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The Super-Dry but Important Urban Planning Report You Should Be Reading

Scott Lucas | March 12, 2014 | Story Politics

Urbanist think tank SPUR—which has the ear of Mayor Ed Lee and the media on planning issues—just released an ambitious blueprint for how to manage the Bay Area's economic growth, housing needs, and environmental impact. And while it's a bit dry, it's well worth paying attention to.

As Jonah Owen Lamb wrote in the Examiner, "the plan advocates economically centralized cities with dense infill development, robust public transportation, lively and affordable neighborhoods, and a light environmental footprint." Depending on whom you listen to, ideas like these are either the future of urban sustainability or a swift means of ushering in widespread gentrification. Either way, it's worth paying attention.

The report gives more detail on what the organization's head, Gabriel Metcalf, recently told us was its goal to "invent a form of city life that is better than cities have ever been." That's a tall order, but there are several intriguing ideas being proposed.

SPUR wants the Bay Are to concentrate its growth within existing urban cores, like San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland. Some of the organization's ideas for how to get there are non-controversial, like increasing urban agriculture or the supply of wind- and solar-generate power. Others seem difficult to enact. For instance, they call for cities to share tax revenue with each other. It's hard to imagine a city like Emeryville or Piedmont backing that.

And there are plenty of recommendations to chew on in the report, including calls to build more housing at all economic levels, bus rapid transit and bus-only lanes, high-speed rail, and to make civic data more accessible. SPUR has several ideas for reducing the amount of car use, like changing parking space requirements for new development from a minimum threshold to a maximum, instituting congestion pricing for parking, and locating new business and housing developments as close as possible to mass transit stations.

The whole thing is worth checking out.

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