A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

Why San José Should Make Guadalupe River Park a Focal Point of Its Downtown Economic Development

Well-designed, well-maintained, and well-programmed parks and open spaces are important components of cities’ equitable economic development strategies thanks to their social, environmental, and community-building benefits. Revitalizing Guadalupe River Park and Gardens could help San José achieve its goals as it pursues economic development downtown. Along with SPUR research, responses to a SPUR survey in an online exhibition suggest how stakeholders can positively re-shape the spatial dynamic between community and ecology as well as center equity and inclusion in the park’s reactivation.

Earthquake Resilience Planning Means Bringing the Needs of the Most Vulnerable into Focus

Historical inequities have left many low-income communities of color and other vulnerable populations without access to the resources they need to adapt in the face of a major earthquake in the Bay Area. In addition, many of the region’s vulnerable residents live in high liquefaction zones and aging apartment buildings that do not meet seismic codes. Building retrofits are only part of the solution, as a look at Oakland’s earthquake resilience challenges reveals. If the Bay Area wants to substantially reduce post-earthquake impacts on the region’s most at-risk residents, policy makers must plan for equity-centered mitigation and recovery efforts. SPUR is on the case.

How Are Oakland and San Francisco Spending Their Soda Tax Revenues?

Each year SPUR tracks how Oakland and San Francisco allocate the revenues from soda taxes, which are meant to reduce the harms of soda consumption. Specifically, we’ve looked at how well each city’s budget reflects equity-focused recommendations aimed at keeping the spending aligned with the taxes’ stated purpose. This year, we added a new dimension to our analysis by asking whether the two taxes reflect key principles of good government. We found that their implementation could be more transparent and efficient.

2022 Election Delivers Mixed Results for SPUR Priorities

SPUR developed several ballot measures during the latest election cycle, and its research heavily influenced a handful of others. Bay Area voters considered measures on streamlining housing approvals, continuing pandemic-era slow streets programs, enacting good government reforms and funding programs to address air quality and climate change. While we didn’t win ’em all, we’re pleased to see a number of SPUR’s ideas gaining traction around the region.

Flexible Work Has Reshaped Downtown San Francisco. How Will the City Embrace the New Normal?

Flexible work has decreased the economic activity of downtown San Francisco — and the revenues that pay for public goods and services. Economic recovery will require city leaders to grapple with workplace changes that are likely to endure. But a return to a pre-pandemic downtown is neither realistic nor desirable, given long-standing challenges such as traffic congestion and homelessness. Can downtown build a better “new normal” and forge a reinvention that advances shared prosperity? SPUR is exploring these questions in partnership with civic leaders, local government and the community.

Survey Says Residents Are Lukewarm on San José

In partnership with San José State University and with funding from the Knight Foundation, we put forth a series of questions to city residents and SJSU students, faculty and staff. The survey results showed that San José residents are less satisfied with their city compared to residents of other cities across the country. Results like this are a reminder of why SPUR exists, and why our work to advance solutions for a better San José — including affordable housing, high-quality transit and improved access to economic opportunities for all residents — are so important.

Why Food Insecurity Is Still High in California — and What the State Can Do About It

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment and food insecurity greatly increased in California, and enrollment in CalFresh — the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — went up significantly. As need has significantly increased, especially for Black and brown Californians, too many of the state’s residents still don’t have enough to eat. This article looks at ideas to help eliminate hunger in California, including automatic enrollment, targeted outreach, state administration of CalFresh, permanently streamlining enrollment and expanding pilot programs that help low-income Californians afford more fresh foods.

Oakland’s Measure X Puts Forth SPUR Ideas for Government Reform

On November 8, Oakland residents will vote on a proposal for city government charter reforms. Measure X will create term limits for City Council members, clarify campaigning protocols for current elected officials and strengthen the role of the city auditor to increase accountability across the city. The measure was authored by Councilmember Dan Kalb, who has said that Measure X is a direct outcome of SPUR’s report Making Government Work, which proposed 10 ways to improve Oakland city governance. While Measure X does not include all of SPUR’s recommendations, it moves the needle on improving governance in the City of Oakland.

SPUR’s Work Inspires Bridge Toll Reform Law, but There’s More to Be Done

Last month Governor Newsom signed AB 2594, a bill sponsored by Assemblymember Phil Ting that reforms the way California agencies handle bridge and road tolls. Inspired by SPUR’s report Bridging the Gap, AB 2594 helps modernize the toll system and reduce the harms caused by fines and fees for missing a toll payment. AB 2594 is an important first step in reforming inequitable tolling practices across California, but there’s still more work to be done.

Three Ways San Francisco, San José and Oakland Can Meet Their Housing Needs

One of the critical steps in addressing California’s housing crisis is making sure that cities build enough housing to meet the needs of everyone in the community. That’s why the state requires every California city to update the housing element section of its general plan every eight years. The latest cycle is underway, and SPUR has been tracking the housing elements in San Francisco, San José and Oakland. Here’s how much housing the cities will be expected to build in the next cycle and three ideas for how they can get there.