Bay Area Council Blog: Energy and Climate Change Archive

CA Resilience Challenge

Major Water Districts Join California Resilience Challenge

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Santa Clara Valley Water District today (Sept. 26) announced they have joined the California Resilience Challenge, a new initiative to strengthen California’s resilience to climate change. The statewide challenge is attracting resources from businesses, utilities, and philanthropies to support planning and implementation of community-level projects aimed at increasing resilience to drought, floods, heatwaves and wildfires.

The water districts, which each contributed $200,000 to the effort, join PG&E on the Challenge’s Steering Committee. The total amount raised through the challenge will be announced in 2019 when organizers will begin a competitive process to solicit creative and innovative local projects to address the impacts of climate change.

“We grapple with climate change every day,” said Richard P. Santos, Chair of the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors. “Much of California’s water system was designed for a climate system that’s becoming less recognizable each year, and the California Resilience Challenge is an innovative way for utilities and businesses to support projects that will improve the safety and resilience of communities across California.”

“Climate change is already impacting California’s water supplies on virtually every front,” said Jeff Kightlinger, General Manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. “Our droughts are drier and our storms more intense than they were just a generation ago. We have to take steps to adapt to this new reality. We’re proud to join innovative efforts like the California Resilience Challenge, and encourage other companies, utilities, and foundations to join us.”

“We applaud the leadership of Santa Clara Valley Water District and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California for joining the California Resilience Challenge,” said Geisha Williams, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation. “California is already experiencing the impacts of climate change. PG&E is committed to doing our part to invest in the resilience of our gas and electric infrastructure, and in the resilience of the communities where we live and work.”

“California’s business climate is inseparable from its actual climate,” said Jim Wunderman, President & CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Much of California’s infrastructure was built under a colder, wetter, more predictable climate than we have today. We’re thrilled to have the Santa Clara Valley Water District, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and PG&E as partners in this truly unprecedented statewide Challenge.”

Since launching in April 2018 with a $1 million shareholder contribution from PG&E Corporation, the California Resilience Challenge has gained support from some of California’s top environmentalists and national resource experts. The Challenge is being administered by the Bay Area Council.

Need for Action

Climate change will push California’s already volatile weather system to further extremes, increasing the frequency and severity of droughts, heat waves, flooding, and wildfires, and drive longer-term changes such as rising sea levels. California’s recent drought included the driest four-year period in the state in 1,200 years, including the hottest summer ever recorded. The drought was finally ended with the wettest water year in recorded California history (2016-2017), resulting in severe flooding in San Jose, and severe infrastructure damage at California’s largest reservoir. According to the U.S. Forest Service, an estimated 129 million trees have died in California since 2010 and Cal Fire’s budget has increased by 45 percent since 2014 to address successive record wildfire seasons.

The California Department of Water Resources predicts the Sierra snowpack, which accounts for over a third of California’s total water supply, will decline by up to 65 percent by the end of this century, straining California’s farms, cities and ecosystems. On our coastlines, sea levels at the Golden Gate are projected to rise 6-13 inches by 2050, on top of the eight-inch rise measured in the 20th century. According to a study from the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, the Bay Area alone could suffer over $10 billion in damages (about the same as Loma Prieta earthquake) during an extreme storm under current sea levels.

These and other changes have the potential to negatively impact the health and safety of communities throughout the state, and undermine California’s economic prosperity. California companies are integral to the sustainability of the communities they serve — and have a unique responsibility to help them prepare for, withstand and recover from extreme events caused by climate change.

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November Ballot Positions Announced

The Bay Area Council Executive Committee has adopted positions on a range of state and local ballot measures that voters will decide in November.

Support

Proposition 1: Authorizes $4 billion in bonds for affordable housing programs and veterans’ home loans.

Proposition 2: Authorizes state to use revenue from Proposition 63 (2004) for $2 billion in bonds for homelessness prevention housing.

Proposition 3: Authorizes $8.9 billion in bonds for water-related infrastructure and environmental projects.

Proposition 4: Authorizes $1.5 billion in bonds for children’s hospitals.

Proposition 5: Amends Proposition 13 to allow homeowners 55 and older to transfer their property tax assessments from their current home to a new home anywhere in California.

Proposition 11: Allow ambulance providers to require workers to remain on-call during breaks paid.

Oakland Children’s Initiative: Proposed measure would support early childhood education programs and services through $198 annual parcel tax.

San Mateo County transportation: Funds wide range of traffic relief and transportation improvement projects over 30 years with ½-cent sales tax increase.

Marin County transportation: Extends existing voter-approved ½-cent sales tax to fund wide range of traffic relief and transportation improvement projects.

Oppose

Proposition 6: Repeals 2017 fuel tax and vehicle fee increases (SB 1) to fund road, bridge and highway repairs and requires public vote on future increases.

Proposition 10: Repeals the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act and allows local governments to enact rent control.

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Feds Surprise with $177M for Massive Sea Level Rise, Restoration Project

The South Bay is poised to become more resilient to rising sea levels, thanks to an unexpected decision from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fully fund the $177 million South Bay Shoreline Project—a massive effort to build four miles of new levees and restore 3,000 acres of wetlands near San Jose. A report by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute found the South Bay is more economically vulnerable to catastrophic flood damage than any other portion of the Bay Area and could suffer over $6 billion in damages during an extreme storm event. The project has been in the works since at least 2005, following Senator Dianne Feinstein’s work to facilitate the historic acquisition of the South Bay Salt Ponds from Cargill, and the Bay Area Council has been strongly advocating for federal support of the project ever since.

The South Bay shoreline project was one of the very first projects to receive local support from the Bay Area Council co-sponsored Measure AA, the $12 parcel tax measure approved by voters in 2016 to fund multi-benefit wetland restoration and flood protection projects. With funding in place, construction is slated to begin next summer, and the new levee is expected to be completed in 3-5 years. Enormous thanks are due to the hard work of the Bay Area Council partners who helped make this announcement a reality, including Senator Feinstein, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and Save the Bay. To learn more about the Bay Area Council’s work on climate resilience, please contact Vice President of Public Policy Adrian Covert.

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Voters to Decide on Housing at Brisbane Baylands

The Bay Area would add 2,200 units of badly needed housing at an idle former industrial property located near transit under a proposal the Brisbane City Council approved this week that voters will now decide. The decision was a victory for the Bay Area Council and other groups that for years have been advocating for including housing as part of an overall project that would include 7 million square feet of commercial office space and significant open space and recreational amenities. The city previously had said it wouldn’t allow any housing on the 684-acre site, a position that drew strong condemnation from many housing advocates as the region confronts an epic housing shortage and affordability crisis. Whether voters in the small city will agree to add housing that would about double the size of Brisbane remains to be seen. UPC General Manager and Director of Development Jonathan Scharfman said “we are encouraged by Brisbane’s courageous decision to double the housing stock in their city.”

What's Next for the Tri-Valley? Tri-Valley Rising Report Rollout Event

New Report: Tri-Valley Rising 2018

There’s a valley in the Bay Area that has been leading the region in job creation over the past 12 years, but it’s not the valley you might be thinking of. A new report the Bay Area Council Economic Institute released Wednesday (July 18) examines the economic juggernaut that is the Tri-Valley, an area encompassing the cities of Danville, Dublin, Livermore, Pleasanton and San Ramon. Bay Area Council CEO Jim Wunderman led a discussion at the release event in Pleasanton with a panel of the Tri-Valley’s business and community leaders.

This isn’t a story, however, about competition with the other valley just across the Bay. It’s a story about connections, the Tri-Valley’s continuing ascendance as a technology and innovation powerhouseand its place at a key intersection of the growing Bay Area megaregion. With a GDP of $42 billion, the Tri-Valley economy is larger than the states of Wyoming and Vermont. The Tri-Valley’s 35 percent increase in jobs since 2006 exceeds San Francisco (31 percent), Silicon Valley (19 percent) and California (8 percent).

The report, which was produced in partnership with Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group, analyzes the incredible jobs and economic growth in the Tri-Valley, the factors that are fueling it—including the most educated workforce in the Bay Area—and the challenges that it faces as the region’s housing and traffic crises worsen. The report also highlights the important role of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories in creating a rich ecosystem of investment, entrepreneurs and talent around which the local innovation economy is thriving. It also highlights how employers like Bishop Ranch, which has launched its own technology accelerator and is piloting autonomous shuttles, are leading the charge in embracing the valley’s growing technology sector.
The report also highlights the Tri-Valley’s key role as a job and population center for the Northern California megaregion, and it provides recommendations to ensure the future sustainability of megaregional growth, such as a focus on transit-oriented development and creating new clusters of innovation.

Read Tri-Valley Rising 2018>>

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CONDOLEEZZA RICE, DAVID BROOKS & #METOO LEADERS WOW PACIFIC SUMMIT

The timing was ideal. As President Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, guests at the Bay Area Council’s 2018 Pacific Summit on Tuesday were sitting down to hear from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on what it all meant. In a lengthy conversation with Andrew Westergren, Senior Vice President and Global Head of Strategy and Corporate Development for Visa, in front of almost 200 top executives and other leaders, Rice candidly acknowledged the unconventional way in which the summit came together but also said it was worth a try given the failure of past efforts. Rice also gave her insights and analysis about the tumultuous G7 meeting in Canada, talked about U.S.-China relations as a trade war looms and provided insights into the motives and agenda of Russia President Vladimir Putin.

With national attention intensely focused on the issues of sexual harassment and discrimination, the timing was also perfect for a lively conservation with two leaders of the #MeToo movement. Janet Liang, President of Kaiser Permanente Northern California, moderated the discussion with Adama Iwu, Vice President of State Government and Community Relations for Visa, and Tina Tchen, former Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama and Partner at Buckley Sandler. Iwu was honored as a Time magazine Person of the Year for her work in founding We Said Enough, a group focused on exposing and changing a culture of sexual harassment and discrimination in the California legislature. Tchen is a leader of Time’s Up, which works to support women who have suffered sexual harassment or discrimination. The three gave their personal insights on the #MeToo movement and the cultural and institutional changes that must occur in order to end sexual harassment and discrimination.

The audience also was treated to sobering and humorous remarks from renowned New York Times columnist David Brooks. Brooks, in his comments and in a Q&A with McKinsey & Co. Senior Director and West Coast Regional Manager Kausik Rajgopal, talked about cultural and political divides in the U.S. and how a sense of community that has united people in the past has been replaced by tribalism, which by its nature divides people.

See photos of the Pacific Summit>>

The conversations continued later in the afternoon in smaller group discussions, with PwC Managing Partner Jeanette Calandra moderating a conversation with Tchen, UPS Northern California District President Rosemary Turner leading a discussion with Dr. Rice and TMG Partners leader Denise Pinkston guiding a talk with Brooks. Bay Area Council CEO Jim Wunderman opened the summit with insights about the Bay Area’s run of economic success and the housing and transportation challenges that threaten to pull the rug out from under it.

The Bay Area Council extends its thanks to Visionary sponsor Kaiser Permanente and the many other sponsors whose support is critical to funding our public policy and advocacy. See a full list of all Pacific Summit sponsors. Our thanks also to the Kohl Mansion for hosting us.

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VOTE EARLY, VOTE OFTEN FOR REGIONAL MEASURE 3

Absentee ballots began arriving this week in Bay Area mailboxes ahead of the June election and the Bay Area Council is urging early voters to support Regional Measure 3 to invest $4.5 billion to ease traffic and improve mass transit systems around the region. The Council is partnering with the Silicon Valley Leadership and SPUR on a multi-million dollar campaign that is ramping up now to spread the word about this important measure targeting the region’s horrific traffic and overburdened mass transit system. The Council was also instrumental in passing the legislation by state Sen. Jim Beall Jr. that authorized the RM3 vote. An estimated 75 percent of the money will go to public transit, replacing and expanding the aging BART fleet and extending BART to San Jose and Santa Clara, a fleet of ferries, electrifying and modernizing Caltrain and extending the SMART train in the North Bay. Another big chunk will go to unclogging some of the region’s worst traffic chokepoints at key highway interchanges in Contra Costa, Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, and completing the widening of Highway 101 between Marin and Sonoma counties. The funding would come from a $3 toll increase on seven state-owned bridges that would be phased in over six years with $1 increases in 2019, 2022 and 2025. Learn more about RM3>>

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New Study Will Explore Opportunities for Expanding, Deepening Bay Area, Fresno, Central Valley Megaregion Connections

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The Bay Area Council Economic Institute and Central Valley Community Foundation today announced the launch of an in-depth study to examine Fresno’s important role in the fast-emerging Northern California megaregion and how the arrival of high speed rail over the next decade will dramatically accelerate economic connections between Silicon Valley and the broader Bay Area and the state’s fifth largest city.

High speed rail is expected to shrink the time it takes to travel between the Bay Area and the Central Valley from more than three hours to less than one hour when it is scheduled to begin service in 2025 between Fresno and San Jose. That has huge implications for housing, transportation and workforce development across the megaregion and promises to bring exciting new economic opportunities to Fresno and other parts of the Central Valley. “Fresno and the broader Central Valley are key players in developing a broader megaregion strategy,” said Micah Weinberg, President of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. “As county and other regional boundaries blur with the emergence of the megaregion, it’s imperative that we get a handle on what that future looks like and the infrastructure we’ll need to put in place to support it. We can act now to address these issues or confront chaos later. The Central Valley Community Foundation is an important and indispensable partner in making that happen.”

The study will focus in particular on strategies Fresno and other Central Valley cities can pursue to leverage high speed rail and other economic and demographic changes within the megaregion to boost their own economic prospects. While the 10 percent economic growth that Fresno has enjoyed since 2011 matches the national average, it has lagged cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles where the rate has reached 26 percent and 16 percent, respectively. Expanding the Central Valley’s participation in the megaregion economy, attracting new business and elevating its workforce to meet the needs of employers will also be a focus of the study.

“Improved economic and infrastructure connections between the Silicon Valley/Bay Area and the Central Valley is good, not just for our regions, but for the entire state,” said Ashley Swearengin, President and CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation. “We are pleased to launch this work with the Bay Area Council and to explore meaningful ways to create new economic opportunities for Central Valley residents, businesses and communities and relieve pressure on the congested Bay Area.”

Swearingen kicked off the project on Friday, April 24 at a meeting in Fresno to identify the issues that would be addressed. The study is part of a much broader, long-term effort the Bay Area Council is leading to bring together top business, government and other civic leaders from the Bay Area, Central Valley, Sacramento and Monterey regions to develop a unified, integrated vision for guiding future planning for the megaregion around such issues as housing, transportation and workforce development.

Driving the Council’s intense focus on the megaregion is the Bay Area’s meteoric economic growth over the past decade combined with an historic housing shortage and affordability crisis. In search of more affordable housing, record numbers of Bay Area workers are being forced into longer and longer commutes from the Central Valley and Sacramento that are putting increasing pressure on an already overburdened and congested transportation system. At the same time, the Central Valley is eager to accelerate economic development opportunities that the megaregion offers and prepare its workforce.

The study with the Central Valley Community Foundation and support from Wells Fargo, UC Merced, Fresno State University, City of Fresno, and Lance Kashian & Co., is one of several activities the Council is leading to bring greater attention to megaregion planning. The Council is also working closely with Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and the Greater Sacramento Economic Council on megaregion issues, including investing in better rail connections along the I-80 corridor and promoting the capitol city as a destination for businesses looking to start and expand outside the Bay Area.

The Council will be convening a series of meetings in 2018 to begin a dialogue with government, business, nonprofit and academic leaders on the future of the megaregion.

 

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About the Bay Area Council Economic Institute

The Bay Area Council Economic Institute is a public-private partnership of business, labor, government and higher education that works to foster a competitive economy in California and the San Francisco Bay Area, including San Francisco, Oakland and Silicon Valley. The Economic Institute produces authoritative analyses on economic policy issues affecting the region and the state, including infrastructure, globalization, energy, science and governance, and mobilizes California and Bay Area leaders around targeted policy initiatives. Learn more at www.bayareaeconomy.org.

 

About the Central Valley Community Foundation

Central Valley Community Foundation has been a trusted partner in philanthropy in the Central Valley for more than 50 years. Our mission is to cultivate smart philanthropy, lead, and invest in solutions that build stronger communities. Learn more at www.centralvalleycf.org.

 

About the Bay Area Council

The Bay Area Council is a business-sponsored, public-policy advocacy organization for the nine-county Bay Area. The Council proactively advocates for a strong economy, a vital business environment, and a better quality of life for everyone who lives here. Founded in 1945, the Bay Area Council is widely respected by elected officials, policy makers and other civic leaders as the voice of Bay Area business. Today, more than 300 of the largest employers in the region support the Bay Area Council and offer their CEO or top executive as a member. Our members employ more than 4.43 million workers and have revenues of $1.94 trillion, worldwide. Learn more at www.bayareacouncil.org.

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GOOD NEWS, NOT-SO-GOOD NEWS ON HOUSING

It was a good news, bad news week in the Bay Area Council’s continuing fight to loosen the grip of the state’s historic housing shortage and affordability crisis. Legislation (SB 831) the Council is sponsoring to eliminate many of the fees that represent a financial obstacle to building accessory dwelling units (ADU), aka granny units, cleared a key Senate committee this week. The bill by Sen. Bob Wieckowski (Fremont) builds on reform legislation the Council sponsored in 2015 that has unleashed a statewide surge in ADUs. Fees and other regulatory barriers can add many tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of building an ADU. The Council estimates that making it faster, easier and less expensive for homeowners to build ADUs could result in the addition of well over 150,000 affordable housing units in the Bay Area alone.

Not all the news was positive, however. Legislation by Sen. Scott Wiener (San Francisco) that the Council was backing was defeated in committee after building trades, social equity and city government groups loudly opposed it. SB 827 stoked a statewide debate and gained national attention for its bold approach to promoting transit-oriented housing development. The bill would have allowed more home building near transit-rich areas like BART and Caltrain, but opponents feared it would lead to displacement of existing residents and weakened local control over housing decisions. The Council is looking forward to working with Sen. Wiener to bring the legislation back next year and we applaud his leadership in addressing a crisis that is hurting millions of Californians and threatening to harm the state’s economy.

Coming up, the Council will be returning to the state capitol next Tuesday to advocate for legislation (SB 1277) by Sen. Nancy Skinner (Oakland) that we are sponsoring that would address a huge statewide shortage of student housing. An estimated 762,585 California college students experience housing insecurity or homelessness. SB 1227 would authorize 35 percent more units in student housing developments that meet a variety of affordability requirements and exempt them from costly parking requirements. To join our coalition in support or SB 1227 and engage in the Council’s housing policy work, please contact Vice President Adrian Covert.

NAPA-SONOMA SALT MARSH RESTORATION PIPELINE PROJECT

HISTORIC VOTE TURNS THE TIDE FOR SAN FRANCISCO BAY

The San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority on Wednesday approved nearly $18 million in grants for wetlands restoration and flood protection projects in San Francisco Bay. The grants are the first made by the Authority, which is funded by Measure AA, the first nine-county regional ballot measure approved by over 70 percent of voters in 2016. The Bay Area Council partnered with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and Save the Bay to lead the Measure AA campaign, whose success was made possible by generous contributions from Council members PG&E and Facebook, among many others.

The Council became increasingly engaged in Bay resilience following a 2015 Bay Area Council Economic Institute report—Surviving the Storm—estimating the region could suffer more than $10 billion in economic damages in an extreme storm event under present sea levels. In addition to providing habitat and water quality benefits, wetlands also naturally absorb tidal energies and can be paired with lower, less costly levees to improve local flood protection against rising sea levels. Measure AA will raise $500 million over 20 years for shoreline and other projects that improve the region’s resilience to extreme storms and rising seas.

Among the initial projects to receive funding was the Montezuma Wetlands’ Tidal and Seasonal Restoration Project, which is managed by Bay Area Council Executive Committee member Jim Levine. Congratulations, Jim! To engage with the Council’s Committee on Water & Resilience, please contact Vice President of Public Policy Adrian Covert.