San Francisco

A City Connected to the Arts

Published in: GIA Newsletter, Vol 9, No 2 (Fall 1998)

San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Associates (SPUR) Review by Tom Schorgl

1998, 82 pages, SPUR, 312 Sutter Street, Suite 500, San Francisco, California 94108-4305, 415-781-8726, fax: 415-781-7291, spur[at]well.com.

Produced by San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, this report provides details and insights from a three-day community workshop that addressed the following concerns:

  • the ability of cultural institutions to meet their full audience potential, to educate needy individuals, to attract new donations, and to secure major traveling exhibits
  • audience development in relationship to accessibility
  • school-aged children's lack of access to arts and cultural educational institutions
  • substandard access to the arts by transit-dependent elderly and disabled populations
  • the lack of strategies to better connect tourists to arts and cultural attractions
  • the restricted capacity for expansion and the loss of major exhibits that result from substandard arts and cultural facilities
  • land use
  • the redevelopment and reuse of existing structures as new arts and cultural venues
  • the impact of the automobile, parking, and transit on the development of arts and cultural facilities

A planning document, the report presents the following goals and conclusions:

  • Access to public and private transportation should be improved; routes should be clean and safe.
  • Municipal codes should encourage art as a way to revitalize and stabilize neighborhoods.
  • Public and private partnerships should encourage self-sufficiency.

The report is presented in four sections with an appendix of supporting documentation. Section one describes the project's concerns and the protocols used for analysis. The way these concerns affect specific arts organizations is defined in section two, with a special focus on neighborhood challenges faced by arts and cultural groups. Section three provides recommendations and actions such as improving access and identifying citizen responses to program changes by arts organizations. The final section deals with advocacy and, in particular, with the importance of protecting existing funding commitments.

The document shows how much policy and cultural planning can be accomplished (at least on paper) in a relatively short time. SPUR is not an arts organization or an arts council. It describes itself as an independent non-partisan civic planning organization to help San Francisco fulfill its promise as an extraordinary place to live, raise a family, and make a living. That SPUR, rather than an art or cultural organization, was the convener and facilitator of this cultural planning process made a difference. For instance, the composition of the panel members—urban economist, transportation expert, landscape and facilities designers, and planners—is unusual in cultural planning. Linking the panel members' strategic vision with the strategic visions of municipal department chiefs and cultural educational leaders who attended the workshop resulted in an interesting plan. The report would appeal to anyone who has experienced or is currently engaged in arts and cultural planning.

Tom Schorgl