San Francisco is a place of fog-shrouded icons like the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars and the supposedly escape-proof Alcatraz.

At less than 130 km2, San Francisco is a small city with a lot going on. It has intriguing neighbourhoods, views of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay at every turn, and world-class performing arts, dining and cultural attractions.

San Francisco has been a magnet for smart, creative and mostly young people who want to be part of its burgeoning tech industry. Through the technologies and products created there, San Francisco is changing the world. The growth is spilling into other sectors of its economy.

This rapid growth has been accompanied by social and infrastructure problems too. The booming economy has increased the demand for accommodation and because house building is occurring at a slow rate the prices have skyrocketed. San Francisco is one of the most prosperous cities in the world but equally has a large homeless population.

Not only earthquake prone, San Francisco is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change. A large swath of the city will become susceptible to flooding as climate change pushes sea levels higher while subsidence causes land levels, especially in expansive landfill areas, to drop.

The city is facing these challenges head on. Today, San Francisco is planning for many big and bold infrastructure projects that range from creating new rail connections and seawalls to eliminating existing highways and reinstating tidal marsh lands as a buffer against the extremes of sea-level rise.

Through the California gold rush, 1906 earthquake and ensuing fire, and dot-com boom and bust, San Francisco has been a city of constant reinvention. Its ability to attract leading companies, top talent and extensive investment is a sign that the city will continue to be hugely influential in the future.

PLACES

Score: 7.2/10
HOUSING

HOUSING

Score: 6.0/10

The San Francisco General Plan has a Housing Element that analyzes demographic and housing data for the city, and outlines goals and the policies to achieve them. The goals are to:

  • Prioritize permanently affordable housing
  • Recognize and preserve neighbourhood character
  • Integrate planning for housing, jobs, transportation and infrastructure
  • Cultivate a city as a sustainable model of development.

To meet these goals the city has produced area plans that are being implemented in prioritized areas. Thirteen areas have already adopted these plans; five more have yet to do so.

Many components of the plan are already addressed by existing policies. Some priorities such as integrating public health and housing planning are waiting for techniques to be implemented. Other priorities such as community participation in plans and consideration of in-law units are recognized in the plan, but policies have not been formulated to address them. In the Housing Element, a wide range of problems are recognized, but funding remains an issue.

PUBLIC REALM

PUBLIC REALM

Score: 7.3/10

The streetscape is addressed directly in the Urban Design Element and Recreation and Open Space Element of the General Plan. The Urban Design element recognizes the city’s Better Street Plan’s ability to improve the many functions of streets and has incorporated it into the General Plan. The demands of street hierarchy, landscaping, lighting and recreation are recognized. Although some policies are recommended, funding and execution are yet to come.

In the Recreation and Open Space Element, the report details programs that have been carried out, including Living Streets pilots, the Street Park Program and Better Streets Plan. There are also numerous priorities the city wants to focus on. Apart from the streetscape, the Recreation and Open Space Element addresses open space in an array of best practices, some of which have programs in place, and others which are funded. Notable priorities include: supporting urban agriculture, preserving sunlight in open spaces, providing pertinent and appropriate programming in differing communities, supporting civic serving spaces and expanding privately owned public space requirements.

These priorities have varying levels of programs and structures in place to maintain them. Policy 2.6 is particularly concerned with public squares and gathering places, recognizing that in San Francisco protests and assemblies are commonplace, and the city’s maintenance of these spaces for regular and special uses is important. The plan outlines the campaigns in place to support this work.

San Francisco manages waterfront and riparian zones on each side of the city. It focuses on the Blue Greenway, addresses piers and wharves, and encourages interconnection of coastal green space. The plan sees biodiversity and ecological health as a priority because the city is losing habitat and the species that live there. Restoration projects are already under way in many cases. Public use of sites in private ownership may be possible in certain cases.

URBAN GREEN SPACE

URBAN GREEN SPACE

Score: 6.7/10
The General Plan points out the need to further connect parks and open spaces, especially along marine corridors and in neighbourhoods with fewer resources. Within the Urban Design Element street landscaping is also addressed, indicating the relative importance of streets, and is encouraged in public and private areas. SOCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE

SOCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE

Score: 8.0/10

The city’s Planning Department outlines the need to support the Unified School District (USD) and Community College District, although it doesn’t have its own education planning beyond the goals of encouraging recreation, education and civic activities in neighbourhoods and communities. With the USD, there are clearly defined and up-to-date goals for achievement, access and equity, and accountability. The report has an accessible executive summary that outlines how much is allocated to each goal.

The Planning Department prioritizes a section on public health centers for educational and preventative services. The plan outlines the principles of geographic diversity, access and convenience, and the pairing with schools and community centers. It defers to the Public Health Department for details, which has a thorough list of plans including Hospital Institutional Master Plan, Zuckerberg General Hospital Annual Report, Community Health Improvement Plan, Health Care Access Plan, Prevention Strategic Plan and Department of Public Health Annual Report.

The General Plan sees childcare as an objective of neighbourhood public services that needs to be linked with other services, and is attuned to the financial barriers it presents to parents. Within the Family Friendly City Initiative is a section on childcare facilities detailing recent modifications to the planning code in the area.

The General Plan’s Arts Element recognizes the importance of these cultural assets. There is a public art trust funded by a one per cent fee that supports the Art Commission’s creation, installations and conservation of art in public spaces, for which there are clearly defined goals and a strategic plan.

CLIMATE CHANGE

CLIMATE CHANGE

Score: 8.0/10

The city has an in-depth climate action strategy that includes direct risk and transitional risk. These risks are addressed in planning frameworks with strategies for sustainability and resilience. The direct risks assessed are sea level rise, flooding, heat waves, water and energy supplies, transportation and property damage and ecosystem risks.

The Climate Action Report recounts how San Francisco has reduced its total carbon footprint because of more efficient buildings, less waste and cleaner transportation. The report details the further reductions needed to get to the 80 per cent reduction municipal target by 2050.

Produced with support from 100 Resilient Cities, the Resilient San Francisco Stronger Today, Stronger Tomorrow report defines the following goals:

  • Plan and prep for tomorrow
  • Retrofit, mitigate and adapt
  • Ensure housing for San Francisco residents today and after a disaster
  • Empower neighbourhoods through improved connections.

These goals have clearly defined actions and indicators.

Mobility

MOBILITY

Score: 7.4/10
INFRASTRUCTURE: PUBLIC TRANSIT

INFRASTRUCTURE: PUBLIC TRANSIT

Score: 6.0/10

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission recently released its draft 2019 Transportation Improvement Program and draft amendments to Plan Bay Area 2040, an integrated long-range transportation, land use and housing plan.

In downtown San Francisco, every public transit option, including bus, subway, cable car, bike share, and commuter rail, is available. The California High-Speed Rail Program, which will provide fast connections to the north and south of the state through San Francisco, is being funded and built.

A new multimodal station is under construction and will serve as a transit hub connecting all services in the Bay Area. The Clipper card is a contactless payment system for all 26 Bay Area agencies and efforts are being made to integrate the card as a payment option for new mobility platforms as well.

LOGISTICS & FREIGHT PRODUCTIVITY

LOGISTICS & FREIGHT PRODUCTIVITY

Score: 5.5/10
While the major freight hub in the Bay Area is in Oakland rather than San Francisco, the Port of San Francisco does unload automobiles and dry bulk cargo. The San Francisco Bay Area Goods Movement Plan, which is part of Plan Bay Area 2040, identifies a handful of opportunity packages that articulate different strategies to address needs and deficiencies of the goods movement system. In the city, there are limited opportunities to build new capacity, so infrastructure investments are focused on shifting trucks to rail. Opportunity packages from the plan include technology elements such as Intelligent Transportation Systems to maximize efficiency of existing roads. GLOBAL CONNECTIVITY

GLOBAL CONNECTIVITY

Score: 8.0/10
The San Francisco International Airport (SFO) Masterplan, adopted in 1992, provided a long-term plan for expansion and development. Implementation of projects under the masterplan has continued, but sustained increase in passenger traffic necessitated a new plan to accommodate future growth. The Airport Development Plan 2016 includes a series of projects that would meet future projected demand and potential long-term growth of up to 71.1 million annual passengers. SFO is undergoing billions of dollars in renovations to meet these plans. INFRASTRUCTURE: PEDESTRIANS & CYCLING

INFRASTRUCTURE: PEDESTRIANS & CYCLING

Score: 8.0/10

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) 2013-2018 Bicycle Strategy sets new directions and policy targets to make cycling a part of everyday life. San Francisco is a Transit First city, which prioritizes bikes, pedestrians, and transit over cars. A Complete Streets group has produced the Better Streets Plan containing unified standards, guidelines and implementation strategies to govern how the city designs, builds and maintains its pedestrian environments. Alas, much of the city was built before pedestrian environments were front of mind.

San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) provides bike racks to cater for more than 10,000 bikes in 3,000 locations and 67 on-street corrals. Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) also has bike lockers for commuters but despite the investment in bike-locking infrastructure, Muni receives 300 requests a year for more racks. Dock-less bikes will likely increase that number, as they are required to lock to bike infrastructure.

Vision Zero policy aiming for zero pedestrian deaths includes low speed zones and enforcement measures to keep down traffic speed and gridlock.

BUILT FORM: PARKING PROVISIONS

BUILT FORM: PARKING PROVISIONS

Score: 6.5/10

SFMTA’s project, SFpark, is at the forefront of parking policy and is one of the more aggressive parking programs in the nation. SFpark aims to reduce circling for spaces by creating more availability through deployment of variable parking rates by demand.

As part of the Planning Department’s Citywide Policy Planning, the Better neighbourhoods Program is working in several areas to encourage more housing. Where the proximity of transit and services makes it possible to live with fewer cars, the program is proposing revisions to density, parking and other controls.

The city has developed a draft menu of options to provide developers with flexibility in selecting a combination of Transportation Demand Management measures that will work best for reducing driving trips associated with their project and neighbourhood, thus reducing the need for parking. Developers will be required to use a tool to pre-select these measures before filing a development application with San Francisco Planning.

The city has a large parklet program and has turned parking spaces into places for scooter parking. Most parking lots are now built on.

FUTURE MOBILITY: SERVICES

FUTURE MOBILITY: SERVICES

Score: 9.0/10

San Francisco has many point-to-point services, including electric scooters, mopeds, and bikes. There is a permit process in place and pilot programs that allow the city to examine data collected by the service providers. In one such pilot, Scoot, an electric moped service, is granted on-street parking permits in exchange for data.

App-based, on-demand services as well as ride-share and car share services are rampant in the city. In fact, ride-share usership is so high that it threatens public transport patronage. The widespread use of ride-share services combined with the car sharing services also reduces the need for car ownership.

FUTURE MOBILITY: TECHNOLOGY

FUTURE MOBILITY: TECHNOLOGY

Score: 9.0/10

Policies and strategies surrounding connected and autonomous vehicles are set by the state and largely out of the city’s hands. A trial of an autonomous shuttle is underway at Treasure Island, an artificial island in the San Francisco Bay.

The City Fleet Zero Emission Vehicle Ordinance mandates the electrification of the city’s light duty passenger sedan fleet by 2022, and the EV Readiness Ordinance mandates all parking spaces in new construction must be made ready to support electric vehicle charging. The citywide Electric Mobility Strategy, which is focused on electrification of private vehicles in the transport sector, will lay out a vision for reducing adverse impacts of private transport and identify pilots, programs, policies and partnerships to help create a zero-emission transport sector. This strategy is nearing completion by a subcommittee of the Electric Vehicle Working Group.

Technology

TECHNOLOGY

Score: 7.0/10
CONNECTIVITY & INFRASTRUCTURE

CONNECTIVITY & INFRASTRUCTURE

Score: 8.0/10

San Francisco’s Department of Technology has published many versions of its Connectivity Plan, most recently about a year ago. The plan covers topics such as the expansion of fiber to city facilities, fiber infrastructure deployment guidelines via the Dig Once Legislation, deployment of free Wi-Fi (#SFWi-Fi; with SFO and a 4.8 km section of Market Street being the largest deployments), and deployment of broadband internet service to residential and business locations, with an emphasis on seniors and low-income residents. The plan shows an intent to have greater government control of fiber infrastructure deployments.

At the end of January, the city and County of San Francisco issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to private firms, “To design, build, finance, operate and maintain a citywide Fiber to the Premises Network, Lit Fiber and Wi-Fi Services project”.

FIXED INTERNET: SPEEDS & FEEDS

FIXED INTERNET: SPEEDS & FEEDS

Score: 6.0/10
A growing number of residential and commercial internet service providers serve San Francisco. AT&T is the Local Exchange Carrier for the city residents. It has many competitors, the biggest being Comcast/Xfinity and Sonic with wide coverage. AT&T has been deploying fiber to homes in many new residential projects via fiber microduct. AT&T is now offering a 1000 Mbps fiber service and Sonic has matched it in some neighbourhoods. Comcast/Xfinity has recently begun rolling out DOCSIS 3.1 (coaxial not fiber-based) 1000 Mbps service as well. MOBILE INTERNET: WI-FI, 5G, NARROWBAND IOT

MOBILE INTERNET: WI-FI, 5G, NARROWBAND IOT

Score: 7.0/10

The City of San Francisco’s Department of Technology has outlined its plan for free public Wi-Fi, at present only available on a stretch of Market St, at the international airport, and in some parks. The city is hoping to cover areas such as significant parks (within the city), city buildings, and important areas such as major thoroughfares and visitor areas. Proliferation of Wi-Fi in the city will be a combination of public and private means, ushering in the age of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Within San Francisco, and more broadly the US, innovation in and deployment of cellular networks is primarily done by private providers. While 3GPP has issued Release 15, which contains the initial 5G standards, 5G is still being finalized and realistically won’t be in the market until 2019. Some service providers have announced Narrowband IoT and/or Cat M deployments for this year, but the results are still to be seen. Meanwhile, 4G LTE mobile internet offerings are readily available via private cellular providers.

OPEN DATA

OPEN DATA

Score: 8.0/10
The City of San Francisco, the State of California and the US all have free websites containing published government data. That data is accessible to any citizen though dependent on a person’s ability to get online. Accessible versus readily accessible requires a home internet connection or mobile services, and the city’s plan to increase fiber proliferation throughout San Francisco will only increase the availability of Open Data to each citizen. INFORMATION & DATA SECURITY

INFORMATION & DATA SECURITY

Score: 5.0/10
There is no comprehensive data security or privacy legislation in the US although some sectors of online activity and markets are dealt with in separate legislation (FTC Act, Financial Services Modernization Act, HIPAA, etc.). Given recent data breaches of private user data, and greater public awareness of how their own data is marketed, sold and used, improvement in this area is certainly possible in the future. PLANNING & POLICY

PLANNING & POLICY

Score: 8.0/10
The City of San Francisco’s Department of Technology has published a Connectivity Plan, and issued a request for a quotation for fiber network expansion and connectivity goals. Urban Systems

URBAN SYSTEMS

Score: 6.2/10
POWER GENERATION & DISTRIBUTION

POWER GENERATION & DISTRIBUTION

Score: 7.4/10

The 2012 Mayor’s Task Force Recommendations Report presented three main areas of coordinated action to meet 100 per cent of electricity demand with renewable power by 2023:

  • Improving energy efficiency to reduce total demand
  • Increasing in-city renewable distributed generation to reduce the need for imported green power
  • Providing all SF customers with 100 per cent renewable power purchasing option.

To achieve these goals, the city will need public policy, funding and financing mechanisms, and public education and outreach.

In 2010, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) authorized Pacific Gas & Electric’s deployment of smart meters through an Advanced Metering Infrastructure project. In 2012, an opt-out option was included for those residential customers who did not want to have a wireless smart meter.

In 2010, CPUC required all its independent operating units to develop smart grid deployment plans and file an annual report each year on its activities as well as estimates for the costs and benefits to ratepayers.

The city has received several state and federal grants to study and implement renewable energy projects, policies and financing mechanisms, principally the US Department of Energy’s Solar America Cities and SunShot Initiative and the California Energy Commission (CEC) Public Interest Energy Research grants. Through the Solar America Cities grant funding, SF Environment could develop outreach tools such as the SF Solar Map, streamline permitting processes and develop innovative financing and purchasing models to help reduce costs and increase renewable energy deployment. The 2011 Updated Electricity Resource Plan outlined the Green Test Bed concept to support clean-tech demonstration projects in San Francisco. The city has worked with industry to deploy such new technologies, including urban wind turbines and electric vehicle charging stations.

California is a leader in clean energy technology. San Francisco, with its unique position at the center of clean technology, seeks to support emerging energy generation technologies.

Research, Demonstration and Deployment (RD&D) programs are an essential part of the effort to achieve California’s climate and energy policy goals. As California moves towards a clean energy future, the technologies and practices that keep the state’s electricity and natural gas systems safe, reliable and affordable must be modernized.

Each of the RD&D programs drive investment in new and emerging energy technologies and solutions that provide benefits to Californians. By testing ideas and sharing results publicly, these programs help investors, innovators and policymakers plan efficiently for California’s clean energy future.

CPUC and other agencies support innovation and testing of new technologies.

WATER TREATMENT & DISTRIBUTION

WATER TREATMENT & DISTRIBUTION

Score: 7.3/10

The 2015 Urban Water Management Plan presents supply and demand projections to 2040. The Water System Improvement Program (WSIP) is a CAD6.3 billion capital program to upgrade the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System. The Phased WSIP Variant option was adopted in 2008, establishing a mid-term planning milestone this year when water demands through to 2030 will be re-evaluated with current information and analysis.

The Bay Area Integrated Regional Water Management Plan of 2013 included an assessment of the potential climate change vulnerabilities of the region’s water resources and set out climate change adaptation strategies.

Some projects and initiatives have been funded and others are in the planning stage.

The City of San Francisco passed an ordinance in 2015 requiring gray-water recycling in all new commercial building developments larger than 23,226 square meters.

Tesla Treatment Facility is an ultraviolet drinking water disinfection facility that enhances the Hetch Hetchy System’s high-water quality.

Bay Area Regional Reliability is a planning effort between seven water agencies in the area to identify projects and processes to enhance water supply reliability across the region, facilitate water transfers during critical shortages, and improve climate change resiliency. Its most recent Drought Contingency Plan was published early this year and focuses on drought mitigation and response. The plan describes 15 viable possibilities for drought mitigation including interconnections, expanded storage, treatment/supply and operations measures.

The Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center opened in 2014 and has been successfully purifying treated wastewater ever since. Agencies have been working with the center to develop additional supplies for groundwater replenishment by 2022, which will help augment overall drinking water supplies.

The newly constructed Salesforce Tower, the tallest building in San Francisco, will soon house the largest water recycling system in a commercial high-rise building in the US. A black-water system will recycle all the water used in the building to be available again for non-potable uses, saving about 114,000 liters of fresh water a day.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) operates all wastewater treatment plants in San Francisco and handles all biogas generated as a byproduct of plant-treated sewage. Part of the energy that powers the SFPUC’s Oceanside and Southeast Wastewater Treatment Plant is generated from biogas. This renewable biogas-fueled cogeneration technology provides both heat and electricity for wastewater treatment plant operations. San Francisco can generate up to 3.2 megawatts of renewable energy by capturing and then combusting the methane gas released during the decomposition and digestion of sewerage sludge. Options for biogas use, along with technologies for biogas processing and handling, are discussed in the SFPUC’s Long-Term Biosolids Management Plan.

The SFPUC recently launched the Sewer System Improvement Program (SSIP), a 20-year citywide investment to upgrade the aging sewer system and provide a more reliable, sustainable and seismically safe system. The SSIP includes a series of facility upgrades at the Southeast Treatment Plant in the Bayview neighbourhood of San Francisco, which treats 80 per cent of the city's wastewater. The program has been developed to address the long-standing problems of odors and seismic vulnerability, as well as other operational challenges related to the aging solids handling facilities at the southeast plant. In March 2018, the SFPUC Commission approved the Biosolids Digester Facilities Project, which will replace and relocate the outdated existing solids treatment facilities with more reliable, efficient and modern technologies.

The SFPUC undertook the Water System Improvement Program (WSIP) to ensure the ability of the Regional Water System (Hetch Hetchy) to meet goals for water quality, seismic reliability, delivery reliability and water supply. WSIP is funded at CAD6.2 billion.

WASTE MANAGEMENT

WASTE MANAGEMENT

Score: 4.0/10

San Francisco’s Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance requires city residents and businesses to properly separate recyclables and compostables and keep them out of landfill.

San Francisco diverts 80 per cent of all waste generated in the city away from landfill disposal, the highest rate of any big American city. This outcome is achieved through a combination of source reduction, reuse and recycling and composting programs. The city is not one of the greenest cities in North America by chance; it employs innovative policies and financial incentives, as well as outreach and education.

San Francisco has mandatory composting and recycling laws and zero waste policies. Residents are required to separate their rubbish into commingled recyclables, compostable materials and remaining trash in three separate bins for curbside collection. Nevertheless, the city still sends 36 per cent of compostable materials to landfill.

San Francisco has a goal of zero waste, which may be achieved by as early as 2020. It has banned single-use plastic checkout bags, and has passed ordinances for construction and demolition debris recovery and cigarette litter abatement. Instead of contracts with waste disposal contractors, the city has a unique long-term ordinance under which they set and approve the rates. While landfill disposal is at its lowest level on record, San Francisco still sends more than 400,000 tons of material to landfill each year. San Francisco is served by Recology, which transports waste to Hay Road Landfill in Solano County.

The plastic checkout bag ban applies to all retail stores and food establishments. It requires a charge on allowed checkout bags — compostable bags, recycled paper bags, or reusable bags. Shoppers can avoid the charge by bringing their own bag.

The Food Service Waste Reduction Ordinance requires food vendors and restaurants in San Francisco to use compostable or recyclable to-go containers.

Beginning 1 October 2014, no person can sell or distribute bottled water at an event held indoors or outdoors on city property, including a city street where the event sponsor has access to on-site potable water connections adequate to meet the hydration needs of the event participants or attendees.

The Landfill Disposal Agreement between the city and the waste disposal contractor includes clauses on beneficial-use material. In addition, a major interagency, regional planning effort led to the development of the Long-Term Management Strategy to incorporate beneficial uses of dredged material into local projects.

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