One of the Bay Area’s most effective urban instigators, SPUR (San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association) is opening an office in San Jose. The move came about for a few reasons, says the group. First, San Francisco has a declining share of the region’s population, so it makes sense to branch out. And second, most planning decisions are made locally, so SPUR needs to establish footholds in the area’s major cities.
The new branch office was made possible by a successful $1 million fundraising campaign that will fund operations over the next three years. Leah Toeniskoetter will head up the new office and brings a background in real estate and economic development and finance.
“San Jose wants to be walkable, it wants more transit-oriented development and sustainability,” SPUR Director Gabriel Metcalf told the San Francisco Business Times. “In many ways, San Jose’s challenge is America’s challenge.” A move to Oakland could be next on SPUR’s agenda.
Missing Parklet. Who would steal a parklet? The Oakland Local spotted a worried Facebook page for Actual Cafe whose parklet, pictured above, disappeared last week. San Francisco is the city that invented the parklet concept–transforming parking spaces into extensions of the sidewalk–and we hear they’re quite popular, so what gives? The cafe has security footage of the early-morning incident.
Celebrating CityGarden. St. Louis’ much acclaimed urban sculpture park, CityGarden, has been awarded ULI’s 2011 Amanda Burden Open Space Award, named for NYC’s Planning Commissioner who sat on the selection jury. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said the garden topped projects in Portland, OR and Houston to claim the $10,000 prize.
Chatham Scratched. DNA reports that plans to transform Chinatown’s Chatham Square at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge have been put on hold. The $30 million project would have reconfigured the busy confluence of seven streets to improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety, but with other construction projects already clogging the area, the city didn’t want to make matters worse. Funds will be used for other Lower Manhattan projects instead.
Directing Traffic. Robert Puentes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, has penned a feature-length article on the future of transportation for the Wall Street Journal. In recounting the good, the bad, and the ugly of transportation policy, Puentes calls for innovation and sustainability along with increased access to boost the economy.
She still hasn’t commented on WHY she left the LA Community Redevelopment Agency (we’ve called a bunch of times…) for Oakland-based non-profit Green For All. But Cecilia Estolano did give an exit interview to the Planning Report. Here’s an excerpt. In it she discusses her changes and achievements at the CRA, including shifting the focus from “blight elimination and building shopping centers” to “creating economic opportunity.” She also takes one more shot at the state government and its “fundamentally broken finance system,” which has recently pilfered much of the CRA’s funds. Finally she makes comments about her new job that suggest it may be a much more efficient place for her to change lives of struggling city dwellers: “I’m going to help Green For All across the country, city by city by city, to utilize economic stimulus funds, federal funds, and other funds to implement organization programs, energy efficiency programs, and incorporate job training and career apprenticeship programs for poor folks.” Sounds like a pretty good gig…