image of data infographics from research publications

SPUR Publications

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

Advanced Publications Search

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.

15 Minutes to Everything: Q&A with Erika Pinto

News /
The “15-minute neighborhood” concept promotes people-centered development as a way cities can improve convenience, affordability, and equity while decreasing air pollution and carbon emissions. In a new policy brief, SPUR Housing and Planning Policy Manager Erika Pinto explores how the 15-minute model could help improve and accelerate San José’s approach to planning for more compact and connected urban development. We spoke with Erika about 15-minute principles and planning for more complete communities.

The 15-Minute Neighborhood

Policy Brief
The concept of the “15-minute neighborhood,” where residents can access essential, everyday services just a short walk or bike ride from home, has gained currency in recent years. San José’s plan to grow by building dense, mixed-use “urban villages” could guide the kind of development that would create 15-minute neighborhoods. SPUR suggests that San José could use the 15-minute framework to implement its urban village plan. We recommend six strategies to enable the creation of these more complete, connected, and equitable communities.

Five Ways San José Can Sustain Park Maintenance and Improvement: Lessons from Around the Country

News /
Parks and public spaces are signifiers of civic vitality, and their maintenance, improvement, expansion, and programming often reflect the economic times. These activities can be made sustainable by re-examining place governance — how people and organizations across sectors collaborate to shape a place’s economic, physical, and social dynamics. As San José considers how to deliver on the promise of its public green spaces, it can look to other cities that have created or reformed place governance models.

Housing for the Sum of Us

News /
This year’s Ideas + Action symposium explored the topic of housing policy beyond “zero sum” thinking , where some prosper at the expense of others. Keynote speaker Heather McGhee led an investigation into common conceptions of zero sum thinking, such as “policies that support renters harm homeowners” and “affordable housing leads to declining property values.” Our daylong conversation explored the role that racism plays in these debates and the shifts needed to create something different.

Oakland Adopts SPUR Recommendations in Its General Plan Update

News /
Oakland has launched what it describes as a “once-in-a generation” opportunity to create a visionary blueprint for the city’s future. SPUR sprang to action when the city released its inaugural draft Environmental Justice Element and its draft Safety Element update as part of the city’s 2045 General Plan Update. Our efforts paid off: the city council adopted several of our recommendations, all of which will help economically vulnerable Oaklanders, in particular.

Housing the Middle

Research
A new SPUR research paper digs into the housing market’s failure to meet the needs of middle-income households. Using a national survey and three case studies of middle-income housing production programs, the paper reveals that the need for middle-income housing is growing, and it's felt nationwide — not just in expensive coastal cities. California can look to innovative programs across the country as models for how to address the state’s housing challenges

Governor Newsom Signs SPUR-Sponsored Bills Into Law

News /
The close of the 2023 state legislative year brought a number of big wins for SPUR. Governor Newsom signed nine pieces of SPUR-sponsored legislation that will, among other things, prevent the misuse of environmental review processes to stop or delay new housing, pilot speed safety cameras on streets with high crash rates, and speed up timelines for connecting all-electric buildings and EV charging stations to the power grid.

A Roadmap for Regional Good Food Purchasing

Research
The San Francisco Bay Area Local Food Purchasing Collaborative, a partnership between 12 Bay Area public institutions, is combining its purchasing power to procure food that is local, sustainable, fair, humane, and healthy. SPUR worked with the collaborative to prepare a roadmap and toolkit of resources to assist policy makers and advocates interested in approaching values-based procurement as a region.

From Workspace to Homebase

Research
Converting empty offices into apartments could both reanimate downtown San Francisco and provide housing for more people in an area rich in transit, jobs, culture, recreation, and entertainment. In a first-of-its-kind study, SPUR and ULI San Francisco, in partnership with Gensler and HR&A Advisors, explored the physical suitability of converting office buildings to housing and tested the financial feasibility of such projects. Our report lays out six policy imperatives for realizing office-to-housing conversions on a large scale.

The Benefits of Making Roads Work for Transit: Q&A with Jonathon Kass

News /
Bus riders and other road transit users often don’t get a fair shake when it comes to transportation investments. Making Roads Work for Transit , a recent SPUR report, describes the multiple challenges a typical Bay Area bus trip can entail and argues that continuing to privilege convenience for cars is jeopardizing equity and climate goals — as well as transit’s fiscal sustainability. It lays out a roadmap to greenlight transit-friendly roadway design and operations.

Can San José’s Santa Clara Street Become a Place to Be and Belong?

News /
Historically, Santa Clara Street was San José’s “main street.” Today, it is oriented toward vehicle traffic, which can make it an unpleasant, even dangerous, place. The city and its community partners are embarking on a re-envisioning of Santa Clara Street focused on people, placemaking, and programming. Could proposals to “re-enchant” the world’s most famous grand boulevard, the Champs-Élysées, be a model for this planning effort?

Making Roads Work for Transit

SPUR Report
Currently, transit delays and unreliability can make riding the bus a nonstarter for those who have other options for getting around. Growing segregation of the transit system is inequitable, unsustainable, and inefficient. Giving transit vehicles priority on Bay Area roads can deliver the speed and reliability improvements needed to get more people on buses and out of cars. SPUR offers 16 recommendations for aligning the interests of transit agencies and local jurisdictions to greenlight these improvements.