A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

Who Will Be Helped and Harmed by a Proposed Toll Increase for Bay Area Bridges?

The California legislature is considering a temporary toll increase on seven bridges in the Bay Area to avoid severe transit service cuts. The proposed increase has understandably sparked concern about equity. SPUR's deep dive found that most bridge drivers have higher incomes than most transit riders. Because protections can be implemented for people with low incomes who must drive, there’s no reason to let transit collapse. That outcome that would be the least equitable of all.

Revenue Allocations from Soda Taxes in Oakland and San Francisco Continue to Diverge from Advisory Committees’ Recommendations

Each year SPUR analyzes how Oakland and San Francisco allocate the revenues from their respective soda taxes, which are intended to be spent on improving the health of populations disproportionately impacted by soda consumption and diet-related disease. Five years in, much of the soda tax revenues are consistently funneled to uses that depart from advisory committees’ recommendations.

Multifamily Seismic Retrofit Program Secures $15 Million from State, But More Investment Is Needed

California will soon provide financial assistance for seismic retrofitting to owners of some multifamily apartment buildings as part of the Multifamily Seismic Retrofit Program, the state’s first program to protect low- to moderate-income renters in vulnerable buildings. Additional funding will be needed to effectively address seismic risk, protect public safety, preserve housing, and support community resilience in the aftermath of severe earthquakes.

The Role of Public-Private Partnerships in Downtown Detroit’s Revitalization

Detroit’s downtown renaissance offers lessons for struggling Bay Area’s cities: the health of cities is intrinsically tied to the prosperity of the state, and the revitalization of downtowns is critical to the recovery of neighborhoods. Thanks to community advocacy, Detroit’s city leaders and philanthropic organizations are now funding new initiatives to ensure that future revitalization efforts promote affordable housing and homeownership, workforce development, and entrepreneurship.

Delivering on Transit-Oriented Communities in San José: Local Implications of a Regional Policy

How will the Bay Area’s new Transit-Oriented Communities Policy affect existing city plans, including plans not compliant with all of the policy’s requirements? SPUR explored what this regional policy means for a proposed BART station and a light-rail corridor in San José, including how housing and transit advocates think they can use it to advance their goals and how the city has begun to consider its implications for ongoing planning efforts.

Placemaking with Al Fresco Spaces: Q&A With SPUR’s Erika Pinto

A new SPUR report, Making Al Fresco Work , notes that the initiative has begun to transform San José’s urban environment in ways that are consistent with the city’s larger goals of creating vibrant commercial corridors and walkable neighborhoods. We talked with Erika Pinto, SPUR’s San José planning policy manager, about proposed strategies for improving on San Jose’s current outdoor dining review processes and about the role of al fresco spaces in transforming the city’s public realm.

Unpacking the State’s Transit Budget: A Huge Victory, But an Unfinished Fight

The state’s budget brought a big win for transit, but also an unfinished fight: the Bay Area still faces a sizable gap in operating funds over the next five years just to maintain existing transit service levels. What does the state’s budget include for transit, and what more must be done to transition transit to a sustainable business model?

How Detroit’s Food Entrepreneurs Are Invigorating Commercial Corridors and Neighborhoods

Many Bay Area cities are seeing a significant uptick in commercial vacancies — a problem Detroit has been working to address for years. How has the Motor City responded, and what can we learn from its efforts? Here’s how four Detroit organizations have seized on the city’s culture of entrepreneurship to help launch and support food-related businesses that are repopulating deserted storefronts and enlivening neighborhoods that have received little investment.

Making Detroit Home: Addressing the Challenges of Housing Stability and Habitability

In the wake of the Great Recession, Detroit went bankrupt and home foreclosures skyrocketed. Philanthropic dollars have come to the rescue, but the city must now reckon with the factors that keep many Detroiters from thriving: a high property tax rate and punitive tax foreclosure system, lack of access to equitable mortgage lending, and institutional racism.

Legislature and Governor Approve Extension of California Fruit and Vegetable EBT Pilot Program

The California legislature and Governor Newsom have reinvested in the California Fruit and Vegetable EBT Pilot program, which provides low-income households with up to $60 each month in additional food assistance when they buy fresh fruits and vegetables with their electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards. Funding in the amount of $9.4 million in the state budget approved last month ensures that the program won’t die on the vine, a victory given the state’s significant budget deficit.