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SPUR articles, research, policy recommendations, and our magazine, The Urbanist

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Look Out Below

SPUR Report
Bay Area cities planning for sea level rise need to address another emerging hazard: groundwater rise. SPUR partnered with community-based organization Nuestra Casa to investigate how rising groundwater is likely to affect one Bay Area city: East Palo Alto. Our case study explains specific risks and offers five recommendations — all applicable to other vulnerable communities along the San Francisco Bay shore.

SFMTA Board Chair and Muni Fan Amanda Eaken on Making San Francisco Streets Safer and More Welcoming

News /
Traversing city streets on foot or by bike can be a hair-raising experience. Ten years ago, San Francisco launched Vision Zero to take the scary out and put the convenience in when it comes to moving around without a car. Since then, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has made streets a more welcoming place, but challenges remain. We asked SFMTA Board Chair Amanda Eaken about changes she’d like to see and how residents can more effectively advocate for safer streets.

Introducing Fullwell: SPUR’s Food and Agriculture Program Launches as a New Organization

News /
This month, SPUR’s Food and Agriculture policy program starts a new chapter as an independent organization. Staff members Eli Zigas, Katie Ettman, and Grecia Marquez-Nieblas are leaving SPUR to launch Fullwell, a nonprofit public policy group working to put an end to food insecurity and create a healthy, just, and sustainable food system. As we wish them well, we take a look back on the program’s successes over its 13 years at SPUR.

Developing the Next Steps to Revitalize Downtown San José

News /
Ten years ago, SPUR offered six big ideas to make downtown San José a more welcoming, vibrant, and pedestrian-friendly space and to strengthen the city’s presence on the regional stage. Those ideas have currency today, as post-pandemic shifts affect foot traffic and activity downtown. This spring, SPUR convened a workshop focused on implementation priorities for the urban core’s revitalization and surfaced questions for future policy research.

Solving the Panel Puzzle

Policy Brief
Switching home energy uses from fossil fuels to electricity will improve air quality and meet state climate goals. But California’s plan to decarbonize its buildings is getting bogged down by the complexities and costs of electric panel and service upgrades. SPUR suggests three strategies and 17 recommendations to overcome these barriers. By adopting policy changes, California can facilitate the transition to a climate-friendly, climate-ready built environment and serve as a model for other states.

Fossil-Free Heat

Policy Brief
In an effort to improve air quality, Bay Area regulators have passed regulations to phase out the sale of gas heating in buildings. SPUR and our partners in the Bay Area Clean Air coalition created this toolbox to enable policymakers and advocacy groups to identify strategies and action that will support the transition to zero-pollution, both in the Bay Area and in other jurisdictions seeking to move away from gas heating.

Welcome 2024–25 SPUR Board Directors and City Advisory Board Members

News /
This month, 12 years after SPUR's regional expansion, the organization ushered in a new board governance structure. Our smaller, 30-member Board of Directors will provide fiduciary and strategic leadership to the organization in partnership with our three City Advisory Boards, which will support SPUR’s local research and advocacy efforts. These new appointees bring extensive knowledge in planning, housing, transportation, good government, economics, and sustainability and resilience.

SPUR Sponsors State Housing and Transportation Legislation

News /
SPUR is co-sponsoring a number of state bills this year and lending advocacy support to many more. Our focus this legislative session is on designing safer streets and addressing California’s housing affordability and availability crisis. Here’s a look at the legislation we’re sponsoring.

Small and Mighty

Policy Brief
San Francisco’s small businesses face multiple challenges: a notoriously complex regulatory environment, rising costs, and a slow economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenges are even more acute for small businesses in the downtown area, which has still not recovered its office and visitor customer base. SPUR’s new policy brief identifies seven interventions to support the small business sector in San Francisco.

Preparing for the “Big One” Amid a Housing Crisis

News /
The Bay Area is already facing a housing crisis: Housing is unaffordable for low- and middle-income residents, development is not keeping up with demand, and in 2022 more than 30,000 people were unhoused. If a major earthquake were to hit the region, thousands of housing units could be lost, deepening the crisis. A recent event hosted by SPUR, the Structural Engineers Association of Northern California, and the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute highlighted the region’s earthquake-related displacement risks and opportunities to reduce them.

With a New Statewide Task Force, California Is Getting Real about Transit Transformation

News /
SPUR has been appointed to serve on a statewide task force that will support the state’s many transit agencies to grow ridership, improve service, and address operational challenges. The effort represents California’s best opportunity to rethink transit policy in decades. As the state looks to lean heavily on transit to meet its ambitious climate commitments, it must figure out how to create a system both bigger and much more heavily used than today’s.

Remembering Joe Bodovitz

News /
SPUR’s first deputy director, Joseph Bodovitz, died on March 9, 2024, at age 93, following a very influential career in public service and environmental protection. A remembrance by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission observed, “Nobody in the entire State of California was more influential in developing California’s coastal zone management policies than Joe Bodovitz.” And it all started at SPUR.

Planning by Ballot

Research
SPUR has created the most up-to-date database of local land use ballot measures that impact housing production in California. Many of the 208 measures we identified curb urban sprawl and protect open space. But others undermine infill housing production in urbanized areas. Over the long term, measures that restrict infill housing can undermine housing affordability and have the potential to exacerbate racial segregation.

An Affordable Transition to Zero-Pollution, Climate-Friendly Homes in the Bay Area

News /
A first-in-the-nation air quality standard for home heating equipment will dramatically improve the Bay Area's air quality, save lives, and help the state meet its climate goals. What will ensure that everyone can afford healthy, efficient, and carbon-free heat pumps? SPUR lays out how to use funding, financing, and market development to ensure heat pumps are affordable through 2027 and beyond.

Closing the Electrification Affordability Gap

SPUR Report
New Bay Area regulations are ushering in a transition from gas furnaces and water heaters to electric-powered heat pumps, which heat air and water without emitting harmful pollutants, use far less energy, and would greatly reduce the region’s carbon emissions. A major challenge in adopting heat pumps is that, for now, they cost more to install. SPUR’s detailed action plan shows how incentives and electrical code changes can help the Bay Area make this transition affordable for low-income households.

A Regional Ballot Measure Could Sustain and Transform Bay Area Transit — But There Are Many Details to Get Right

News /
The California State Legislature will soon consider legislation that would enable the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to put a regional transportation measure on a future ballot, potentially authorizing significant new funding for transit and other mobility investments. SPUR has not yet taken a formal position on a prospective measure, but we are weighing in now to ensure that any legislation that moves forward is grounded in good policy and positions the region for success at the ballot.

Q&A With Incoming State Housing Secretary Tomiquia Moss

News /
This week, former SPUR board chair Tomiquia Moss began her new job as secretary of California’s Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency (BCSH). SPUR is thrilled to support Tomiquia in her new role. We recently spoke with her about what she’s looking forward to working on as BCSH secretary.

Building Blocks Toward 20-Minute Neighborhoods

Policy Brief
As a companion to our brief The 15-Minute Neighborhood , SPUR collaborated with SOM to develop a case study of San José’s Alum Rock neighborhood, exploring its potential to become a “20-minute neighborhood,” where residents can access many essential services and amenities just a short walk or bike ride from home. The case study draws upon work by San José State University’s urban planning studio and was supported by recommendations from local leaders and community-based organizations.

Solutions to California’s Housing Crisis Start With the State: Q&A With Sarah Karlinsky

News /
In a new report, SPUR Research Director Sarah Karlinsky describes the alphabet soup of state agencies that influence housing development — with little to no coordination of efforts to address the state’s housing crisis. We spoke with Sarah about the report’s central insight: although zoning and planning are local actions, the only way to build the millions of housing units California desperately needs is through state-level reform.

Structured for Success

SPUR Report
A key cause of California’s high housing costs is its decentralized and fragmented housing governance system. Multiple state and regional agencies, offices, departments, and systems are responsible for planning and funding housing. Add hundreds of cities, each with its own authority to zone for housing, and the complexity becomes dizzying. A new SPUR report makes 11 recommendations to set California and the Bay Area on the path to produce the housing we need.