Issue 576 Winter 2024

Member Profile: Tony Tolentino

A San Francisco native shares his hopes for the Bay Area, from downtowns to the region as a whole.

Urbanist Article

SPUR Tony Tolentino Headshot

Tony Tollentino has been a SPUR member since 2004. During that time, he has worked in the philanthropic, nonprofit, and government sectors, focusing on entrepreneurship and inclusive economic development. As a vice president with JPMorgan Chase’s Global Philanthropy group, he oversees the strategy and grantmaking portfolio for the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California. The portfolio supports eligible nonprofits focused on racial equity and a more inclusive economy achieved through neighborhood development, small-business growth, workforce development, and financial empowerment.


What inspired you to become a SPUR member? While studying urban planning at San Francisco State University, I was inspired by SPUR’s mission of bringing various stakeholders together to tackle the region’s biggest issues, along with its long history of shaping the urban environment of the Bay Area. I initially became a student member to take full advantage of the programming and to meet like-minded peers.


How does your personal and professional background align with SPUR’s mission and influence your support for the organization? As a native San Franciscan, I have always been fascinated by the city’s rich history, distinct neighborhoods, robust transit system, and overall urban fabric. Studying urban planning in college and grad school led me to the world of philanthropy, where I now have the opportunity to support inclusive economic development. SPUR’s mission and overall work are integral to this world because it helps funders better understand systemic issues and where deploying funding and support programs could make long-term change and impact.


If you could lead a SPUR initiative, what urban planning challenge would you focus on? One issue I’d focus on is regional planning to help shape the collective vision for the future of the region. With its nine counties and 101 cities, the San Francisco Bay Area sometimes struggles to see beyond its artificial municipal boundaries. To remain economically competitive and provide a high quality of life for our residents, workers, and visitors, the Bay Area should have a regional housing strat- egy, a consolidated and integrated regional transit system, and a regional economic development plan that serves a wide variety of industries.


How do you envision the Bay Area evolving in the next decade, and how do you believe SPUR plays a role in that transformation? I think the Bay Area will continue to address systemic issues that have developed over the past 50 years. The region will need to have more housing to accommodate residents of all income levels, a better integrated regional transportation system, and a more diverse, resilient, and equitable economy so that we can weather future economic downturns and natural disasters. SPUR will play a leading role in convening various stakeholders to shape the vision and inform associated local and state policies.


What SPUR project makes you more hopeful about the future of the Bay Area? I am most excited and hopeful about the current work SPUR is leading for the revitalization of downtown San Francisco, which JPMorgan Chase is funding. We are at a unique moment to reimagine what this urban core of the region should be.


As we look to the future of our downtown areas, what elements do you believe are crucial for creating vibrant and people- centric urban cores? Our downtown cores should have diverse land uses, including residential, educational, cultural, entertainment, and retail uses. They should be 24/7 neighborhoods for all residents and visitors. We should make our urban cores more pedestrian friendly with wider sidewalks, less parking, new trees and other plantings, better bike lanes, more art, and more inviting pedestrian plazas with retail and other active uses.


What do you hope will be the most significant accomplishment or impact of SPUR in the next few years? Looking ahead, I hope SPUR’s most significant accomplishment over the next few years will be to guide the growth of the San Francisco Bay Area in light of pandemic- induced shifts in the nature of work, commuting patterns, workers moving to other parts of the region, etc. To account for these new work patterns, we will need to not only reimagine the futures of downtown San Francisco, San José, and Oakland, we will need to reexamine our housing policies and plans, transportation infrastructure, taxes, and budgets.