A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

Op-Ed: Fake Environmental Reviews are Killing Good Housing Projects. Here’s What California Can Do About it.

California needs a lot more housing in its temperate cities. Enough to bring down rents, to house the homeless and to accommodate the climate refugees of the future — people who will have been driven from their homes by wildfire, flooding or intolerable heat. This means neighborhoods have to change, too. Not drastically or overnight, but persistently: more duplexes and fourplex intermixed with single-family homes, more apartments in commercial corridors and larger buildings in high-demand locations near transit.

Taking a Big Step Toward a More Coordinated Transit Network in the Bay Area

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Bay Area transit agencies are on the cusp of establishing the region’s first network manager. What does this development mean for regional transit and what happens next? SPUR has three ideas for getting the new organization off to a good start.

What It Will Take to Make the Howard Terminal Ballpark Project a Home Run for Oakland

The Howard Terminal Ballpark Project represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the City of Oakland. In addition to keeping the A’s from moving, it could help the city realize benefits ranging from well-paying jobs and affordable housing to infrastructure and environmental improvements. But if not well-managed, the project could displace residents in adjacent West Oakland and Chinatown and create congestion, safety risks, and potential disruptions for the Port of Oakland. SPUR is advocating for ways to ensure the project reaches its potential.

To Learn and Serve: An Exit Interview With Departing MTC Director Therese McMillan

At the end of January, Therese McMillan, the executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments, will retire after a three-decade career in transportation planning. SPUR President and CEO Alicia John-Baptiste spoke with her about how the agencies have evolved over time, what she learned working at the federal level, and how she grew into her role as a leader in transportation equity.

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.