The Stanford Future Bay Initiative is a Research-Education-Practice Partnership committed to co-production of actionable intelligence with our local Bay Area communities, in order to shape a more equitable, resilient, and sustainable urban future.

The complex urban problems affecting quality of life in the Bay Area, from housing affordability and transportation congestion to economic vitality and social justice, are already perceived by many to be intractable, and will likely be exacerbated by climate change and other emerging environmental and technological forces. Changing urban systems to improve the equity, resilience, and sustainability of communities will require new collaborative methods of assessment, goal setting, and problem solving across governments, markets, and communities. It will also require academic institutions to develop new models of co-production of knowledge across research, education, and practice.

If you are a student, consider taking our core 218XYZ sequence titled Shaping the Future of the Bay Area, which includes an introductory mindsets/skillsets course in the Autumn and project opportunities in Winter/Spring, or our Urban Development and Governance course in the Winter taught by guest lecturers from SPUR.

If you represent a local government or community organization, we’d love to work with you. Please reach out to Lecturer Derek Ouyang at See highlights below from one of our ongoing projects focused on climate resilience in North Fair Oaks, East Palo Alto, and San Mateo County.

Shaping the Future of the Bay Area


CEE 118/218X, ESS 118/218X, GEOLSCI 118/218X, GEOPHYS 118/218X, POLISCI 224X, PUBLPOL 118X
3-5 units, Open to undergraduate and graduate students in any major
Instructors: Jenny Suckale, Derek Ouyang, Len Ortolano

Class: Tue, Thu 1:30-2:50p @ Y2E2 292A
Lab: Mon, Thu 3:00-4:30p @ Y2E2 292A

The Autumn (X) course is specifically focused on concepts and skills, and completion is a prerequisite for participation in the Winter (Y) and/or Spring (Z) practicum quarters, which engage teams in real-world projects with Bay Area local governments or community groups. X is composed of four modules: (A) participation in two weekly classes which prominently feature experts in research and practice related to urban systems; (B) reading and writing assignments designed to deepen thinking on class topics; (C) fundamental data analysis skills, particularly focused on Excel and ArcGIS, taught in lab sessions through basic exercises; (D) advanced data analysis skills, particularly focused on geocomputation in R, taught through longer and more intensive assignments. X can be taken for 3 units (ABC), 4 units (ACD), or 5 units (ABCD).

Confirmed Speakers


CEE 118/218YZ, GEOPHYS 118/218YZ
3-5 units, Open to undergraduate and graduate students in any major
Instructors: Jenny Suckale, Derek Ouyang, Len Ortolano, Gabrielle Wong-Parodi

Class: TBD

Students are placed in small interdisciplinary teams (engineers and non-engineers, undergraduate and graduate level) to work on complex design, engineering, and policy problems presented by external partners in a real urban setting. Multiple projects are offered and may span both quarters. Students are expected to interact with professionals and community stakeholders, conduct independent team work outside of class sessions, and submit deliverables over a series of milestones. Projects will be announced in December with an application process.

teaching team

Urban Development and Governance


CEE 136/236, PUBLPOL 130/230, URBANST 130
3 units, Open to undergraduate and graduate students in any major
Instructors: TBD (guest lecturers from SPUR)

Class: TBD

The Bay Area is the most expensive metropolitan region in the United States with a crisis in affordability, equity, and transportation. How did this happen and why is this so difficult to change?

This is a course about the systems and forces that shape the growth of cities and metropolitan regions. The course will explore who decides where to add jobs and housing and how the public process of urban planning interacts with market decisions by real estate developers, employers and the general public. It will explore the extent to which there is coordination between decisions about development and the design and funding of transportation systems. It will look at ways to improve the linkage between decisions about land use and investments in transportation as well as to explore how to make various tradeoffs.

This course provides an overview of the key urban planning approaches and public policies that shape the development and governance of the contemporary metropolis. The course is grounded in both theory and practice, structuring the history of urban planning as a discipline that uses objective analysis, though is ultimately shaped by politics and markets/behavior. Planning is a normative practice; planning has values, drawn from science and social sciences, that it tries to bring to shape the world/cities. Planning is more than the physical; it includes the economy and society. Planning applies ideas onto the urban and regional landscape, managing growth through the market and political processes to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number (or some other outcome). 

The focus is on the American urban and regional experience with a particular highlight on the San Francisco Bay Area. The course is informed by SPUR’s Bay Area urban planning and policy experience. (SPUR is the region’s leading urban policy non-profit.) Specific areas of focus will be Regional Planning and Governance, Land Use, Housing, the Economics of Real Estate Development, Transportation, and the Economy. 

  • Land Use and the Economics of Real Estate Development: How do cities get built out? How do we make decisions about what gets built where, and what roles do the public and private sector play?

  • Transportation: Transportation infrastructure, services, and policies have profound influence on the function of cities and regions; rail and auto technology shaped the physical form of urban growth beginning in the mid-19th century to today. A new wave of transportation technology may reshape our regions again in the 21st century.

  • Housing: Why have we never achieved President Truman’s view that “A decent standard of housing for all is one of the irreducible obligations of modern civilization”? What is it about housing where the market does not deliver it at a price that all can afford? 

  • Regional Planning and Governance: Given the long tradition of home rule and local control, what does it take to get multiple cities and counties to work together? Do you have to give up local control to achieve regional outcomes? What rules and incentives exist to achieve better regional outcomes and what is the role of the State government relative to regional agencies in managing planning? 

  • Urban Systems and the Economy: How do planning systems and other urban systems (such as water, streets, social services) interact with job growth and economic prosperity? What is the role of public finance, tax policy and the business sector on shaping the metropolis?

Throughout the course we will look at the role of planning and policy and their relationship with markets and politics in shaping cities and metropolitan regions. We will also examine who speaks or acts on behalf of the public and what the public interest is. Students will have an opportunity to learn from a range of leading planning practitioners in the region, attend a public hearing, as well as explore a key planning issue of their choice in greater depth as part of a final paper.

Teaching Team