Bay Area Council Blog: 21st Century Infrastructure Archive



A few stories in the news this week highlighted the growing urgency for ensuring California’s energy and communications systems can keep pace with rapid advances in technology, changes in where we get our energy and the dramatic effects of historic drought. They are also timely as the Bay Area Council Economic Institute prepares to unveil a detailed report on April 13 that examines California’s energy and communications infrastructure and makes a series of recommendations for updating the state’s regulatory framework to meet 21st Century demands. Stories in Bloomberg and the Los Angeles Times explored California’s nation-leading use of solar energy and the technological challenges of creating a robust energy storage system needed to incorporate this irregular energy supply into the power grid.

At the same time, multiple news stories focused on the threat that drought poses to the 12 percent of energy the state gets from hydroelectric power. Addressing uncertainty of the state’s energy supply will require both new energy management technologies and advanced communications networks to help industry and consumers improve efficiency. However, it’s not entirely clear that California’s regulatory system is ideally positioned to enable and adopt these new technologies. The Economic Institute and the Bay Area Council will host a forum on April 13 where we unveil our new report – 21st Century Infrastructure: Keeping California Connected, Powered and Competitive – and discuss these issues with leading energy and communications experts.

Register to attend the April 13 21st Century energy and communications forum>>



What does California need to do to ensure it has the energy and communications infrastructure necessary to compete globally? Is the Bay Area prepared to weather severe storms and rising tides and what will the cost be if we’re not? What is the cost of BART delays on the Bay Area economy? These are the questions that will be answered by a series of reports the Bay Area Council Economic Institute is preparing to release in the coming weeks and months.

Enabling increased investment in building California’s 21st Century energy and communications infrastructure is among the Bay Area Council’s lead policy priorities. This infrastructure will be critical in supporting California’s continuing efforts to combat climate change, create jobs, improve education and public services and grow our innovation economy. The Council’s Economic Institute report will examine what’s at stake and what’s holding us back from modernizing our energy and communications systems. Coming in late March/early April.

Dramatic and unpredictable swings in our weather make the Bay Area vulnerable to the kinds of severe storms that have devastated other parts of the country. Rising tides also put us at risk for huge economic losses. A new report by the Economic Institute will examine the potential economic cost of severe storms here in the Bay Area. Coming in late March.

BART is unquestionably the Bay Area’s mass transit backbone and critical to our economic success. But with growing ridership, rising maintenance costs and constrained funding, increasing service outages on the aging system wreak havoc on commuters, businesses and the economy. A Bay Area Economic Institute report will tally the economic cost to the region when BART goes down. Coming in late spring/early summer.

To commission an economic or other study related to your business or industry, contact Economic Institute Vice President Tracey Grose.



When SB375 was approved in 2008, one of its main objectives was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles by reducing the miles they travel. That seemed to make good sense. An estimated 40 percent of California GHGs come from automobiles. Fewer miles traveled, fewer GHGs. To accomplish this, SB375 required large metropolitan regions like the Bay Area to prioritize building the vast majority of new housing in existing dense urban areas close to mass transit. Except that SB 375 failed to consider that not all vehicle miles travelled (VMTs) are created the same. Last year, California became the first state with more than 100,000 electric and hybrid vehicles on the road, with sales of these vehicles doubling from 2012-2013 and appearing to be on a similar pace for 2014.

The Bay Area Council is concerned that the disconnect between SB375 and changing automobile technology will have serious unwanted and unintended consequences in how we plan and invest to meet our future housing and transportation needs. At the same time we face a drastic housing supply and affordability crisis, the Bay Area is already 30 percent behind in meeting regional goals set under SB375 for creating new housing. Without sufficient housing, rising prices push out low- and middle-class workers and make attracting new workforce talent increasingly expensive. SB375 should be amended to recognize that not all VMTs are created equal and give credit not only for reducing VMTs but for successfully fostering and growing the use of low and zero emission vehicles. The Council is now exploring ways to amend SB375 to address this problem. To engage in our regional planning work, contact Vice President Matt Regan.

Read Matt Regan’s OpEd on the SB375 disconnect in the Sacramento Bee>>



The Bay Area Council Economic Institute this week announced that effective February 1, 2015 Dr. Micah Weinberg will become President, succeeding long-time leader Dr. Sean Randolph as he assumes the new role of Senior Director. The transition comes as the Economic Institute is enjoying a period of robust growth, in both projects and visibility.

“The future of the Economic Institute couldn’t be brighter,” said Laura D’Andrea Tyson, Chair of the Economic Institute Board of Trustees. “We are extremely fortunate to have a leader of Dr. Weinberg’s caliber take the reins at the same time that Dr. Randolph continues to contribute his immense knowledge and talents to the organization. This change will bring new energy to the institute and deepen the expertise we already bring to exploring and understanding the Bay Area’s unique and unparalleled innovation and economic ecosystem.”

Dr. Weinberg is a nationally recognized economic development and public policy expert who has most recently served as Senior Fellow at the Economic Institute and spearheaded the Bay Area Council’s health care policy work. He has emerged as a leading national health policy analyst authoring several major reports through the Institute and appearing regularly as an expert voice in the state and national media.

Read the press release announcing the change>>


Drone Technologies Rapidly Advancing; Policies to Allow Them, Not So Much

With interest in the use of drones for commercial purposes taking flight, the Bay Area Council recently convened a policy roundtable with national policy expert Lisa Ellman, the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) practice leader at member firm McKenna Long and Aldridge. Ellman talked about the many exciting commercial applications for drones but said the U.S. is lagging the world in developing the policies necessary to allow industry to take full advantage of this exciting technology. “By 2025, it’s thought that UAS will have an economic impact of $82 billion and 100,000 new jobs created here in the U.S.,” Ellman said. “Drones are helpful for industrial uses like powerline inspection, pipeline inspection, flare stack inspection, and infrastructure inspection. Filmmaking, as well.” Commercial use of drones is technically illegal in the U.S., with companies only able to operate them after receiving special exemptions from the Federal Aviation Administration. “It is not too late to fix,” Ellman concludes. “It’s important that innovators come to the table and educate policymakers about the technology that is out there. There is crash avoidance technology that can prevent the drone from running into us, for example.”

Read a more detailed article on drones by Bay Area Council Economic Institute Senior Fellow Matt Gardner>>

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The Bay Area Council this week (Dec. 10) doubled down on its efforts to tackle the region’s most pressing challenges, unveiling a bold policy agenda for 2015 that prioritizes building workforce housing, creating the workforce of the future, securing water supply reliability, battling traffic and modernizing vital communications and energy infrastructure. The Council’s Executive Committee, under the leadership of Chair David Cush, President and CEO of Virgin America, approved a set of policy priorities that include:

Workforce Housing: The Bay Area’s inability to meet housing demand is creating a massive affordability crisis and threatening to hamper the region’s economic growth. The Housing Committee, Co-Chaired by TMG Partners Chairman & CEO Michael Covarrubias and Signature Development Group President Michael Ghielmetti, will focus on ways to ease regulatory barriers and speed new housing in so-called regional “priority development areas.” To engage in our housing work, contact policy Vice President Matt Regan.

21st Century Infrastructure: New energy and communications technologies are essential to building the “smart cities” of the future and driving economic growth. However, the regulatory powers are not keeping pace. Under the leadership of Co-Chairs PG&E Chairman, CEO & President Anthony F. Earley and AT&T California President Kenneth McNeely, the 21st Century Task Force is driving legislative and regulatory change that will enable the development and utilization of advanced energy and communications networks. To engage in the Council’s 21st Century Infrastructure work, contact policy Vice President Michael Cunningham.

Commute Improvement: Growing traffic indicates an expanding economy, but also reflects insufficient transportation capacity and outdated operations. Under the leadership of Arup Principal John Eddy, the Council’s Transportation Committee is focused on leveraging new technologies to boost highway capacity and efficiency, increasing investment in mass transit and identifying new reliable transportation funding sources. To engage in our commute improvement work, contact policy Vice President Michael Cunningham.

Water Supply and Security: With growing and often-conflicting demand and limited supply, ensuring that the Bay Area has sufficient water is vital to the region’s economic health. The Water Committee, Co-Chaired by Montezuma Wetlands Managing Partner Jim Levine and Suffolk Construction Company West Coast President Andrew Ball, will work to ensure Proposition 1 funds support best regional projects and continue to advance coequal goals of supply reliability and environmental preservation in the Bay Delta. To engage in the Council’s water policy work, contact Policy Manager Adrian Covert.

Workforce of the Future: The world of work is changing much faster than the education and training world. This mismatch creates “skills gaps” between what employers want and the skills job applicants possess. Students and educators need better information about the world of work and the skills that are needed for high demand jobs. Employers need strategies for engaging with and influencing the public sector talent/workforce supply chain. The Council will work to establish a regional model of public-private cooperation for the future workforce. To engage in our Workforce of the Future work, contact policy Vice President Linda Galliher.

The Bay Area Council extends its hearty thanks to Board member and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland President and CEO Bert Lubin and Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute Executive Director Janet King for generously hosting our Executive Committee and Board of Directors meeting. The Council has been honored to work with Dr. Lubin in our early childhood education work, including the launch earlier this year of our Talk Read Sing campaign in Oakland.



California’s once-visionary Master Plan for Higher Education has not kept pace with tectonic changes rumbling across the Golden State, according to a report the Bay Area Council Economic Institute released this week (Dec. 2) that calls for overhauling the blueprint to position the state’s three public university systems to better serve and respond to the demographic, economic and technological realities of the 21st Century. The report and recommendations come as the debate over state funding for the University of California and the California State University systems reaches a fever pitch. Among the report’s findings:

  • When the Master Plan was written, 11 percent of jobs were filled by workers with at least a bachelor’s degree – today it is over one-third and growing.
  • In 1960, 82 percent of high school graduates were non-Hispanic whites; today it is 28 percent.
  • In 1977, 18 percent of the state’s budget went to higher education; today, it is 11.6 percent.

Read the full report>>

See reaction from academic and business leaders>>

Read the press release>>

In addition to well-documented and dramatic declines in state funding for higher education, the report cites legislative and administrative mandates will allow them to experiment with new funding and academic approaches to meet the needs of individual institutions. As the 2015 legislative session moves forward and Gov. Jerry Brown unveils his proposed budget in January, the Bay Area Council will be actively engaged in seeking higher education reforms necessary to help meet California’s future workforce needs, grow middle-class jobs and compete globally. To engage in our workforce and higher education policy work, contact policy Vice President Linda Galliher.

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Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman joined an august panel of business and policy leaders this week (Nov. 20) at the Milken Institute California Summit in Los Angeles for a discussion on the resurgence of the city as a driver of policy and economic growth. Wunderman engaged in a lively discussion with Carol Armstrong, Director of the L.A. River Project for the City of Los Angeles; Riverside Mayor William Bailey; Los Angeles Times Publisher & CEO Austin Beutner; and Plenary Concessions Executive Chairman Dale Bonner, who served as California’s secretary of business, transportation and housing from 2007 to 2011. Kevin Knowden, the Milken Institute’s California Center Director and Managing Economist, moderated the discussion.

During the discussion, Wunderman highlighted how public-private partnerships and private sector financing mechanisms in major Bay Area cities are advancing innovative solutions toward the region’s transportation, water and infrastructure challenges—citing the Bay Area Council’s role in the Oakland Airport Connector and development of San Francisco’s commuter shuttle pilot program as prime examples. Watch the discussion.

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Plans taking shape for UC Berkeley’s new Global Campus in Richmond

The Bay Area Council Economic Institute this week (Nov. 19) hosted a presentation on UC Berkeley’s plans for the Berkeley Global Campus, a new international educational and research complex that will be developed on the site of the university’s Richmond Field Station. Robert Lalanne, Vice Chancellor for Real Estate at Berkeley, and Terezia Nemeth, the Berkeley Global Campus Development Manager, briefed 75 participants drawn from development, construction, architecture, investment banking, technology, biotechnology, law, higher education, local government and consulates on the project.

The approved Long Range Development Plan for the site allows for up to 5.4 million square feet of commercial, educational, R&D and supporting uses. The new campus will host universities and private companies from around the world that will co-locate to conduct joint research with UC Berkeley. Key areas of focus will include energy, sustainability, big data and life science. The facilities will be developed through public-private partnerships, creating major opportunities for development both on campus and in the adjacent Richmond community. The build-out of the campus will add an important new piece to the Bay Area’s rich research and innovation network, and further strengthen its position as a global technology leader. The Economic Institute has supported the university in developing its financial strategy for the project.


Growing Concern about Data Breaches

U.S. Postal Service, Department of State! Who’s next? The recent string of hacks into U.S. federal agencies laid bare the clear and present danger that cyber threats pose not just to consumer and business data, but also especially to federal agencies and critical infrastructure.

The Bay Area Council’s Cybersecurity Committee met this week (Nov. 20) to discuss awareness strategies for policy makers and the need for California’s critical infrastructure systems—water, transportation and energy—to be part of the cybersecurity discussion. These interdependent systems rely heavily on advanced communications systems making them vulnerable to cyber breaches. Committee members discussed the need for R&D to protect those systems, preventing cascading disasters from one mode to the next, and developing new approaches that are less inherently vulnerable as possible strategies to minimize the risk.

The Committee continues development of its 2015 program, which includes creating a focused regional dialogue on building cyber resiliency and raising awareness in incumbent legislators and staff members on cybersecurity issues. Special thanks to DLA Piper for hosting the meeting. To get involved in the Council’s cybersecurity policy work please contact Senior Advisor Matt Gardner.