The Bay Area Council History

By 1944, peace and post-War prosperity, and the search for ways to sustain the wartime growth that had transformed the region into a modern industrial powerhouse were very much at the top of the collective Bay Area mind. The consensus was that an organization was required that could, as the San Francisco News suggested, “coordinate the region’s efforts to whip crucial transition problems, and cash in on industrial, commercial and foreign trade opportunities.” The Bay Area Council would become just that organization. And the roster was a Bay Area Business Who’s Who, and included top officers of Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Transamerica, Standard Oil of California, Pacific Gas and Electric, Bechtel, Kaiser Industries, Clorox and others.

According to its charter, the Council’s primary mission was to coordinate regional economic development. As the forties progressed, however, the organization found itself increasingly drawn into issues related to the unhealthy fallout from badly planned or too-rapid growth. Earlier than most peer organizations, the Council recognized that rapid industrialization could bring with it challenges including housing shortages, traffic gridlock, and air and water pollution. By the late ’40s, the Council was acting as one of the very first regional environmental watchdogs.

Transportation was another issue during that time upon which hung the regional quality of life, a factor long recognized as central to the Bay Area’s prosperity. Throughout the 50s, the Council continued to take the lead in trying to find a fair and balanced route and timetable for the regional mass transit system that rapidly became part of the regional lexicon under the personable acronym “BART.”

In 1965, the Council sponsored legislation creating the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) and in 1970, promoted legislation to create the Metropolitan Transportation Committee (MTC). Real, effective regionalism was a constant in the collective thoughts of the Bay Area Council; in 1962, for example, the organization held its first “Bay Area Outlook Conference” which through the sixties became an anticipated annual event.

The Bay Area Council became one of the first organizations to recognize that the surge in regional technology development that came to be known as “Silicon Valley” was both intellectually and physically altering the face of the Bay Area. Recognizing that the locus of regional economic gravity was shifting southwards, the Bay Area Council organized the Santa Clara County Manufacturers Group (now the Silicon Valley Leadership Group) in 1977.

Since that time, the Bay Area Council has continued to push for policies that have helped to build the Bay Area into the powerful region that it is today. From advocating for the extension of BART to San Jose to supporting urban infill development to pushing for legislation to help shield companies from cyber security threats, the Bay Area Council works across a wide range of policies. And with current initiatives to help bring high-speed rail to California and the 2020 World Expo to Silicon Valley, it is certain that the Bay Area Council will be shaping the future of our region for many years to come.