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.
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.
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.
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.
Not that Bay Area residents need a reminder of how urgently we need to invest big on regional traffic relief, but a ranking released this week by congestion research firm INRIX put some jaw-dropping numbers to the problem. The Bay Area ranked third in the U.S. as the most congested urban area, with traffic costing each driver $2,250 a year and costing the region $10.6 billion. Among cities, San Francisco ranked fifth worldwide for snarled roads and highways. The report comes as the Bay Area Council partners with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and SPUR to win voter approval in June 2018 for a ballot measure—Regional Measure 3—that would invest $4.5 billion on key projects to ease gridlock, including improving critical highway interchanges where our worst bottlenecks occur, closing gaps in carpool lanes, improving BART service, expanding regional ferry service and other vital mass transit systems, improving connections between local and regional transit and enhancing bicycle and pedestrian corridors. Polling shows that RM3 can win with a strong campaign. To support our RM3 campaign and help move the Bay Area far down on the INRIX ranking, please contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.
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.
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.
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.
There hasn’t been a lot of rain so far this winter, but Gov. Jerry Brown had the wet stuff on his mind this week (Jan. 11) when he released a $190 billion budget proposal that ups the state’s “Rainy Day Fund” by $5 billion to $13.5 billion. The reserve is designed to protect California against future economic downturns, which Brown believes is coming sooner rather than later. Still, the budget represents a record for California and includes a $7 billion increase over the previous spending plan. The Bay Area Council applauded many of the spending priorities, which include $4.6 billion for commute improvement projects from last year’s SB1 (Beall) legislation that the Council supported.
The plan invests $245 million to expand and protect affordable housing under SB2 (Atkins), another bill the Council supported last year. Brown proposed another $277 million for housing in anticipation of the passage of a statewide housing bond measure expected to appear on the November 2018 ballot. The spending plan also continues the Governor’s efforts to pay down the overall state debt and makes a small dent in the state’s massive pension liability shortfall. The Council is continuing to analyze the plan and will be weighing in directly as it now moves to the legislature, which has a June deadline to approve it.
Many folks in Sacramento called 2017 the Year of Housing for the 15 bills (many of which the Bay Area Council supported) that Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law that in various ways responded to the state’s awful housing crisis. Despite the volume of new laws designed to ease barriers and provide new funding for housing, the gains were modest compared to the immense scale of a problem that has been decades in the making. Many acknowledged that much more needed to be done, and now it’s starting to look like 2018 may be the main course compared to the appetizer served last year. That’s great news. Senator Scott Wiener was first out of the gate with a package of reform bills that aim to open a floodgate of new housing near transit and put more pressure on cities to meet their commitments for housing. The Council met with Sen. Wiener in December as he was developing his legislation, and many of the changes he is looking to make reflect long-standing reforms to the Regional Housing Needs Allocation process for which we have advocated. We have it on good authority that more reform ideas are soon to come from other members of the Bay Area Caucus.
The Council is also working with state Sen. Bob Wieckowski on a new bill, SB 831, that would build on legislation (SB 1069) we sponsored in 2016 that has unleashed a statewide surge in applications for accessory dwelling units, aka granny or in-law units. And, we are working on legislation to make the construction of student housing near college campuses easier to achieve. At a local level, the Council this week testified at the Alameda City Council in support of a project by member company Carmel Partners that will convert almost 150 units of vacant former military housing into three- and four-bedroom townhomes near the Alameda ferry terminal. The project won approval. Not a bad start to 2018. To engage in the Council’s housing policy, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.