The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), signed by President Biden last month, is the largest ever federal investment in fighting climate change. While we as Americans should be taking a victory lap for this momentous achievement, we should not for one moment think that the investments in the IRA are alone sufficient to tackle climate change. To win this generation’s greatest fight, we will need major continued investments at the federal, state and local levels. That’s why SPUR is supporting Prop. 30, a measure which would make historic investments in fighting climate change — investments that pay off in the form of fuel cost savings and avoided premature deaths, asthma attacks and cleaner air.
Over the last 100 years, Denmark has taken structural and local policy implementation approaches to housing that have much to teach the Bay Area. We got to meet leaders in government, architecture, housing and sustainability who shared their insights and fielded our group’s many questions about how the city renewed its urban core without demolition and how it builds two types of housing that we don’t have: social housing and housing co-ops.
Bicycles and bicyclists are among the first things you notice when you arrive in Copenhagen — there’s an endless sea of bikes parked at every major train station plaza and lined up along every building. Though our region has a long way to go, Bay Area cities can take relevant lessons — and inspiration — from Copenhagen’s bicycle planning history, its pragmatic approach and its regional aspirations.
Comparing 2022 Copenhagen to the Bay Area of 2022 is like comparing apples to oranges. Aside from a few one-offs, most projects in Copenhagen would not be easily transferable to the Bay Area at scale due to foundational differences in the way our governments operate, from the national level on down. What would be more transferable would be to apply the lessons learned in the 1990s-era Copenhagen to the Bay Area in 2022.
Copenhagen has set a goal to become the world’s first carbon-neutral city by 2025. On our study trip this summer, we learned that the city’s commitment to sustainability is embedded in its long-range land use plans and goes back to the middle of the 20th century. Copenhagen’s success in realizing these plans comes from a strategic combination of investments and partnerships that have made it possible to create urban neighborhoods with mixed-income housing, transit access, bicycle lanes and green infrastructure. Together, all of these efforts contribute to the goal of a zero-carbon city.
Sometimes, decarbonizing a building isn’t all that hard, the owners are equipped to shoulder the costs, and obtaining permits is fast and straightforward. Those cases are worth examining, because the state needs early movers to build a robust market for zero-emission technology to bring costs down for others. Enter the SPUR Urban Center. Built in 2009 to LEED Silver standards, SPUR’s downtown San Francisco headquarters was designed to be a community gathering space and a symbol of the region’s sustainability values.
SPUR’s long-time board member and former development director Dave Hartley, widely admired as a committed urbanist and great friend, died on July 12. Dave had a lifetime of loving cities, history and architecture, which he manifested over decades of civic engagement. We all watched in amazement each year as Dave set higher and higher fundraising goals for himself and, each year, met and exceeded them. His positive attitude and teamwork skills made him a fine colleague who welcomed the growing SPUR staff.
SPUR is a long-time supporter of BART Phase II, which will bring BART service into downtown San José. The project gets many things right, but we think it can do more to reach its goal of making transit the first and best choice for more people and more types of trips. As VTA convenes a collaborative task force to explore and evaluate how to improve passenger experience and station access, we share our goals for BART Phase II and how we hope they can be translated into the project design.
This November, San Francisco voters will be asked to choose between two competing charter amendments to streamline the creation of new affordable and workforce housing, one co-sponsored by SPUR. On the face of it, the two ballot measures appear very similar. But the policy details included in these measures make a significant difference in the impact each would have on affordable housing production in San Francisco.
Earlier this year, the California Legislature considered a proposal aimed at making healthy food more affordable for Californians with low incomes. The proposal — introduced by Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula, co-sponsored by SPUR and Nourish California, and backed by a broad coalition — would have provided a penny-for-penny rebate for people buying California-grown fresh fruits and vegetables with their CalFresh dollars at participating retailers. Though the proposal didn’t pass this year, the momentum behind it demonstrated strong legislative interest in the idea, bipartisan support and positive response from people who see the value in expanding an existing program that reduces hunger, improves health and supports California’s agricultural economy.