Bay Area Council Blog: Housing and Sustainable Development Archive



Well-coordinated regional planning is absolutely critical if we are to address the region’s housing affordability crisis, upgrade its congested transportation networks, sustain its economic growth and meet the climate goals laid out in state policy and international accords. To achieve that, the Bay Area Council is advocating for the merger of our two regional planning agencies into a single entity that can effectively deliver on the promise of regional solutions.

Our two regional planning agencies, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), each have proud histories and legacies of accomplishment. However, this dual agency structure was established for an age in which our region’s housing and transportation challenges were orders of magnitude smaller than they are today and the imperative of restructuring our communities to respond to global climate change not nearly as urgent. Our region has taken some critical first steps but we must better align our transportation and land use plans in one regional vision. It has become abundantly clear that institutional reform is necessary if we are to rise to the challenge.

To that end, MTC and ABAG have convened a process to consider how a merged agency might be structured. The Bay Area Council is advocating for creating a single regional planning agency and has been engaging closely with MTC and ABAG leadership during the process, and has developed a set of principles to help guide the discussion.

Read the Council’s Principles for Regional Governance Reform>>



The Bay Area Council’s advocacy is helping unleash a significant but largely untapped source of affordable housing in the region. On Tuesday (Jan. 5), Council Senior Vice President Matt Regan testified in support of changes to Oakland’s housing rules that will make it faster and easier for homeowners to get approval for second units, known technically as accessory dwelling units (ADU) and more familiarly as “granny” or “in-law” units. The Oakland City Council approved the changes, which include removing or altering onerous parking and building restrictions.

The Bay Area Council estimates that ADUs have the potential to quickly add tens of thousands of affordable units to the region’s housing stock as the Bay Area confronts a massive housing shortage. ADUs also provide an important source of income for many existing residents as they grapple with the region’s high cost of living. The Council’s Housing Committee under the leadership of Co-Chairs Denise Pinkston of TMG Partners and Kofi Bonner of Lennar Urban currently is working on several fronts to encourage more cities to ease restrictions on ADUs. To engage in the Council’s housing policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

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The Bay Area Council’s Government Relations Committee, under the leadership of Co-Chairs Andrew Giacomini, Managing Partner with Hanson Bridgett LLP, and Peter Brightbill, Senior Vice President with Wells Fargo, on Thursday (Dec. 17) met with state Sen. Bob Wieckowski (Fremont) and Assemblymember Mark Stone (Santa Cruz) at our San Francisco headquarters to discuss recommendations from our recent Roadmap for Economic Resilience report. The Committee is working on the Council’s 2016 legislative agenda. Among critical bills the Council is working on is AB 378, which we developed with Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (San Mateo) to accelerate several projects that will provide significant relief to the badly congested Highway 101 corridor linking San Francisco and San Jose. To engage in our Government Relations Committee, please contact Policy Manager Cornelious Burke.

Also yesterday, Housing Committee Co-Chair Denise Pinkston of TMG Partners traveled to Sacramento with Council staff to meet with state Controller Betty Yee on possible legislative and administrative solutions for removing local barriers and disincentives to creating housing. The discussion included identifying changes to fiscal policies related to land use, zoning policies related to infill development and financial mechanisms that reward cities for meeting their housing obligations. The team also met with the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) and shared housing recommendations from our Roadmap report. The LAO earlier this year issued a damning report on California’s housing shortage and is preparing a follow-up that will include recommendations for addressing the problem. To engage in our Housing Committee, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.



The Bay Area Council is taking dead aim at solving the region’s crisis-level housing and traffic problems with a 2016 policy agenda adopted this week (Dec. 3) by the Executive Committee that also targets critical water and drought issues and the growing challenge employers are facing in attracting talent across a range of skills. Under the leadership of Council Chair Michael Covarrubias, Chairman and CEO of TMG Partners, the Executive Committee developed the policy agenda over the past two months with input from the Council’s 275 member companies.

“The Council and this region are extremely fortunate to have the dedicated and visionary leadership that our Executive Committee and Board are bringing to bear against these difficult challenges,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “The priorities they have identified rightly reflect the major issues of our time, and we are confident that with their collective action the Council will start bending the curve to solve them.”

The Council’s 2016 Focus Policy Priorities include:

Workforce Housing. The Bay Area’s historic failure to build housing sufficient to meet employment and population growth is fueling an epic affordability crisis that could have long-term consequences for the region’s economic success. The Housing Committee, Co-Chaired by Lennar Urban President Kofi Bonner and TMG Partners Managing Partner Denise Pinkston, is working to significantly increase the supply of housing units and commercial space throughout the region by mitigating regulatory barriers to development of all kinds. To engage in our Workforce Housing work, contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

Commute Improvement. Traffic has reached crisis levels, and our public transportation systems are bursting at the seams. Under the leadership of Heller Manus Architects President Jeffrey Heller and UPS Northern California District President Rosemary Turner, the Transportation Committee is working on a range of innovative solutions that include expanding carpool and toll lanes, leveraging new traffic management technologies, emphasizing overall transportation corridors and developing new financing tools and local revenue sources for investing in maintaining and expanding capacity. To engage in our transportation policy work, contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.

Water Supply and Security. Our economy relies on access to clean, reliable and affordable supplies of water. With historic drought, competing demands and a historic lack of investment in our water system, the Bay Area faces major questions about its water future. The Water Committee, Co-Chaired by Montezuma Wetlands Managing Partner Jim Levine and Suffolk Construction Company West Coast President Andrew Ball, is uniting the region’s diverse water stakeholders around these issues, working to prioritize critical investments and educating policy makers in Sacramento and Washington on the region’s needs. Ball is also leading the Council’s effort to generate support for a regional ballot initiative in 2016 that would raise $500 million from a parcel tax to fortify the region’s defenses against extreme storms and sea-level rise. To engage in our Water Supply and Security work, contact Policy Director Adrian Covert.

Workforce of the Future. The Bay Area’s fast-changing, high-value innovation economy requires highly skilled graduates for today’s in-demand jobs. Under the leadership of Co-Chairs Teresa Briggs of Deloitte and Glenn Shannon of Shorenstein Properties, the Council’s Workforce of the Future Committee is building stronger connections between the region’s employers and the universities and colleges that are educating the region’s future workforce. To engage in our Workforce of the Future work, contact Senior Vice President Linda Bidrossian.



Council Chair Michael Covarrubias called for a moment of silence at yesterday’s (Dec. 3) Board of Directors meeting to honor beloved Bay Area business and philanthropic titan Doug Shorenstein, who passed away Nov. 25 after a long battle with cancer. Shorenstein was Chairman and CEO of Shorenstein Properties, a real estate development company founded by his late father Walter Shorenstein. He previously served on the Council’s Board of Directors and was a 2011 inductee into the Council’s Bay Area Business Hall of Fame – Walter was a member of the 1998 Hall of Fame. After taking over the company in 1995, Shorenstein transformed it from a local developer to one of the largest and most-respected real estate development and management companies in the nation. He will be sorely missed.

Read about Doug Shorenstein’s life in the San Francisco Chronicle>>

Watch the Hall of Fame video of honoring Doug Shorenstein>>

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The Bay Area Council Economic Institute’s Roadmap for Economic Resilience got a nod this week from one of the top urban planning thinkers in the country. In a commentary that appeared in the Atlantic Monthly’s CityLab blog, Richard Florida highlighted the innovative and sometimes disruptive solutions presented in the report.

Said Florida, “….the report should be applauded for addressing deepening urban challenges facing the Bay Area. It is heartening to see a regional development body calling for this type of reform. As these challenges heighten, other superstar cities and tech hubs will have to do the same.”

Read Richard Florida’s piece on the Roadmap for Economic Resilience>>

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The state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office may want to grab a copy of our Bay Area Council Economic Institute’s recent Roadmap for Economic Resilience. In a report this week examining California’s fiscal outlook, the LAO anxiously wonders about our region’s economic resilience and the impact a downturn here might have on the California economy. It’s a topic we spend a lot time thinking about ourselves.

“California’s economy and the state budget now are quite reliant on the San Francisco Bay Area,” the LAO notes. It credits the Bay Area, in particular the tech sector, for leading the state’s job recovery through the Great Recession. And it finds that while our region is home to just 17 percent of the state’s population, we pay 36 percent of total state personal income taxes at a level per capita more than double the statewide average. The LAO report also pays close attention to the Bay Area’s growing housing crisis, which our Roadmap report cites as one of the key factors in deciding the region’s economic future.

The Roadmap, which was unveiled Nov. 6, offers a sweeping, new regional economic vision for strengthening the Bay Area’s competitiveness, broadening prosperity, and building resilience against economic swings. It outlines a series of proposed solutions for addressing our housing and traffic crises, streamlining regional governance, promoting the region economically, and closing the workforce gap between universities and employers. We’ll make sure to get a copy to the LAO.

Read the Roadmap for Economic Resilience>>

Read the LAO’s California Fiscal Outlook>>

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Senior Bay Area legislative staffers this week got a comprehensive briefing on the Bay Area Council Economic Institute’s Roadmap for Economic Resilience as we prepare to pursue legislation that will be needed to implement a number of key recommendations from the report. The Roadmap, which was first unveiled last Friday (Nov. 6), offers a sweeping, new regional economic vision for strengthening the Bay Area’s competitiveness, broadening prosperity, and building resilience against economic swings. It outlines a series of proposed solutions for addressing the region’s housing and traffic crises, streamlining regional governance, promoting the region economically, and closing the workforce gap between universities and employers. The recommendations cover five main areas, including:

Creating the Bay Area Regional Economic Development Partnership, a new entity to help local companies expand and attract new ones, promote and market the region and improve the business climate.
Building more housing by putting teeth in local housing requirements, supporting new incentive structures for cities to build new housing, dramatically expanding the use of second units and, where it makes sense, re-classifying commercial land for residential use.
Reducing the cost of new home construction by streamlining approvals for lower-cost construction types and new building technologies, capping impact fees region-wide and winning reforms to the California Environmental Quality Act.
Improving the efficiency of transportation systems by aligning the region’s 26 transit agencies, focusing on larger transportation corridors and creating a new incentive program that awards grants for innovative traffic-fighting solutions.
Better connecting employers’ skills needs with worker training programs by establishing a Bay Area Collaboration on Workforce Development.

The Council has been approached by several legislators about translating the recommendations into legislation for the 2016 session. To engage in our state government relations work, contact Policy Manager Cornelious Burke.

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The Bay Area Council Economic Institute today unveiled a sweeping (and provocative), new regional economic vision for strengthening the Bay Area’s competitiveness, broadening prosperity, and building resilience against coming economic swings. A Roadmap for Economic Resilience offers a framework and series of recommendations for leveraging the power of the Bay Area’s many parts to combat the region’s growing housing and traffic crises, attract top workers and companies, and enhance overall quality of life.

Read the Roadmap for Economic Resilience>>

“Economic success is not a divine right, it has to be planned for, fought for, earned,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “UCLA Professor Michael Storper’s new book, “The Rise and Fall of Urban Economies,” explains how the Bay Area has remained on top among regional US economies for the last two generations, while Los Angeles dropped from 4th to 25th. The Bay Area is an incredible place, but we sit at a crossroads. It is time for the key stakeholders in our region to move forward together and address the serious challenges we face. The Regional Economy Strategy provides a bold framework for doing just that.”

At a packed forum this morning launching the Roadmap, top business and government leaders discussed the various solutions proposed in the report and what it will take to make progress on them. Tune in next week for links to video of the conversation. To participate in our regional planning work, contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

Roadmap for Economic Resilience forum agenda>>




We’re number 1. That was one of the conclusions of a commentary that ran this week in the Los Angeles Times comparing the economies of the Bay Area and our friendly southland rival Los Angeles. The piece by esteemed UCLA professor Michael Storper found that while the two regions shared the top rank for many decades, Los Angeles has slipped to #25 in recent years while the Bay Area has remained at the top. Among the key factors Storper cited for our region’s success was the role of the Bay Area Council in bringing together business and civic leaders on a regional scale to drive a coherent and coordinated regional strategy that focused on emphasizing the growth of new economy industries.

Read Michael Storper’s commentary>>

Despite the kudos and the satisfaction derived from topping LA, Bay Area Council CEO Jim Wunderman observed that it should also be a cautionary tale for the Bay Area. Wunderman said that unless this region works quickly and effectively to address our growing housing and transportation crisis, inconsistent progress in improving education and rise in homelessness and other social problems, we run the risk of ceding our top economic position and slipping down the rankings. The Council will host a discussion with Storper on Jan. 25, 2016.

Next week, the Council and our Bay Area Council Economic Institute will unveil a bold new vision for improving the region and addressing the issues that threaten our economy, our quality of life and our ability to compete globally. To attend the release of A Roadmap for Economic Resilience: The Bay Area Regional Economic Strategy on Friday, November 6, please contact Kim Cespedes.