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Missed Opps: SPUR Member Party

July 9, 2013


Recently, I went to the annual San Francisco Planning + Urban Research Association aka SPUR – Member Party and was so excited…and then so disappointed. What a missed opportunity to help like-minded people connect, learn about, and – most importantly – further support their organization’s mission!

Ever since SPUR opened its headquarters SOMA in 2009, I’ve been enamored by their work to “promote good planning and good government in San Francisco”.

ionizer building

“Ionizer” skyscraper & its inspiration

[Being a regular in Dolores Park, the red flag that maybe I should care about how the city evolves was when the first tall skyscraper (aka The Sharper Image Ionizer) shot up blocking a sliver of the view of the Bay from the park. And, you know it’s not going to be the last.  More skyscrapers have already passed the Planning Commission for that same area blocking the view for all of the city; and more are to come. Boo.]

ANYWAY, SPUR (I assume) has done some cool work in their various program areas. Most notable to me personally, though, have been their recent water report: Future-Proof Water (really thorough and practical, and great infographics) and their hiring sustainable ag colleague Eli Zigas to be their Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager. Other than that, they have a bunch of informational events about their program topics, and I hear they’re the go-to advisor for groups who are considering proposing new developments around town.

In June, I got an email newsletter saying that if you become a member, you could attend the Annual Member Party for free. For current members, it was $100 to attend. What a deal, I thought. I’ll do it!

What a great opportunity to finally join this org that I’ve been observing from the sidelines for years, learn about all the cool work they’re doing behind the scenes, and get involved.

Um, wrong. Summing up comments overheard in the “food alley” at the party (tempered from my own personal thoughts, ahem!):

A) Aside from a small “exhibit” highlighting their water report on the 1st floor, there was literally nothing up or around talking about the work they do. Four floors of cash-bar drinks, eclectic snacks (see D below), and djs playing questionable music (uh, was that O.P.P. I just heard?) with empty white walls. There was zero about SPUR’s mission or work. As (paying) members, don’t they want to highlight the great work the members’ funds are supporting? Isn’t it a great opportunity to also highlight upcoming projects to see if/how the membership community could advise, contribute or otherwise support?

B) There were no name tags, so you had no idea who anyone was. It’s always easier to spark conversation if you know where someone works or the role or industry they’re in. I strongly believe that the strongest organizations and businesses of the future will/do have the most tightly-knit supporting communities/customers. Why not help us more easily connect?

C) There were limited staff and board members around (if any). They weren’t kidding about it being a member ONLY party. See B re: helping members connect better then.

D) The one element of community was anonymous.  The one community-oriented aspect was that small food businesses of La Cocina (whose director is SPUR staff Eli’s brother) provided food…. But, there was no mention about La Cocina or the significance of each of the small ethnic food businesses there.  I wonder if I was the only one who knew where they were all from because of the Eli-Caleb Zigas brother effect?

E) It was wasteful. Every single person got a good-sized cardstock “Program” with a map of where the food vs bars vs music was. In addition, on every floor, there were several grande size versions of that same “Program”. Really?

It makes me kind of sad to pinpoint the bad points about the member party. I hope to discover all the great, wonderful things that SPUR has planned for the next year now that I AM a member…. But, I also DO think it’s important that we (and they) consider how they could improve. They have a great mission and have done some great work. Let’s optimize and maximize reach and impact. Please use and leverage us members…

Four Plans for the Future of SF

From SPUR’s 2012 Annual Report

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