Rose Fellows Share Strategies at San Francisco’s SPUR

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The Daniel Rose Fellows begin day two of this year’s Study Tour at SPUR, a San Francisco-based organization that supports the Bay Area’s planning needs.

Sarah Karlinsky, the organization’s deputy director, describes a unique combination of advocacy with rigorous policy analysis, a “special sauce” that her organization offers.

As a result, “people listen to us,” she says.

Executive Director Gabe Metcalf discusses the organization’s work on a variety of issues ranging from transportation equity to seismic resiliency and fresh water access.

“My theory of social change is very opportunistic,” Metcalf says. “We’re a think tank so we spend all this time figuring out what to do. But we have to respond … when a window of opportunity opens up.”

SPUR staff also invites the Rose Fellows to share experiences from their own cities. “San Francisco and Oakland are mostly unaffordable and Oakland will soon face similar challenges,” laments Tomiquia Moss, SPUR’s community planning policy director. “What are you doing creatively to address these issues?” she asked.

“We  also have a huge problem with affordable housing. Everybody wants to live within two miles of downtown and everybody else is getting kicked out,” agrees Susan Anderson, director of planning and sustainability for Portland, Ore. “We’re not allowed to have inclusionary zoning … we need non-regulatory solutions.”

Fellows are also exploring the changing nature of urban planning.

“I’m faced with planning for a city of almost a million people, 372 square miles sq miles with only five long-range planners,” begins Brad Beaubien, planning administrator for Indianapolis and Marion County, Ind., “So the question I’m looking at is, how do you plan cities without centralized planning anymore?”

Noting that planning is increasingly outsourced to consultants with the “intellectual capacity” to tackle complex projects, Beaubien speculates as to whether organizations like SPUR will begin to play a larger role throughout the United States.

“It’s really interesting that they can do both the research, and the advocacy — and live to tell the tale,” says Reid Dulberger, chief economic development officer for Memphis and Shelby County, Tenn.

“If we even say the ‘planning’ word, there’s massive pushback,” agrees Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Maura Sullivan, also of Memphis.

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