwater to use instead of letting it flow into the sewer system.


San Francisco now has some of the greenest codes for new construction in the country. To reduce our carbon footprint and meet our climate change goals, we need to retrofit existing buildings to conserve resources. Conveniently, energy efficiency--and renewable energy over the long term--is usually a cost-saving investment for building owners. People just need to know what to do and how to do it.

Sustainable Development Updates

To get regular updates on sustainable development activities contact SPUR Sustainable Development Policy Director Laura Tam at