• The Urbanist

    Selected articles from our magazine
Issue 567
October 2018 to November 2018

Learning From Tokyo

How do other cities solve their urban problems? Each year SPUR takes a study trip to find out.
SPUR's recent study trip to Tokyo made even the most avid urbanists on our staff and board feel like country mice. Because Tokyo is so different, it’s easy for Americans to disregard it as a source of ideas for our own urban areas. But there’s a lot that the cities of the Bay Area can learn from the most populous metropolitan region on earth. Read More »

Falling in Love With the Trains of Japan

Unmatchable in their efficiency, reliability and speed, Japanese trains represent the bleeding edge of innovative modern transport.
Japan’s extensive railway system carries nearly 30 percent of all rail passengers in the world, more than all of Europe. But unlike many European countries, Japanese rail companies are privatized. The largest of these companies carries 17 million passengers per day and its $26 billion in annual revenue includes no government subsidies. How is this possible and what can California learn from the Japanese system? Read More »

Urban Field Notes: Tokyo — Exuberant and Alive

On this city’s streets there’s almost too much to take in. 
Seen from a tall building, Tokyo’s vast scale is apparent, a largely undifferentiated metropolis to the horizon. But on the ground level, variegated towers on tight lots make for a rich and dynamic texture. Though the city hosts some magnificent architecture, many of the buildings are mundane or downright ugly. The urbanism, however, is exuberant and alive. Read More »

The Uncertainty Paradox

Why embracing multiple futures in transportation planning will help us get the future we want. 
Transportation isn’t as predictable as one might think. The profession's standard forecasts and projections are convenient fictions that oversimplify a complex system and mislead us into thinking we know what the future will bring. Luckily, some transportation agencies are now publicly admitting uncertainty about where things might be headed in the future and are embracing new ways to tackle that uncertainty in their planning. Read More »

Member Profile: Kay Flavell

Kay Flavell has been researching and writing about people, buildings and streets for decades.
Since leaving her native New Zealand at 21, Kay Flavell has led a nomadic academic life, teaching 18th-century German literature at University College London, collecting oral histories in Liverpool and serving as associate director of the UC Davis Humanities Institute. Today, Flavell is the director of New Pacific Studio, a small multi-disciplinary artist residency program based in Vallejo. Read More »
Issue 566
August 2018 to September 2018

Four Future Scenarios for the San Francisco Bay Area

Planning for the region in the year 2070
This report, the first product of the SPUR Regional Strategy, uses a scenario planning process to look at four uncertainties that the Bay Area will contend with over the next 50 years: the economy, housing, transportation and the physical form that growth takes. The resulting scenarios serve as “myths of the future,” stories that reveal the potential long-term outcomes of choices the region makes today. Read More »

Urban Field Notes: Kinky Streets

(or the Value of the Near Distance)
San Franciscans love their views to the far distance: to the ocean, the bay or the hills, to the Ferry Building or Twin Peaks. But the author's favorite San Francisco vistas are closer in, along the kinky, misaligned streets meeting at the Market Street backbone, where the FiDi north grid and the SOMA south grid meet in wonderfully inconvenient ways. Read More »

Member Profile: Cedric Brown

From STEM to Startup, working to make tech more inclusive.
Cedric Brown first got interested in cities as a young boy, when his grandmother took him along on errands in downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Today, he works closely on initiatives with SPUR in his role as chief of community engagement for the Kapor Center, an organization working to demystify the tech sector by removing barriers to entry. Read More »
Issue 565 July 2018

Designing a More Resilient Bay Area

Nine designs. Nine opportunities to create a more resilient Bay Area.
The year-long Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge brought together local residents, public officials, designers and engineers to develop innovative proposals that can strengthen the Bay Area’s resilience to sea level rise, severe storms, earthquakes and flooding. The nine final design concepts are meant to inspire, catalyze action and push us all along the path to a more resilient future. Read More »

Making Healthy Eating a Snap

The results of SPUR’s Double Up Food Bucks pilot program show that healthy food incentives work.
SPUR's Double Up Food Bucks makes fruits and vegetables more affordable for low-income families while increasing revenue for both grocers and California farmers. After its first year in operation, survey results show that families are buying and eating more fruits and vegetables — and stretching their food budgets further — thanks to the program. Read More »

Member Profile: Savlan Hauser

An architect adapts her work in Oakland to focus not just on plans but people.
Savlan Hauser’s first interest in cities was an economic one. She grew up in Redding, California, and though, as she explains, it’s “a beautiful spot,” it has, like many American cities, seen its main street decimated by the onslaught of big-box stores at the fringes of town. Read More »

Urban Field Notes: Creating Space for Those Doing Good

Yet another group scrambling for space in the Bay Area? Nonprofits.
As real estate prices continue to climb throughout the region, many nonprofits are feeling the pinch and confronting potential displacement from the communities they serve. One mitigation to this challenge — and one that strengthens organizations — is the nonprofit center, a model for shared facilities that look to achieve affordable, stable occupancy for the organizations they serve. Read More »

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