Where Do We Go From Here? SPUR Sets New Vision and Long-Range Goals

Alicia John-Baptiste speaking at the Future [of Cities] is Female event in 2019

Photo by Olivia Smartt Photography, LLC for SPUR

The country has not yet recovered from the events of 2020: Millions are unemployed, the virus is not yet under control and we are still grappling with the fragility of our democracy. But with the vaccine rolling out (albeit slowly) and stable national leadership in place, we can trust that we will, eventually, reemerge. The question now is: Reemerge into what?

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, SPUR adjusted its focus to respond to the immediate crises facing the communities of the Bay Area. We investigated and provided policy recommendations to safeguard small businesses and ground-floor retail, address crippling water debt, expand access to social safety net programs, save transit from economic collapse, reallocate our public realm for healthy uses and shore up critical housing production. We served on each of the region’s major economic recovery task forces and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Blue Ribbon task force addressing the future of transit. We hosted more than 40 public conversations on the myriad pandemic-related issues facing the Bay Area — and the nation — at this time of crisis.

Like many organizations, SPUR also examined the role of systemic racism in our work: How has racism manifested historically in the policy areas where we work? What impacts does it carry today? What are our individual relationships to bias and racism? What has SPUR’s role been in perpetuating inequity, and what are our opportunities to advance equity going forward?

Throughout 2020, we recognized that today’s crises are a product of existing systems and institutions, and many of these challenges predated the pandemic. Even as we asked, “What do people need right now?” we also asked, “How can we fix this structurally so we don’t relive the same crises again and again?”

As we step into 2021, we do so with an even stronger commitment to reshaping the systems — policies, laws, regulations, institutions — that are the foundation of our collective health. We believe that the Bay Area has the creativity and commitment needed to solve its most pressing challenges. We believe this can become a region where all people thrive. And we believe that now is the time to make different choices so that we can achieve different outcomes.

This spring, we will publish the SPUR Regional Strategy, an aspirational 50-year vision for the Bay Area and a roadmap for how we can ensure an equitable, sustainable and prosperous future for the region. As the Bay Area starts to reemerge from the pandemic, our aim is to both shape and support the decisions that can take us to toward that future. In this turning point year, that means putting a stake in the ground for the essential components of this vision: stable housing for everyone, sustainable transportation options, climate resilience, economic prosperity that is widely shared, dynamic downtowns and thriving neighborhoods.

A New Vision and Mission for SPUR

To meet this moment, SPUR has articulated a bold vision statement and evolved our organizational mission to ensure that our work is in service of that vision. This vision stems from our hopes for the Bay Area, as set forth in the SPUR Regional Strategy. Our updated mission leverages SPUR’s strengths to build toward a brighter future.


The Bay Area is a region in which all people thrive.


Through research, education and advocacy, SPUR works to create an equitable, sustainable, and prosperous region.

We have also established seven critical goals, one for each policy area, and will mark our progress against a series of targets. The specific policies and initiatives we pursue will change year to year, but these long-range goals will guide our efforts as we work toward system-level reform to ensure that our future is not a repetition of our past.



Add new jobs and housing where they will support equity and sustainability, and make neighborhoods safe and welcoming to everyone.


Growth is concentrated in places that support environmental sustainability, quality of life and economic opportunity and that are easily accessible to the rest of the region.

Everyone in the urbanized Bay Area can comfortably meet their basic needs without a car.

Neighborhoods embrace nature and are designed for diversity and inclusion, making them safe, connected and welcoming.



Make housing affordable for everyone.


We build enough housing for different income levels to make the region affordable for existing and new residents.

Existing residents, especially vulnerable communities, are not displaced due to high housing costs.

Housing is transformed from a driver of wealth and racial inequity to a foundation for stable, diverse communities.




Make it fast, easy and inexpensive to get around without driving alone.


Sustainable trips are quick, reliable, safe, accessible and affordable for everybody.

Most trips in the urbanized Bay Area are not taken by a driver alone in their car.

The transportation system enables growth to create compact and healthy neighborhoods for all.

Sustainability and Resilience


Eliminate carbon emissions and make communities resilient to climate change.


The region emits minimal greenhouse gas emissions.

All communities, especially the most vulnerable, are resilient to the impacts of climate change.


Economic Justice


Enable all people to participate in the region’s thriving economy and attain economic security.


Poverty is rare, and everyone can meet their basic needs.

Everybody, including those who have been historically marginalized, can build wealth.

Our taxation systems and fiscal policies direct resources to address inequities and bolster public goods.


Good Government


Support a high-functioning public sector that serves the collective good.


Voters in San Francisco, San José and Oakland have the information they need to make choices that will support an equitable and sustainable future for their communities and the region.

Governments are structured, resourced and empowered to most effectively serve and provide for the collective good.


Food and Agriculture


Create healthy, just and sustainable food systems, and put an end to food insecurity.


Nobody in the Bay Area is food insecure. Diet-related disease is rare.

Food industry jobs provide economic mobility through improved wages and ownership opportunities, increasing the region's economic equity.

Growth is concentrated in existing urban areas, maximizing the preservation of agricultural land and open space. The food and agriculture sectors have minimal ecological footprints.


We are at a turning point in the Bay Area, and it is time to commit to a healthier future. The region’s civic leaders and institutions have demonstrated great creativity in response to 2020’s crises. And they have largely come together in their response, with philanthropy, government and civic organizations working more closely together than perhaps ever before, both across sectors and across geographies. These two instincts — to collaborate, and to embrace new approaches to old problems — are precisely what we will need going forward. As we work toward these goals, and this vision, we will do so in that spirit.