Issue 480

The Future of Downtown San Francisco

Expanding downtown's capacity for transit-oriented jobs

SPUR Report

Since 1990, Bay Area residents have been driving nearly 50 million more miles each day. This pattern of driving to work and other destinations — and its resulting environmental impact — stems from the sprawling geography of homes and jobs, and an infrastructure system that builds ever outward.

The smart growth movement has long called attention to the problems of sprawl, but it has often focused on residential sprawl. And yet the dispersion of jobs into suburban and exurban office parks that can never be served by transit is just as much of a threat to the environment as residential sprawl — if not a greater one. To achieve a low-carbon future, Bay Area residents need to be able to commute to work without relying on a car.

SPUR argues that our best strategy to reduce job sprawl is to channel more employment growth toward existing centers, particularly the transit-rich downtown of San Francisco.

Other transit-served employment centers in the Bay Area, such as downtown Oakland and San Jose, as well as Concord and Walnut Creek, also should capture a growing share of regional employment. Future SPUR reports will look at what can be done to improve the land use, urban design and transportation networks for the other employment hubs in the Bay Area.

Adopted by the SPUR Board on January 21, 2009

Committee chair: Ellen Lou, Skidmore Owings & Merrill
Primary authors: Egon Terplan is SPUR's Economic Development and Governance Policy Director, Ellen Lou is a SPUR board member and urban designer with Skidmore Owings & Merrill, Jeff Tumlin is a SPUR board member and a partner at Nelson/Nygaard, George Williams is a SPUR board member, Tony Bruzzone is a SPUR member and transportation planner at Arup, Brian Stokle is a SPUR member and transportation planner at Nelson/Nygaard, James Rogers is a SPUR intern
Committee: Frank Fudem, Val Menotti, Michael Powell, Libby Seifel, Chi-Hsin Shao, John Sugrue, Jessica Zenk
Resources: David Alumbaugh, Ted Egan, Jeff Heller, Greg Keller, John Kriken, Chris Meany, Malcolm Quint, Lynn Sedway, Tom Sullivan, Josh Switzky
SPUR staff: Egon Terplan