SPUR Research

In-depth reports, white papers and policy recommendations

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Rewilding the Guadalupe River in San José

Balancing natural ecology in a rapidly changing urban environment

Guadalupe River Park is San José’s largest urban green space and the physical spine of downtown, but underinvestment and misuse have caused the park’s safety and natural habitat to deteriorate. While discussions about how to reimagine the park have accelerated over the last two years, there has been little talk about the river itself. This report identifies strategies for protecting the Guadalupe River and transforming it into a place that supports natural ecology, improves the human experience and public health of residents, and improves the overall environmental performance of downtown San José.
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How Much Does It Cost to Permit a House?

An analysis of city and county compliance with California AB 1483 and recommendations to improve the transparency of development fees

California is in the midst of an enduring housing affordability crisis that is rooted in a lack of housing supply and perpetuated by the high costs of development. This brief focuses on one obstacle in the development process that can contribute to these steep costs and hamper overall housing production: the lack of transparency around development fees and requirements at the local level.
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The Bigger Picture: Ten Ideas for Equitable Transportation in Oakland

Leveraging the next generation of transportation investment to better serve and connect Oakland

Many Bay Area freeways and rail lines were designed without regard for their impact on local communities. SPUR and AECOM look at how key regional transportation infrastructure currently intersects in Oakland — and how it might do so differently in the future. The next generation of transportation investments and policy could rectify past planning injustices to facilitate a healthy, climate resilient and equitable Oakland.
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More Harm Than Good

Building a more just fine and fee system in California

California’s system of fines and fees is causing significant financial harm to low-income, Black, and Latinx communities in the San Francisco Bay Area — which runs counter to the region’s commitment to an equitable economic recovery. To address these challenges, California should eliminate its reliance on punitive fees and introduce more effective ways to promote behavior that supports safety and the greater social good.
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A Civic Vision for Growth

Principles for creating an equitable and sustainable region

The Bay Area is a place of incredible possibility, but it faces threats from some of the highest housing costs in the country, growing income inequality, long commutes between jobs and affordable homes, and increasing danger from climate change. If we continue with business as usual, the region can expect these challenges to continue to escalate. But what if the people of the Bay Area chose a different future?
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SPUR 2021 Annual Report

Our 2021 Annual Report reflects on a trying year and how we rose to the challenge. SPUR sought solutions that focused on the essential elements of place: housing, transportation and the environment. We also staked out new ground, initiating a policy practice in economic justice. While we rolled up our sleeves to respond to the immediate crisis, we also homed in what it will take for the Bay Area’s cities and towns to thrive in the future.
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Housing the Region

A 50-year vision to solve the Bay Area’s affordability crisis

Imagine a Bay Area where our greatest challenge, the scarcity and expense of housing, has been solved. This may sound like an impossible dream, but it isn’t. Within the next 50 years, we can live in an affordable region. But only if we make significant changes, starting right now. SPUR's series Housing the Region defines the Bay Area's housing crisis and put forth concrete steps to build a better, more affordable region.
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Rooted and Growing

SPUR’s anti-displacement agenda for the Bay Area

The Bay Area's severe housing shortage has sent prices through the roof, pushing many long-standing residents to move to the edge of the region or leave it altogether. This has changed the demographics of the region, contributing to patterns of resegregation by both race and income. What can the Bay Area do to make sure it retains its people, its communities and its culture?
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Meeting the Need

The Path to 2.2 million new homes in the Bay Area by 2070

In order to meet the region’s future housing needs, the San Francisco Bay Area will need to produce 2.2 million homes over the next 50 years across all income levels. Where should all of this housing go? And what policies are needed to ensure it can be built? To answer these questions, SPUR has developed a “New Civic Vision” for the Bay Area that balances two core goals: environmental sustainability and equity.
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Housing as Infrastructure

Creating a Bay Area housing delivery system that works for everyone

In the United States, housing is viewed as a financial asset — something to be bought, rented and sold. In other countries, housing is a human right, necessary for the health and well-being of every person. In these places, housing is affordable to a broad swath of the population, and homelessness is less prevalent. If we began to treat housing as infrastructure, what might the results look like in the Bay Area?
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What It Will Really Take to Create an Affordable Bay Area

How much housing does the region need to build to prevent income inequality from getting worse?

The high cost of housing has come to define the San Francisco Bay Area. It dictates who gets to live here, which in turn dictates who gets to participate in the region’s economy and political process. This report, the first in a series, looks at why housing prices have escalated so dramatically, what the impacts of those escalating costs have been on residents and who has borne the brunt of those impacts.
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The Bigger Picture: Five Ideas for Transforming the San Francisco Waterfront

SPUR’s Bigger Picture series proposes ideas for key locations in San Francisco, San José and Oakland. Each exploration represents an opportunity to tackle major regional challenges through local planning processes. Our second report in the series looks at San Francisco’s waterfront, where climate-protection plans are providing an opportunity to restore the natural ecology and improve access to the waterfront — especially for historically excluded neighborhoods.
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Keeping the Water On

Addressing rising water-bill debt during the COVID-19 economic crisis

Due to COVID-19, Governor Newsom has issued a moratorium on shutting off water service when people can’t pay their bills. But eventually, customers who have fallen behind will face either paying a large lump sum or losing water service. SPUR proposes a combination of solutions that can prevent shutoffs for vulnerable families while preserving the financial health of water agencies.
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The Bigger Picture: Seven Ideas for Downtown San José

Making the most of big plans for new development, a major rail expansion and a project to re-envision public green space

SPUR’s Bigger Picture series proposes ideas for key locations in San Francisco, San José and Oakland. Each provides an opportunity to tackle major regional challenges through local planning processes. Our first report looks at the western side of downtown San José, where a major rail station expansion, a park re-envisioning process and a record number of proposed developments are signaling big changes for the neighborhood.
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The Bigger Picture

Bold ideas for San Francisco, San José and Oakland

SPUR’s Bigger Picture series proposes ideas for key locations in San Francisco, San José and Oakland. Each exploration represents an opportunity to tackle major regional challenges through local planning processes. And, conversely, each suggests how big investments in infrastructure can — if planned carefully — bring about positive transformation for the immediate neighborhood.
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The Economic Contributions of Expanding Healthy Food Incentives

Broad expansions of healthy food incentives would provide powerful economic benefits – for families, grocers, and farmers, as well as more broadly among the state economies where incentive programs are expanded. The findings in this study demonstrate that state and federal policymakers would be wise to double down on their support for these programs.
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Ladders Out of Poverty

The potential for unrestricted cash transfers in the Bay Area

Tens of thousands of households in the Bay Area struggle to pay their bills each month, a situation only worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. The region should look to the promise of unrestricted cash transfer programs, which give people money with no specific requirements on how it is spent. SPUR looks at the successes of existing programs and offers five possible options to consider.
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Coexistence in Public Space

Engagement tools for creating shared spaces in places with homelessness

As more and more Bay Area residents find themselves without homes, many have defaulted to living in public parks, plazas and squares. For other users of these spaces, the presence of unhoused residents renders them unwelcoming or even unsafe. How might we design and manage public space for coexistence, so that people of all backgrounds can find joy, belonging and safety there?
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Freeways of the Future

Delivering a fast and reliable regional bus network on existing freeway lanes

Imagine a fast, reliable and coordinated regional express bus network operating on a system of freeway express lanes connecting transportation hubs throughout the Bay Area and beyond. SPUR recommends six broad actions to support the development and implementation of a coordinated regional express bus vision through institutional reforms, infrastructure coordination and policies to convert existing freeways into a central part of the region’s equity solutions.
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