A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

New Findings on Shallow Groundwater Rise Highlight a Climate Risk Not Addressed by Policy

The Bay Area’s climate change adaptation strategies don’t reflect — and might even worsen — the impacts of coastal groundwater rise, which is expected to accelerate with sea level rise as the climate warms. New findings on groundwater rise point to multiple potential risks: degradation of underground infrastructure, movement of underground contaminants left by industrial activities, and an increase in liquefaction during earthquakes. The region’s coastal areas may need a new adaptation paradigm.

How Updating CEQA Can Keep Sustainable Transportation Projects on Track: Q&A with Laura Tolkoff

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is intended to protect people and places from the environmental impacts of new development and infrastructure. But it has not been designed to protect against a rapidly warming climate, and ironically, it has sometimes been used to block projects aimed at doing so. SPUR Transportation Policy Director Laura Tolkoff recently testified before a state committee on possible reforms to the law.

Two State Bills Aim to Shore Up the Food Safety Net

The convergence of high food prices and the end of CalFresh emergency allotments is hitting low-income Californians hard. SPUR is co-sponsoring two bills to keep struggling households from slipping through the food safety net. Both would make proven pilots into permanent benefits that reduce hunger and improve public health.

A Technological Leap Makes Expanding Healthy Food Incentive Programs Easier

California has taken a big step forward in scaling up healthy food incentive programs: CalFresh participants can now get bonus dollars from their healthy food purchases electronically credited to their benefits card. That technological leap happened because of legislation SPUR co-sponsored. Now SPUR is working to overcome the remaining challenge to enlarging healthy food incentive programs: insufficient funding.

Paving the Way to Downtown Revitalization: Three Cities San Francisco Can Learn From

San Francisco’s office vacancy rate, one of the highest in the country, has dampened the city’s liveliness and economic prospects. Other cities are tackling the resilience challenges that office-centric downtowns face by reconsidering office building uses and creating incentives for redevelopment. San Francisco can take a page from their revitalization plans.

Investing in San José's Parks and Open Spaces Creates a Virtuous Cycle

San José’s parks and open spaces are underfunded and falling into disuse. Realizing their potentially large economic and social dividends will take significant and sustainable funding mechanisms. Now more than ever, the city must study, assess, and develop long-term funding strategies with clear communication, intentionality, and creativity.

Averting a Worsening Hunger Crisis Hinges on Making Temporary Benefits Programs Permanent

Recipients of CalFresh food assistance are about to take a big hit: emergency allotments authorized during the COVID-19 pandemic are set to expire just as food costs are at historic highs. SPUR is working to make temporary food access programs permanent and has just launched a statewide project institutionalizing supplemental benefits by making them directly reimbursable to recipients’ EBT cards.

How California Can Help Transit Survive — and Thrive

Public transit is an essential service for millions of Californians, yet as one-time federal COVID-19 relief funds dry up, many transit agencies are facing a fiscal crisis. The state’s largest and most fare-dependent operators could see severe service cuts and a spiraling decline. SPUR is leading a coalition urging the state to provide necessary funding to keep buses and trains running as agencies work to transition to a sustainable business model.

The Bay Area Has Too Little Middle-Income Housing

In a new research paper, Losing Ground: What the Bay Area's Housing Crisis Means for Middle-Income Households and Racial Inequality, SPUR’s senior advisor on housing policy, Sarah Karlinsky, reveals how the high cost of housing is shaping the Bay Area in ways that erode quality of life and erase economic and racial diversity. We spoke with Sarah about the research and its implications.

Putting an End to Biased Traffic Stops in San Francisco

Black and Latinx drivers in San Francisco are pulled over more than other drivers for offenses so minor that citations are often not issued. When these “pretext” stops do result in tickets, the resulting fines can be punitive. Using data-driven decision making, San Francisco has limited nine types of pretext stops that had no effect on road safety and little effect on public safety. SPUR and dozens of other organizations, along with impacted people, helped end this unjust practice.