Bay Area Council Blog: Housing and Sustainable Development Archive

mission rock


The Bay Area Council Housing and Sustainable Development Committee on Tuesday (June 10) made key endorsements on two major projects in San Francisco and Alameda that propose to create thousands of new housing units at a time when the region is suffering from a crisis-level shortage.

Joe Ernst, Principal at srmErnst Development Partners, presented on his group’s exciting new waterfront development planned for Alameda Point. The project will bring 800 residential units and 600,000 square feet of commercial space to a portion of Alameda’s former Navy base. The project is being considered by the Alameda City Council on Tuesday, June 16. The committee voted to support the project in its entirety.

The committee also heard from Fran Weld, Vice President, Strategy and Development for the San Francisco Giants, on the team’s “Mission Rock” project, which proposes creating 1,500 units of housing (33% affordable) and 1.5 million square feet of commercial space on a parking lot across McCovey Cove from AT&T Park. The committee endorsed the Giants’ plan for buildings of up to 240 feet. Even though the Giants have spent the past eight years working with the local community to develop and refine the plan, it will now go to the voters of San Francisco in November, as required by the recent passage of Proposition B, adding huge delays, costs and uncertainties for this much needed housing. The Council opposed Prop. B.

The committee also received an eye-opening presentation by Denise Pinkston of TMG Partners on the true costs of building in the Bay Area, and heard an update on the Bay Area Council’s Regional Economic Strategy project. To engage in our housing policy work, contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.



With the Bay Area confronting a major housing crisis, giving local communities a reason not to build housing would seem to be ill-advised. But a proposal advanced this week at the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) as part of the next round of Plan Bay Area could do just that. Plan Bay Area is the region’s long-range housing and transportation blueprint. The proposal floated by ABAG would create a new land use designation called priority industrial areas (PIAs).

On its face, this new designation looks good – designed to support industrial/manufacturing areas that provide thousands of jobs. The Bay Area Council supports continued study of PIAs, including ensuring they don’t have an unintended consequence of eliminating opportunities to create important infill housing for the promise of industrial/manufacturing uses that may never happen. As work on Plan Bay Area 2.0 advances over the next 18 months, the Council will be closely monitoring this and other proposals to ensure we keep our eye on the prize of more housing.

Elsewhere on housing, a proposal to impose a moratorium on new market-rate housing in San Francisco’s Mission District that the Council vigorously opposed was defeated Tuesday (June 2) in a 7-4 vote by the Board of Supervisors. Proponents of the ban now say they will work to place a moratorium on the November ballot.

To engage in our housing and regional planning work, contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.



As Bay Area housing prices continue to rise and transportation networks operate near capacity, regional planners have begun to prepare for the future. Both the business community and regional planners acknowledge we could have done a much better job representing economic and business concerns in the last Plan, and intend to do so in the next iteration. Plan Bay Area 2040 will shape the Bay Area economy over the next 25 years, and the Bay Area Council Economic Institute is working with business leaders to provide regional agencies with strategies that will build economic resilience.

Over the last 10 months, the Economic Institute has engaged business and other regional leaders in a series of roundtable events. Six meetings around the region engaged leaders on innovative practices taking place at the local level. This spring, a series of meetings asked business leaders to identify the top opportunities for the region and the concrete requirements for achieving success. Recommendations addressed housing, infrastructure and governance. Participants proposed ways to change the math of housing production–for instance, through new funding streams and greater certainty around community benefits requirements. Attendees explored options for building infrastructure and using new technologies to manage transportation demand. Participants also recommended a new regional governance structure to better align existing funds and streamline planning for key projects.

The Economic Institute will use these inputs to develop recommendations for regional agencies as they update Plan Bay Area 2040. To engage in our regional economic strategy work, contact Economic Institute Vice President Tracey Grose.

Bay Meadows


Bay Meadows, the pioneering transit-oriented development underway in San Mateo, broke ground this week (May 14) on the new village’s town square—its commercial and social hub. The Bay Area Council was an early supporter and advocate for this landmark smart-growth project, which is located adjacent to Caltrain. Chris Meany, partner with developer and Bay Area Council member Wilson Meany (and working with Stockbridge Capital), praised the public and private partners for persevering during the nearly decade-long approval process. Before an invited audience that included Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman, Meany thanked the civic and business leaders for their roles in bringing this sustainable, mixed-use community to fruition.

On the site of the 83-acre former horse track, Bay Meadows includes 1,000 units of housing, 780,000 square feet of LEED-certified office space and 18 acres of parks. The town square groundbreaking signified a shift in focus from primarily residential and parks to building the commercial and retail elements. Bay Meadows has begun construction on Station 4, the first of its five office buildings, which is available for lease and will be ready for occupancy in June 2016. To engage in the Council’s housing policy work, contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Expected To Increase 11 Percent From 2009


The resounding success of the Bay Area economy was highlighted this week as the Franchise Tax Board released data that starkly demonstrates how our region is leading the state in economic productivity. In 2013, the Bay Area generated nearly $20 billion in personal income tax, accounting for a third of the tax assessed in the entire state with just a sixth of the state’s population. The Highway 101 corridor between San Francisco and San Jose is a particularly strong economic driver for California, as the population in this corridor generates nearly three times the tax revenue as Los Angeles residents.

This tremendous economic growth in the 101 corridor has precipitated severe congestion on highways and transit systems. The Bay Area Council has been working to deliver widespread congestion relief through an array of near-term commute strategies, including Caltrain electrification, Highway 101 operational improvements, corporate shuttle buses, and potentially introducing a North-South ferry route to serve Silicon Valley. The Council is working with our member companies and public agencies to deliver quick improvements in this critically important corridor since we can’t afford to let commute congestion jeopardize the future of the California economy. To engage in the Council’s transportation work, contact Policy Associate Emily Loper.



The Bay Area must create more workforce housing if we are to sustain healthy economic growth, continue to attract and retain top talent and address the growing affordability crisis. Those were among the messages underlying a robust discussion by the Bay Area Council’s Housing and Sustainable Development Committee on Tuesday (April 28) that focused on specific actions for meeting the Bay Area’s huge housing needs. The discussion comes as the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments begin work on the next round of Plan Bay Area – the region’s housing and transportation blueprint for the next 25 years. The committee provided valuable input on a Regional Economic Strategy being developed by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute that will help inform Plan Bay Area 2.0. The Council believes that the last iteration of Plan Bay Area significantly underestimated the region’s housing needs and inadequately considered important economic factors.

The committee, which is chaired by Michael Covarrubias, Chairman and CEO of TMG Partners, explored both old and new solutions, including seeking needed reforms to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), leveraging new technologies to streamline local housing permitting processes and rally grassroots support for housing and looking at ways to alter the state’s tax structure to remove disincentives for housing. The committee also voted to support two key housing bills — AB 35 and AB 1335. AB 1335 authored by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins would generate up to $700 million annually for a variety of affordable housing programs. To engage in the Council’s housing work, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

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It seems to be an almost daily occurrence in recent months when another report or study is released confirming what we have known for a long time: California and regions like the Bay Area, in particular, aren’t building enough housing to meet demand. What the recent data is revealing to us is not just the level of the shortage, but also the many consequences of our chronic under building, including displacement and community upheaval, overcrowding, poor health and educational outcomes, and generational poverty.

This week, the US Census Bureau released data on our region’s population growth, and not surprisingly it is growing, and growing fast. From 2010-14, Alameda County alone added 100,000 new residents. During that same period, the county averaged just 2,500 new housing permits per year (that’s permits, not units actually built). The massive competition for the very few available homes is impacting the ability of employers to attract and retain the best talent, and creating a serious financial burden for lower-income residents who are forced to spend an inordinate amount of their take home pay on rent. According to a recent report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office, California’s bottom quartile of earners spend an astronomical 67 percent of their take home pay on housing.

It is clear that our housing shortage is the principal driver of California’s nation-leading poverty rate. The time is long past for incremental solutions or piecemeal responses. We need a crisis-type response to what is clearly a critical situation. That means we need big, bold steps in the capitol to both incentivize local governments to build more housing and punish those that choose to ignore their housing obligations. Our housing shortage is every bit as serious as our water shortage and deserves similar attention from our elected leaders. To engage in our housing policy work, contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.



Fresh on the heels of a blunt report by the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) examining California’s housing affordability crisis, new jobs and census data put even greater urgency on the need for removing barriers to meeting growing housing demand in the Bay Area. The U.S. Census reported on Thursday (March 26) that the Bay Area is home to five of the fastest-growing counties in the state, including Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco. That’s not surprising given that recent state jobs reports show that the Bay Area in 2014 added close to 120,000 jobs, almost a quarter of the total statewide.

The LAO report put the blame for California’s housing woes squarely on the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), anti-development groups (NIMBYs) and onerous state and local fees and regulation. The report also attributed California’s nation-leading poverty rate to the housing problem. The Bay Area Council has long advocated for updating CEQA and is exploring new ways in which to reform this important environmental law. Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman on Thursday addressed these issues during an hour-long discussion with KQED Forum that focused on the Bay Area’s sizzling jobs and economic growth. To engage in our housing policy work, contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

Listen to the KQED Forum discussion with Jim Wunderman on jobs and the economy>>

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California’s soaring housing costs are the primary reason the state’s poverty rate (23 percent) is the highest in the nation and why the state has among the lowest home ownership rates nationally (54 percent), according to a damning report the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) released Tuesday (March 19). The report squarely blames CEQA, NIMBYs and onerous government fees and regulation for squelching new housing construction over the past 30 years that could have boosted supply and helped keep prices more affordable. The problem is particularly acute in coastal areas, including the Bay Area. Since 1980, the number of housing units produced in California’s coastal regions has increased by 32 percent, far less than the 54 percent in other metropolitan areas nationally. Home building was even slower (20 percent) in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Increasing our housing supply is among the Bay Area Council’s lead policy priorities, including winning badly needed and long-overdue reforms to CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act. The housing shortage and astronomical prices take the heaviest toll on lower-income residents, subjecting them to overcrowding, longer commutes and reduced economic opportunities, the report said. They also make recruiting the talent that California needs to sustain its economic growth extremely difficult. Legislation recently introduced by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins proposes new funding sources for affordable housing, but many experts say it represents just a drop in the bucket. The Council is preparing a response to the report that will be delivered to Gov. Jerry Brown and top legislative leaders and calls for the adoption of recommendations made by the LAO. To engage in the Council’s housing policy work, contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

Read the full report: California’s High Housing Costs, Causes and Consequences>>

Housing forum

Council Convenes Lively Debate on Housing Moratoria

A standing room-only crowd at the Bay Area Council Conference Center was treated to a lively discussion on Thursday (Feb. 26) about the roots of the region’s current housing affordability crisis, the impact it’s having on communities and strategies for addressing the problem. The Bay Area Council Economic Institute and Bay Area Council Housing Committee under the leadership of Chair and TMG & Partners CEO Michael Covarrubias convened the forum in response to recent controversial proposals in San Francisco and the East Bay to impose housing moratoriums in response to new rapid residential construction, plus issues of displacement and gentrification. There was general agreement that the housing crunch is largely a supply-side problem, is causing pain and putting the region’s economic boom at risk, but views diverged on how to respond.

Chris Thornberg of Beacon Economics gave a fascinating overview of some of the economic and policy fundamentals underlying the current crunch and said imposing measures like moratoriums and rent control will only discourage new housing or push demand into other neighborhoods or cities. Click here to view the presentation. San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, who is championing a moratorium in the city’s Mission District, agreed we are confronting a supply problem, but said a freeze would allow a “pause” to assess impacts and explore ways to develop more affordable housing (below market rate). Association of Bay Area Government President Julie Pierce said the economics of creating or incentivizing affordable housing are challenging everywhere and pointed to various state laws and regulations as culprits. Thanks for Economic Institute President Micah Weinberg for moderating the discussion and Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman for introductory and closing remarks. To engage in our housing policy work, contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

Watch video of the full discussion>>