SPUR Research

In-depth reports, white papers and policy recommendations

Advanced Publications Search

The High Cost of Traffic Stops

An analysis of traffic stops in seven jurisdictions across California

California has some of the most expensive traffic citations in the country, with California drivers paying billions of dollars in fines and fees every year. The high cost of these citations puts a significant burden on lower income people, as they are less able to pay the hundreds or thousands of dollars in unexpected expenses that can arise from a traffic stop. In order to understand the impact of traffic stops and citations on people in California, SPUR analyzed traffic stop data in seven locations across the state.
Read the report

Gas Appliances and Smog: California's Hidden Air Pollution Problem

How state and regional air agencies can end appliance pollution in California with zero emissions standards and complimentary policies

Gas appliances in California homes and buildings generate four times as much lung-damaging nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution as the state's gas power plants, and roughly two thirds as much NOx as all of the state’s passenger cars. To meet federal air quality standards that protect health, air quality regulators in California must phase out the sale of gas appliances and implement equity-centered implementation plans for transitioning homes to electric alternatives like heat pumps – which produce no onsite air pollution.
Read the report

The State of Good Food Purchasing in 2022

What’s working and what isn’t in public food purchasing

Bay Area schools, jails and hospitals are working to align their spending with the five core values of the Good Food Purchasing Program, procuring food that is local, sustainable, fair, humane and healthy. SPUR and The Center for Good Food Purchasing identify seven strategies to support institutions in aligning supply and demand to build a more resilient, sustainable and equitable regional food system and share a regional data dashboard to track progress.
Read the report

The ABCs of JPAs

California’s new tool for creating middle-income housing

With housing prices out of reach for many, California is facing the need to find new ways to create housing affordable to middle-income households. A promising new model — joint powers authority (JPA) owned middle-income housing — uses tax incentives to close the gap between development costs and affordable rents. This brief by SPUR and the Terner Center for Housing Innovation explains how the JPA model works, how it’s being used and how to ensure that it delivers meaningful public benefits.
Read the report

Setting California’s Clean Appliance Timeline

Why we need to transition to zero-emission home appliances much sooner than we think

California has set out to be carbon-neutral by 2045. To help meet this goal, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has proposed deadlines for ending the sale of gas furnaces, boilers and water heaters — but are they soon enough? SPUR’s research found that the proposed dates would transition roughly 90% of households to electric appliances by 2045. But to fully meet its climate goals, California will need to pair new sales standards with substantial incentives.
Read the report

Watershed Moments

Case studies in water management for California's changing climate

Climate scientists predict that California will experience longer, more frequent droughts as the climate warms. How can the Bay Area better manage the limited water it has? SPUR, Greenbelt Alliance and Pacific Institute teamed up to highlight six Northern California leaders who are pioneering more sustainable approaches to water use.
Read the report

Accelerating Sustainable Transportation in California

An analysis of Senate Bill 288 and recommendations to extend and improve the law

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate pollution, California will need to build out the infrastructure to make walking, biking and riding transit the default ways to get around. Senate Bill 288, which expires this year, makes it faster to build commonsense sustainable transportation projects. SPUR recommends that the state extend and improve the law by passing SB 922. This brief provides background on SB 288 and describes the impact of the law, including case studies on projects built since it was passed.
Read the report

The Bay Area Parking Census

How much parking the region has, why it’s too much and what to do about it

For decades, parking in the Bay Area has been both ubiquitous and uncounted. Now SPUR and the Mineta Transportation Institute have produced the San Francisco Bay Area Parking Census, the most detailed assessment of parking infrastructure ever produced for the region. The census helps fill data gaps about parking to inform policy reforms and will help policymakers make better decisions for the future of Bay Area cities.
Read the report

Burdens and Benefits

Investigating Prop. 13’s unequal impacts in Oakland

California’s Proposition 13 is one of the most studied property taxes in the country, but how does it affect the lives of residents in Bay Area cities? SPUR’s research brief Burdens and Benefits explores how the law impacts homeowners in Oakland, with a look at who receives the largest benefits from the state’s unique property tax law and who shoulders the burdens from its constraints on revenues.
Read the report

Temporary to Transformative

Leveraging San Francisco’s pandemic programs to usher in a new era for the city’s streets

During the COVID-19 pandemic, cities across the country piloted shared public spaces and slow streets. In a matter of weeks, these temporary changes transformed city streets in ways that would otherwise have taken years. The crisis injected the planning process with a sense of urgency and a willingness to experiment. How can San Francisco and other cities make these changes permanent? SPUR's new report captures lessons learned and offers 18 recommendations for how to build on what's been started.
Read the report

Making Government Work

10 ways city governance can adapt to meet the needs of Oaklanders

Many of the challenges Oakland faces are worsened by its unusual government structure, which makes it harder for the mayor, city council and other officials to do their jobs well. SPUR’s latest report diagnoses the problem and offers 10 recommendations for how the city can adapt its governance structure to better serve Oaklanders.
Read the report

Bridging the Gap

Addressing the inequitable impacts of bridge toll fines and fees on Bay Area drivers

The Bay Area’s current system for collecting unpaid bridge tolls hurts hundreds of thousands of people across the region. This system disproportionately harms lower-income and working people by relying on punitive tools like fines, fees and car registration holds to promote toll payment. SPUR recommends steps to reduce the harms caused by the unpaid tolls system and begin to move toward an equitable tolling system.
Read the report

Integrating Food Into Healthcare

A landscape analysis of medically supportive food and nutrition interventions in California

California is in the midst of overhauling its Medicaid program to better serve the 12 million low-income residents who rely on it for health care. This report explores the state’s capacity to provide one key aspect of the plan: medically supportive food and nutrition interventions such as food pharmacies, produce prescriptions, healthy groceries and medically tailored meals designed to prevent, reverse and treat chronic health conditions.
Read the report

Water for a Growing Bay Area

How the region can grow without increasing water demand

The Bay Area is projected to add 2 million jobs and as many as 6.8 million people in the next 50 years. But can we add more jobs and build more housing without using more water? New research from SPUR and the Pacific Institute says yes. We can use the same amount of water — or even less — if we invest in efficiency measures, pursue compact land use and commit to better mechanisms to share water regionally.
Read the report

Guadalupe River Park: A Shared Future in Downtown San José

Economic analysis, equitable reinvestment and governance opportunities

As downtown San José expands to the west, Guadalupe River Park is poised to become the center of downtown, and its health will become fundamental to the city’s success. Renewed support, enhanced stewardship and a sustainable funding stream will be needed to realize the park’s potential, so that this vital public space can become safer, cleaner and better used by all members of the community.
Read the report

The Bigger Picture: Nine Ideas for a Connected San Francisco

How better transportation can link San Francisco neighborhoods to each other and the region

Today San Francisco’s regional transit connections focus primarily on bringing commuters from the rest of the Bay Area into downtown. Many neighborhoods have poor access to regional transit service — and to each other. The fourth report in our Bigger Picture series proposes coordinated investments in San Francisco transportation that, together, could dramatically improve transportation access and connections to the region.
Read the report

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.
Read the report

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.
Read the report

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.
Read the report

A No-Cost Rooftop Solar Stimulus

How streamlining residential solar installations can jumpstart a green economic recovery

When cities emerge from the COVID-19 emergency and start to organize around economic recovery, California and the Bay Area should look to significantly expand employment in the solar industry. While there’s little money in state and local budgets to support this job expansion, state and local governments can provide a no-cost solar stimulus by streamlining the stack of codes and requirements that delay solar installations and drive up costs.
Read the report