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Ideas + Action 2024: The Future of Cities


Ideas + Action, May 30, 2024 at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco


Ideas + Action 2024: The Future of Cities



Cities are not just places. They are hubs for creativity, economic innovation, social connections, and cultural and racial diversity. Today, Bay Area cities stand at a crossroads: What does the future of work look like, and how will it shape our downtowns and suburbs? Can we grow sustainably and equitably with access to economic opportunity for all? How should transit evolve to better serve emerging travel patterns? How are we poised to meet the challenges of climate change, including extreme climate events?

As urbanists, we have an opportunity to reshape our landscape to address these big questions. How do we get it right?


Many thanks to our keynote speaker Jennifer Keesmaat and our plenary speakers, breakout panelists, sponsors, and attendees.


Rewatch the keynote and plenary discussion:









  • Jennifer Keesmaat / President and CEO, Collecdev-Markee; Former Chief City Planner, City of Toronto


Can New Cities Be the Right Way to Grow?

Over the next 50 years, the San Francisco Bay Area will gain as many as 4 million people and 2 million jobs. In the last 20 years, the Bay Area has failed to adequately house our population. After a strong period of population growth in our cities, we are now starting to see many low and moderate income households move to the suburbs. Our racial disparities have worsened. And we haven’t figured out how to scale up solutions to shift away from fossil fuels and build and grow more sustainably.

The developers of California Forever in Solano County propose to build a new city from the ground up with urbanist principles: a walkable community with affordable homeownership, accessible jobs, convenient shopping, green buildings, and resilient infrastructure. While this project is new, the idea of new towns is not a novel concept. In fact, many versions of new towns have been built in the United States and around the world. Are new cities part of the solution for accommodating growth? Can it be done equitably and sustainably? What are the implications for communities in existing cities? Can we learn from previous efforts in the United States and abroad? Join us for this engaging conversation, where our participants will grapple with all the thorny questions raised by new towns.

  • Alicia John-Baptiste, President and CEO, SPUR
  • Jennifer Keesmaat, President and CEO, Collecdev-Markee
  • Ellen Lou, Principal, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)
  • Daniel Rodriguez, Director of the Institute for Transportation Studies and the Chancellor’s Professor of City and Regional Planning, UC Berkeley

3 p.m. | BREAK


Join one of the following roundtable discussions with thought leaders from around the Bay Area to find common ground, accelerate action-oriented thinking and tackle some of the biggest challenges facing planning in the region. Learn more about the sessions and panelists on the Breakout Sessions tab.

Session A: Growing Up, Not Out

Session B: Evolving Downtowns

Session C: Creating Inclusive Public Spaces

Session D: Strategies for Equitable Hazard Resilience

Session E: Implementing Emerging Technologies

*Breakout sessions are limited to sponsors and invited guests and subject to change.

5 p.m. | RECEPTION

Continue the conversation over drinks.

Keynote Speaker: Jennifer Keesmaat

President and CEO, Collecdev-Markee; Former Chief City Planner, City of Toronto

Jennifer Keesmaat is an urban planner named one of the “most powerful people in Canada” by Macleans, one of the “most influential” by Toronto Life, and one of the top Women of Influence in Canada. She spent half a decade as Toronto’s Chief City Planner, where she was celebrated for her forward thinking and collaborative approach to city-building. Keesmaat is President and CEO of Collecdev-Markee, developing new communities across the GTA as sustainable, liveable places that prioritize access to high quality, affordable housing. A Distinguished Visitor in Residence Emeritus at the University of Toronto, Keesmaat continues to share her vision for cities of the future, through her WEBBY Award-winning podcast, Invisible City. Keesmaat is the Chief Architect of the 2020 Declaration for Resilience in Canadian Cities, which is a blueprint for adapting cities post Covid19 that has been adopted by cities around the world. Keesmaat is on the Advisory Board of the Urban Land Institute, Toronto, and is appointed to the International Panel of Experts, Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority. Jennifer is on the Board of Directors for May Mobility, and is on the President’s Planning and Growth Advisory Board and Design Review Panel for Ohio State University. Jennifer is recognized as one of the 100 most influential urbanists of all time, by Planetizen Magazine.

Breakout Sessions

Session A: Growing Up, Not Out
Over the next 50 years, the San Francisco Bay Area will gain as many as 4 million people and 2 million jobs. How can we welcome new residents and jobs without paving over green spaces or pushing out long-time community members? Can we create communities that are affordable, equitable, and sustainable in our existing urban spaces? What would it take to get it right?


  • Brian Jencek, Director of Planning, HOK

  • Kate White, Principal of Restorative Communities, Arup
  • Ignacio Dayrit, Lead Consultant, Center for Creative Land Recycling

Session B: Evolving Downtowns
In the post-pandemic city, with many workers and occupations no longer tied to an office, urban downtowns are at a crossroads. How are these changes affecting the way we use spaces and how we work together? Are downtowns and high-density employment centers still relevant? How should we be adapting our design and planning for downtowns to ensure that we are maintaining the health of these hubs of economic and social activity?


  • Karen Chapple, Director, School of Cities at the University of Toronto
  • Egon Terplan, Senior Fellow, Institute of Transportation Studies at University of California, Berkeley
  • Peter Weingarten, Build to Suit & Headquarters Leader, Gensler
  • Carolyn Choy, Director of Real Estate Development and Partnerships, CAST

Session C: Creating Inclusive Public Spaces
Part of what makes the Bay Area special is its incredible network of parks and open spaces. We need to continue to create and care for these places, whether they are vital links in the regional open space network or small green spaces that anchor neighborhoods. In this session, we will talk about strategies to create inclusive and dynamic public spaces in urban communities that foster social cohesion and are welcoming to all.


  • Carol Coletta, President and CEO, Memphis River Parks Partnership
  • Jessica Paz-Cedillos, Co-Executive Director, School of Arts and Culture
  • Patricia Fonseca Flores, Principal, CMG Landscape Architecture
  • Eri Suzuki, Associate Principal, SITELAB

Session D: Strategies for Equitable Hazard Resilience
Across the Bay Area, low-income communities of color are disproportionately burdened by environmental hazards. Adapting to climate and other natural hazards will require retrofits and upgrades of not only public infrastructure and shorelines but also homes. The region faces a pivotal challenge: How can we advance the home retrofits needed to build resilient communities without contributing to negative impacts on low-income renters and homeowners? Our panelists will share strategies for home resilience programs and other related resilience and adaptation efforts.


  • Brian Strong, Chief Resilience Officer at the SF Office of Resilience and Capital Planning (San Francisco County)
  • Cade Cannedy, Director of Programs at Climate Resilient Communities (San Mateo County)
  • Edgardo Vazquez, Marin Climate Justice Collaborative Planner at Canal Alliance (Marin County)
  • Zoe Hamstead, Assistant Professor of Environmental Planning, UC Berkeley

Session E: Implementing Emerging Technologies
The Bay Area is home to cutting-edge technology, including innovations in clean technology, transportation, and construction that could help make it easier to meet the challenges of housing affordability, mobility, and decarbonization. Yet, our region hasn’t fully embraced and implemented these technologies for various reasons. In this session, we will explore what it would take to make these solutions work for the Bay Area and meet our equity and sustainability goals.


  • Molly Turner, University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business
  • Kiran Jain, Chief Legal Officer + Corporate Secretary, Replica
  • Michelle Boyd, Chief Strategy Officer, Terner Center Labs
  • Khaled Tawfik, IT Director/Chief Information Officer, City of San José

*Breakout sessions are limited to sponsors and invited guests and are subject to change.



Sponsorship benefits matrix

Yes, I want to sponsor Ideas + Action!

For more information about sponsoring Ideas + Action 2024: The Future of Cities, please email Jackie Curran at [email protected].



Event sponsor list

Refund Policy

Sponsorship payments: Will not be refunded, as sponsorship benefits take effect immediately and are on-going through the date of the event.

Auxiliary Services

If, in order to participate in a SPUR event, you need auxiliary aids or services for a disability (e.g., qualified interpreter, qualified reader, written materials, taped texts) please submit your request five business days before the event to [email protected] or 415-781-8726 x132. SPUR will work with you in identifying effective auxiliary aids or services that it can provide. If you need to cancel your request, please notify SPUR at least two business days before the event.