Bay Area Council Blog: Government Relations Archive

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.

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Charting a Course for Megaregion Coordination

A rising economy, a massive housing shortage and growing traffic in the Bay Area are causing major changes across the Northern California megaregion that represent both opportunities and challenges. The Bay Area Council is spearheading an effort to bring together business, government, academic and civic leaders from across the megaregion on planning to embrace the former and minimize the latter. The Council last week traveled to Stockton where CEO Jim Wunderman presided over a meeting that included mayors from Stockton, Merced, Modesto and Livermore, leaders from key rail and regional planning organizations, and business and academic leaders.

In addition to hearing about the foundational research on the Northern California megaregion put together by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute and University of the Pacific, participants focused on the potential for future rail investments–in the ACE train and high speed rail–to spur economic development. The meeting, hosted by University of the Pacific in partnership with Valley Vision, was the first of a series of meetings the Council is convening across the megaregion in the coming months that will seek to produce a common policy advocacy agenda for megaregional stakeholders. To engage in the Bay Area Council’s work on the Northern California Megaregion, please contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.

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Council’s Board Welcomes Senator Feinstein and Mayor Schaaf

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf met with the Bay Area Council’s Board of Directors Thursday to discuss a range of pressing issues, from healthcare reform and homelessness to infrastructure investment and public safety. Board Chairman and Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Bernard J. Tyson welcomed both leaders to a packed room at Kaiser’s Oakland headquarters. Feinstein updated the Board on her efforts to ban assault weapons, an issue she has championed for decades. She also discussed the importance of making Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) permanent as well as her interest in leveraging public private partnerships to repair and rebuild the nation’s aging and crumbling infrastructure.

Investing to expand and improve the region’s congested transportation system was also a top issue as Feinstein emphasized the need for a new crossing south of the Bay Bridge. Tyson thanked Feinstein for her great leadership and urged Council members to join a business delegation we’re leading to D.C. in May to promote California’s importance to the nation as some critics frame the Golden State as out of control.

Feinstein also gave warm praise for Mayor Schaaf, who described the progress Oakland is making in turning around years of crime and addressing a complicated homeless problem. Schaaf also highlighted a measure she is championing for the November ballot—the Oakland Children’s Initiative—that would invest in expanding access to early education and other early childhood programs. She touted the huge returns that early childhood investments have in increasing employment opportunities and avoiding expensive social and public safety costs. This is an issue that has long been a priority for the Council, whose executive leadership has expressed early support for Schaaf’s November measure as she works to get it placed on the ballot. The Council extends its gratitude to Kaiser Permanente for hosting our meeting.

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ON ONE HAND: GROWING CHINESE INVESTMENT IN THE BAY AREA MEGAREGION

As business and economic connections deepen across the Bay Area megaregion so do opportunities to attract greater foreign direct investment in everything from infrastructure to agriculture. The Bay Area Council’s China Initiative team highlighted those opportunities during a recent meeting with business leaders from the Greater Sacramento Economic Council (GSAC). The Council described its more than 10 years of experience building robust ties between China and the Bay Area and outlined how we can leverage the inbound services we offer to bring new investment in such booming sectors as agriculture, biotechnology, and manufacturing.

GSAC’s board of Sacramento CEOs and elected officials agreed that cooperating with the Council to attract and direct Chinese investments aligned with the broader joint megaregional strategy, which argues for improving economic development structures that cross regional lines. To this end, the Council is excited to work more closely with GSAC President and CEO Barry Broome to maximize opportunities for our intertwined economies. For more information about the Council’s work in China and inbound investment services, please contact Global Initiatives Manager Laurent Arribe.

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THUMBS UP FOR NEW HOUSING THAT COUNCIL BACKED

It won’t solve the region’s housing crisis alone, but it was a step in the right direction as the Millbrae City Council Tuesday (March 13) approved a much-needed 400-unit development that the Bay Area Council had endorsed. The Gateway at Millbrae Station project has been years in the making. A great example of a mixed-use and transit-oriented development located next to BART, the project represents much of what Bay Area Council members look for in development projects and what all residents should support to advance smart and sustainable development. The Gateway at Millbrae Station project will provide 80 affordable units for low income tenants, as well as 320 apartments for middle-income workers. Uniquely, qualified military veterans will be given priority for 55 of the affordable apartments. The Council is thrilled that Millbrae City Council recognized our region’s staggering need for housing and chose to say, “yes, in my backyard!” To engage in the Council’s housing policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

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COUNCIL-SPONSORED BILL TACKLES DEARTH OF STUDENT HOUSING

Across California an estimated 762,000 college students experience some form of housing insecurity or homelessness because of the state’s massive housing shortage. As part of our overall battle to increase new housing, the Bay Area Council is sponsoring legislation (SB 1227) by state Sen. Nancy Skinner that would encourage developers to build affordable student housing. The bill would allow the construction of 35 percent more units over existing local limits as long as 20 percent of the units are dedicated for low-income students, among other requirements. It would also eliminate parking requirements that add considerable cost to projects.

The bill is one of several the Council is sponsoring or supporting this year to boost housing. The Council also is sponsoring SB 229 by state Sen. Bob Wieckowski (Fremont) that would ease local regulatory barriers and fees on accessory dwelling units, aka granny units. And, were supporting two key bills by state Sen. Scott Weiner (San Francisco) that would boost housing near transit (SB 827) and hold cities more accountable for meeting their housing obligations (SB 828). To engage in the Council’s housing policy, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

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LEADERS DISCUSS WAYS TO SOLVE THE BAY AREA’S HOUSING CRISIS

The Bay Area’s top business and political leaders converged at Facebook today (Feb. 9) to recommit themselves to addressing California’s housing crisis. The summit, cohosted by the Bay Area Council and Silicon Valley Leadership Group, featured state legislators David Chui, Jim Beall and Scott Wiener, who urged support for the upcoming state housing bond (SB3), a bill to increase density near transit (Wiener, SB827), and creating a cap and trade system for housing permitting. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf urged companies to invest in local affordable housing projects by working with cities to provide low-interest capital.

Led by Council CEO Jim Wunderman and Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino, a veritable who’s who of housing and company leaders, including Andy Ball (RAD Urban) and Denise Pinkston (TMG Partners), among others, discussed the economics of housing construction, while Council Housing Committee Chair Carla Boragno from Genentech and Elliott Schrage from Facebook discussed how the shortage is hurting communities and the Bay Area economy. Participants, which included some of the region’s top c-suite executives, also talked about the solutions they plan to support at state and local levels. To engage in the Council’s housing policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

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NEW BILL INTRODUCED ON SKILLED IMMIGRATION

In the ongoing immigration debate, the Bay Area Council places special importance on the issues surrounding skilled immigration – H-1B visas, the entrepreneur visa, and green cards. This week Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced his long-anticipated bill—the Immigration Act of 2018 (I-Squared)—which offers the most promising vehicle for addressing the concerns of many Bay Area companies. The issues covered Hatch’s bill are separate from those being debated about the fate of so-called Dreamers under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Hatch’s bill does several things: increases be base allocations of H-1Bs from 65,000 to 85,000; creates a market-based escalator that allows the supply of visas to meet demand; prioritizes petitions for holders of a U.S. master’s degree or higher, holders of foreign PhDs, and holders of U.S. STEM bachelor degrees; prohibits an employer from hiring an H-1B visa holder with the purpose and intent to replace a U.S. worker; provides work authorization for spouses of H-1B holders; increases H-1B worker job mobility; raises from $60,000 to $100,000 the salary level above which employers are exempt from  certain recruitment and non-displacement requirements; eliminates the annual per-country limit for employment-based green cards; increases worker mobility for individuals on the path to a green card; creates a new conditional green card category to allow employers to sponsor university-educated foreign professionals through a separate path from H-1B; enables F-1 student visa holders to seek permanent residence status while a student or during Optional Practical Training (OPT); and increases fees for H-1B visas and employment-based green cards and directs those fees toward state-administered grants to promote STEM education and worker training.

The Council plans to work with Senator Hatch’s office, industry groups, and the Bay Area’s legislative delegation to advance the bill’s proposals, which return the H-1B program to its original intent by ensuring that recipients are high-skilled, precluding the replacement of U.S. workers by H-1B holders, and ensuring that employers have access to the skills and talent they need to be remain competitive.

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Voters to Decide $4.5 Billion Traffic Relief, Transit Improvement Plan

The Bay Area Council today (Jan. 24)  loudly cheered a decision by the Bay Area Toll Authority to seek voter approval in June 2018 for Regional Measure 3 (RM3), a comprehensive plan to invest $4.5 billion to attack the region’s record traffic by fixing bottlenecks along key freeway corridors and improving and expanding transit services. The Bay Area Council is partnering with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and SPUR to lead a campaign to pass RM3, which requires majority voter approval of all nine Bay Area counties.

“RM3 gives us a fighting chance to get a handle on Bay Area traffic,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “The significant investments RM3 will make in all nine counties will hit directly at our worst congestion problems and add major capacity to existing mass transit systems like BART, ferries and Caltrain. We applaud the Toll Authority for giving voters the chance to take control of their transportation future. Traffic and overcrowded transit systems are costing commuters hundreds of dollars a year in lost time and fuel and robbing them of time better spent with family and other activities. The fixes that RM3 will make to ease traffic and improve transit will also help ensure we maintain our strong economy.”

Legislation by state Sen. Jim Beall last year authorized the Toll Authority to place RM3 on the ballot. RM3 would increase tolls on state-owned bridges by $3, with $1 increases made over six years. A recent poll by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission found sufficient support to pass RM3, but that an aggressive campaign would be necessary to educate and inform voters about the many benefits it would bring.

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REGIONAL MEASURE 3 TAKES IMPORTANT STEP FORWARD

A bold plan to invest $4.5 billion across the region to ease traffic and improve mass transit for millions of commuters took an important step forward this week (Jan. 10) when the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA)’s Oversight Committee recommended placing Regional Measure 3 (RM3) on the June ballot. The Bay Area Council, partnering with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, SPUR and the California Alliance for Jobs, gave input into the legislation by Sen. Jim Beall that authorizes the vote on RM3 and is preparing to lead the campaign for RM3’s passage. RM3 would make important investments to unclog traffic chokepoints on key major freeways in the East Bay, Silicon Valley and the North Bay, help complete the extension of BART to San Jose and replace its aging fleet, expand regional ferry service and make significant improvements to other key local and regional mass transit systems.

A recent poll by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) showed support for RM3 reaches as high as 60 percent, well above the majority threshold needed for passage. But polls are no guarantee of success and passing RM3 will require a concerted regional campaign to inform voters about the many benefits they will enjoy. To pay for the improvements, RM3 proposes raising tolls on seven state-owned bridges by phasing in three $1 increases over the next six years. BATA’s Oversight Committee recommendation to move forward with RM3 now goes to full MTC-BATA for final approval on Jan. 24. To help support the RM3 campaign, please contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.