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A publication of the American Planning Association, California Chapter, Northern Section

Making great communities happen

Free SPUR events through August 2022


A New Social Contract for Housing in California

Wednesday, June 29. Lunchtime Forum 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

California’s housing crisis is now decades old, but its not for lack of good ideas, good planners, or serious resources. How do we build the type of grand bargains and big coalitions needed to make change? How do we even build the political will to change our housing system? A recent book by author Alex Schafran, Where We Go From Here, explores how new approaches to the real estate economy, to homeownership and resident control, and to questions of race and geography can help us design a better housing policy in the Golden State. Join us for a provocative exploration of what a new social contract for housing in California could look like.


All-Use Buildings and the Pursuit of Equitable, Resilient Communities [In-Person Program]

Thursday, June 30. Evening Forum 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.

Buildings are typically designed for a single use: offices are offices, restaurants are restaurants and houses are houses. But what happens to any of these building types when not in use? They often lie fallow, becoming not only an inefficient use of space, but reducing the vibrancy and overall health of their surrounding communities, as well. Mixed-use buildings, which combine multiple complementary uses under one roof, are one solution to this challenge, but is there a way to take the concept even further and move to the idea of rotational uses? Could we design proactively so as to reduce commercial vacancies, lower housing costs, improve inclusion and address the impacts of climate change? Proponents of “all-use buildings” argue that it’s possible, and that designing for ultimate flexibility of use is critical if we want to build truly sustainable, equitable, elastic and economically strong communities. Come learn more about these radically innovative buildings and how they might serve as the foundation of tomorrow’s neighborhoods.


A Conversation with Senator Nancy Skinner [In-Person Program]

Thursday, July 14. Evening Forum 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.

Elected to the California State Senate in 2016, following three terms in the California State Assembly, Senator Nancy Skinner is a social justice and climate change advocate and leader in the legislature. She currently chairs the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee and is vice chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus. In her six years in the senate, she’s authored and successfully passed landmark legislation that has tackled housing affordability, criminal justice reform, income inequality and far more. Join us for a one-on-one conversation with the senator to learn more about what she plans to accomplish this year and her outlook for both the state budget and the current legislative session.


How Zoning Broke the American City and How to Fix It [In-Person Program]

Tuesday, July 19. Lunchtime Forum 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

What if scrapping one flawed policy could bring U.S. cities closer to addressing debilitating housing shortages, stunted growth and innovation, persistent racial and economic segregation and car-dependent development? Zoning maps across the country have come to arbitrarily dictate where Americans may live and work, forcing cities into a pattern of growth that is segregated and sprawling. The new book, Arbitrary Lines: How Zoning Broke the American City and How to Fix It, argues that it’s time for America to move beyond zoning as a necessary — if not sufficient — condition for building more affordable, vibrant, equitable and sustainable cities. Hear from the author as he lays the groundwork for this ambitious motion by clearing up common confusions and myths about how American cities regulate growth and examining the major contemporary critiques of zoning.


The Future of Rail in the Bay Area

Wednesday, July 27. Lunchtime Forum 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

Transportation leaders throughout the San Francisco Bay Area are looking to invest in other modes of transportation, as well as deliver more efficient transportation design, scope and infrastructure. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has been diligently working on a study that examines how rail agencies throughout the region can work collaboratively on larger rail projects and operations. Join us as we discuss the findings from this new Regional Rail Study with Metropolitan Transportation Commission staff and other transportation partners throughout the region, and learn what these findings mean for the future of rail transportation in the San Francisco Bay Area.


Al Fresco, All the Time?

Tuesday, August 9. Evening Forum 5:00 to 6:00 p.m.

Proposed and implemented in 2020 as a way to offer relief to struggling businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, San José Al Fresco — the city’s program to close streets, parking lots and private property for use by diners and shoppers — has led to vibrant streets and economic recovery. Though the program was unanimously extended last year, its applicability in public spaces, such as streets and sidewalks, is scheduled to sunset this June. What does the future hold for outdoor dining and commerce in San José? Join us as we discuss the program’s successes and challenges in downtown, as well as across the city, and learn how best practices in shared spaces and slow streets programs can lead to permanent Al Fresco adoption in San José.


Answering the Call to Build Equitable Housing

Thursday, August 11. Evening Forum 5:00 to 6:00 p.m.

Come participate in a multi-part series that will examine the lasting impacts of property ownership on families, neighborhoods and cities and probe its relationship to intergenerational wealth, exclusionary housing and recently-passed legislation that strives to address inequities of the past and present. In this first program, Joaquin Torres, San Francisco’s Assessor-Recorder, will lead a discussion about the myriad tools once used to enable exclusionary practices, from redlining to racist covenants, and how less overt, but equally malicious, transcriptions continue to persist today, such as under-appraisals for property owners of color. Hear from housing justice advocates, researchers, lawmakers and journalists that are taking action to actuate equity in housing and build stronger communities across the country.


How to Build Middle-Income Homes in California

Tuesday, August 16. Lunchtime Forum 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

Nowhere in California are middle-income households safe from rapidly increasing housing costs, and policymakers and experts from Yreka to San Diego are looking at a variety of ways to address and reduce the incredible burden placed on these families. A new paper from the Terner Center for Housing Innovation, The Landscape of Middle-Income Housing Affordability in California, spotlights specific policy opportunities for officials at the state and local levels and identifies how to support the construction of middle-income housing by changing land use policies, building codes and regulations. Take part in an in-depth discussion with the authors of the report to explore what California must do in order to build homes for middle-income families across the state.


How Bay Area Cities are Guiding the Region’s Housing Growth

Thursday, August 18. Lunchtime Forum 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

San Francisco, Oakland and San José are all in the middle of updating their housing elements, a state-mandated, critically-important component of a municipality’s General Plan that helps guide local growth and meet the housing needs of everyone in their community. However, the housing element process is never straightforward, requiring the incorporation of Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) quotas, numerous iterations and significant public outreach before the final draft can be submitted to the California Department of Housing and Community Development. Come hear from all three cities as they discuss their respective processes, the challenges they’ve encountered, how each plans to accommodate their RHNA allocations and how their elements can build upon each other to improve the future of housing in the Bay Area.


Life in the (Not So) Fast Lane

Wednesday, August 31. Evening Forum 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

The Bay Area has a lot of carpool lanes. These lanes are supposed to prioritize high-occupancy vehicles, encouraging more people to carpool. Too often, however, carpool lanes are just as congested as the regular travel lanes that they run adjacent to, rarely guaranteeing expedience. One of the biggest challenges to efficiency in these lanes is the difficulty of enforcement: not only is it dangerous, accurately discerning vehicle occupancy is problematic when faced with tinted windows, nighttime conditions, small children, large dogs or anything else that one might imagine would be an obstacle to error-free headcounts. Thankfully, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) is piloting promising new enforcement technologies that dispense with the hazards and subterfuge. Come learn about these “vehicle occupancy detection” pilot programs, their advantages, the concerns about their adoption and what it will take to make our carpool lanes actually work.

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