San FranciscoSan JoseOakland
President and Chief Executive Officer

Reports to: Executive Board of Directors

The Organization

Mission and Values

Mission: Through research, education and advocacy, SPUR promotes good planning and good government in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Values: SPUR believes that cities hold the key to America’s future. If we overcome the challenges our cities face, we will move the country in a direction that is more socially inclusive, more economically prosperous and more ecologically sustainable. 


SPUR, the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association, is the leading civic planning organization in the Bay Area. With offices in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, SPUR brings people together from across the political spectrum to develop solutions to the most urgent problems faced by the cities of the Bay Area – and then mobilizes the civic will to take action.

Since its founding in 1910 as the San Francisco Housing Association, SPUR has been involved in many of the most significant planning and urban policy decisions in the region. Its research and convening power have enabled the organization to play a unique role in the evolution of the Bay Area. 


SPUR’s work is organized into seven program areas: 

  • Regional Planning - Concentrate growth inside existing cities. 
  • Community Planning - Build great neighborhoods.
  • Housing - Make it affordable to live here. 
  • Transportation - Give people better ways to get where they need to go. 
  • Economic Development - Lay the foundations of economic prosperity — for everyone. 
  • Sustainability + Resilience - Reduce our ecological footprint and make our cities resilient. 
  • Good Government - Build the capacity of the public sector.

Operations and Organizational Structure

SPUR is governed by a 16-member Executive Board of Directors and has Boards of Directors for each of the city offices – San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose – that advise the organization and provide leadership around local policy related issues. The Executive Board provides overall strategic direction and oversight to the organization and the city Boards provide strategic guidance and advisory support to the city offices. SPUR has a total of 100 Board members comprised of nonprofit, business, community and government leaders with expertise in its program areas. 

There are 40 full-time staff members located in three offices who work across all program areas. Direct reports to the CEO:

  • Deputy Director
  • Chief of Staff
  • San Francisco Director
  • San Jose Director
  • Oakland Director

SPUR’s staff members are responsible for policy, development, public engagement and administration.
The annual operating budget is almost $8 million. Its funding has come from business and individual members as well as donors and foundations. SPUR also has earned revenue.

Organizational Culture

SPUR’s culture is mission-driven, highly intellectual, collegial, collaborative and family-friendly. During the last decade, the organization has grown from 17 to 40 staff members, expanded from one to three cities, more than tripled its operating budget from $2.4 million to $8 million and has grown its membership to over 10,000 members. It has evolved from a Board-driven to staff-driven day-to-day operating environment. SPUR has highly talented, purposeful and deeply committed long-tenured and newer staff members. Some have described the working environment as having the feel of an academic institution versus a nonprofit, with a lot of internal dialogue, debate, as well as intellectual and professional autonomy. Some have also described the environment as operating from a place of love where everyone is truly focused on making a meaningful difference in the lives of people in the Bay Area and beyond.  

The Position

Overview and Professional Opportunity

The President and Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) of SPUR provides strategic vision and leadership on matters of governance, mission, programs and operations. The CEO will ensure the financial stability and long-term viability of the organization, build, lead and motivate high-performing staff and board members and enhance the organizational culture.

The CEO will oversee all of SPUR’s activities and operations; raise the profile and visibility of the organization; and build relationships, partnerships and strategic alliances with diverse stakeholders to help shape and advance SPUR’s policy agenda and drive social and economic change. The CEO will serve as an organizational spokesperson.

The ideal candidate is a creative and inspirational leader with excellent organizational and relationship management capabilities, compelling communication skills, strong fundraising and board management abilities.

An urbanist with nonprofit management experience is highly desired or comparable professional experience to ensure credibility with SPUR’s stakeholders, staff, funders and donors. The organization seeks a leader with a demonstrated commitment to social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion.

A successful candidate must demonstrate the presence, maturity and energy to work effectively with and inspire a diverse membership base, volunteer leaders and donors, institutional funders, municipal partners, elected officials and staff.

The CEO of SPUR reports to the Executive Board of Directors, with the Board Chair as a primary liaison.

SPUR has been very successful and experienced substantial growth in the breadth and impact of its work over the years. The Board seeks a visionary leader to build on its rich history and guide the organization through its next phase of evolution.


Organizational Leadership & Strategy

  • Lead the organization, in collaboration with Board and staff, in developing and articulating a clear and compelling vision for the Bay Area’s future and possibilities; this includes collaborative work to define SPUR’s role, work and future direction in a way that is practical, offers solutions and addresses the values, needs and aspirations for the region.
  • Be inclusive and understand the needs of all three cities to create a consistent vision.
  • Help the organization understand and navigate the shifting social, political and economic landscape and determine the most appropriate course of action.
  • Develop a strategic plan that articulates the next steps for SPUR and defines the organizational priorities, direction and structure to achieve the mission and objectives of SPUR.
  • Ensure that the organization has a clear theory of change and can deliver impact on its values at the highest level.

External & Thought Leadership

  • Serve as the primary spokesperson for SPUR.
  • Speak to the most important problems and opportunities affecting the cities of the Bay Area in a way that is compelling and impactful.
  • Build SPUR’s brand, image and reputation across the Bay Area and nationally.
  • Connect SPUR to the statewide, national and international conversations about the future of cities.

Community Building & Advocacy

  • Identify strategic opportunities to advance SPUR’s agenda.
  • Build and manage relationships with local governments and agencies in the Bay Area and state.
  • Expand SPUR’s influence and community of stakeholders locally, regionally and statewide.
  • Build strategic alliances and partnerships with a broad array of stakeholders to overcome challenges and advance shared policy change agendas.
  • Engage stakeholders in a movement and focus on broad-based civic engagement.
  • Lead strategic initiatives aimed at solving the most important problems facing the cities of the Bay Area. 


  • Continue to strengthen SPUR’s fundraising capability and achieve a sustainable revenue model.
  • Cultivate relationships with donors and secure financial support from individuals, businesses and foundations.
  • Connect SPUR’s work to the aspirations of donors.

Organizational Management & Culture

  • Build an organization with high levels of motivation and shared purpose.
  • Complete and implement the Regional Strategy and grow cultural competency around regionalism.
  • Align staff, board and resources to support strategic priorities.
  • Lead the continued evolution of the 3-city structure to achieve better alignment between the city boards and a logically staffed organizational structure. 
  • Continue to strive for excellence and develop consistent professional practices, systems and processes throughout SPUR.
  • Ensure the financial and overall health of the organization.
  • Recruit the best people into every level of the organization – Board, staff and working groups.
  • Build talent management programs to develop, reward and retain top talent.
  • Develop a culture that seeks to understand different perspectives and embraces diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Ensure a high-performance organization that is constantly learning and growing.
  • Provide feedback, guidance, coaching and support to the staff.
  • Nurture high levels of Board engagement.


Education: A Bachelor’s degree required; an advanced degree is strongly preferred.

Experience: Minimum of ten years of experience in urban policy, research, planning, or nonprofit organizations, or other organizations requiring enterprise management and P&L responsibility. The successful candidate will have the experience or background necessary to achieve the following:

  • Lead the organization to the next level strategically and operationally.
  • Experience serving as the primary spokesperson for the organization and an awareness of how to elevate its brand, influence and overall impact. A track record of effective communication, both written and oral, to a variety of audiences.
  • Successfully fundraise from individuals, businesses and foundations.
  • Build, develop and lead staff teams and effectively manage, mentor, inspire and motivate them, as well as ensure roles and skill sets are aligned for mutual benefit.
  • Possess an understanding of city, regional, state and national politics and how to work effectively with cities and communities; has knowledge of urban planning, transportation, housing, land-use issues and understands policy development and implementation.
  • Build and partner effectively with a broad constituency of Boards of Directors and stakeholders is highly desired.


The successful candidate will be

  • Passionate about SPUR’s mission and vision; 
  • Secure leader who listens attentively and well, asks questions and can be comfortable not having all the answers; able to take appropriate action, including making difficult decisions when necessary;
  • Culturally competent, with an appreciation of and comfort level with working with a wide array of diverse individuals;
  • Respectful, supportive and empowering of SPUR’s staff and their work, collaborating with team members appropriately to develop successful programs while engendering future success via being a good thought partner;
  • Committed to the value of diversity, equity and inclusion as a critical aspect of a strong organization;
  • A savvy fundraiser with either a track record of success or a high affinity or aptitude for fundraising responsibilities;
  • Able to resolve conflict, i.e., not conflict-avoidant;
  • A natural collaborator with a strong relationship-building orientation;
  • Bold, inspirational, motivating and empowering to staff and Board; and
  • Comfortable and effective working in a group environment requiring team building and mentoring, flexible multi-tasking and thoughtful time and expense management.

The successful candidate will have

  • Proven ability to guide an organization through issues around scope and structure; 
  • Demonstrated strong leadership, relationship and people management skills and motivational ability;
  • Confident presence -- comfortable with and energized by being “the face” of the organization;
  • Demonstrated track record of inspiring, mentoring, developing and retaining staff;
  • Ability to collaborate and develop consensus among multiple stakeholders, including staff, Board, members, donors, funders, partner organizations, politicians, government officials and agencies; Creative Know-How to increase SPUR’s brand in order to further SPUR’s programs, policy work, influence and community impact in the Bay Area;
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills as a passionate and persuasive communicator;
  • Demonstrated integrity, trustworthiness, authenticity and transparency; and
  • Strong intellectual aptitude and emotional intelligence, a sense of humor, a containable ego and an extroverted presence or capability.


A competitive compensation package, including a comprehensive benefits package, will be offered, commensurate with experience. 

For additional information regarding this opportunity, please contact Carlson Beck, which advises SPUR on the basis of an exclusive consulting assignment.

Sally Carlson
Managing Partner
(415) 433-2299 direct
(415) 203-5259 mobile

Heidi Holzhauer
(707) 963-1250 direct
(415) 298-6659 mobile

Lisa Fisher
Senior Principal
(301) 273-7074 direct

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