Bay Area Council Blog: Housing and Sustainable Development Archive



A transit-focused residential tower the Bay Area Council Housing Committee recently endorsed that will add badly needed units to San Francisco’s housing stock this week won Planning Commission approval. The Council testified in support of the project at a hearing on Thursday (Sept. 3) before the 5-1 vote in favor. The sleek, elegant building at 75 Howard Street will rise 20 stories, include 133 condominium units and feature almost 6,000 feet of street-level retail space for shops, restaurants and other neighborhood-serving small businesses. It will replace a hulking, eight-story concrete parking garage. Architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP designed the building for property owner Paramount Group. To request the Housing Committee consider a project for endorsement, contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.



Bay Area Council CEO Jim Wunderman (who asked that we not run this story – sorry Jim!) on Tuesday (Aug. 25) was named to what has become THE List in Sacramento power, the Capitol Weekly’s Top 100, of “the most powerful movers and shakers in California politics and public policy.” Capitol Weekly is one of California’s most respected sources for political and government news and views. First Lady Anne Gust Brown topped the CW list, which included seven women in the top 10. His ranking at #51 (look out Anne Gust!) is a credit to his hard work building relationships, and not being afraid to have a strong opinion on behalf of our members. Two years ago the Bay Area Council opened an office in Sacramento, hired some top notch staff there, reinvigorated the Bay Area Caucus, and has routinely shuttled our Bay Area-based staff up as well to ensure our presence and engagement was felt in the State Capitol. With Washington, D.C. routinely gridlocked, much of the action for our region and our members is happening in Sacramento.
It’s not just about the staff. The Council’s easy-on-the-eyes Sacramento office provides our member companies a strong platform from which to work directly with Gov. Brown and his administration, legislators and top agency leaders on a wide range of policy and legislative issues. The Bay Area Council’s annual Sacramento Day, when we bring a delegation of business leaders to the capitol, is widely praised for the high-level meetings we secure with legislative leaders and high-level administration officials. If your company is not involved, we think you should be! Our thanks to Capitol Weekly for its work in assembling the Top 100 list and for ongoing journalistic work to enlighten and educate Californians about public policy and state governance. To engage in our Sacramento government relations work, contact Policy Manager Cornelious Burke.

See the Capitol Weekly Top 100>>

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Preparing the Bay Area FOR a COMING MEGA-STORM

(Bay Area Council Policy Director Adrian Covert wrote the following piece for the San Francisco Chronicle)

California is today learning a hard lesson about inadequate drought preparation. But if California’s hydrological record teaches us anything, it’s that extreme droughts tend to be followed by extreme floods—the flip sides of our meteorological coin.

Whether or not the strengthening El Nino delivers a drenching blow, experts are clear that we are long overdue for an extreme storm, a West Coast version of Superstorm Sandy or Hurricane Katrina. The Texas example is particularly worrisome, as that state’s four-year drought was abruptly ended last winter by disastrous flooding that left dozens dead. And yet, we in the Bay Area have done little to invest in the infrastructure necessary to blunt the catastrophic impacts of such an event.

The good news is that a big part of what’s needed to defend the region against Bay flooding—healthy wetlands—will also improve the Bay ecosystem. That’s why the Bay Area Council is partnering with a number of environmental, government and business organizations on a regional initiative to prepare the Bay Area for the coming storm, and improve the environment while we’re at it.

Today, over 30,000 acres of salt ponds and diked shoreline from Sonoma to Santa Clara are already owned by public agencies and ready to be restored into wetlands. Healthy wetland habitat has been shown to absorb tidal energy and reduce flood risk.

To that end, the Bay Area Council and our partners are readying a 2016 region-wide ballot measure that will ask voters to approve a modest, $12 parcel tax to bolster our waterfront defenses. These funds could provide huge benefits to the Bay ecosystem while improving public access and protecting our homes, businesses and critical infrastructure. A poll conducted this past spring by Fairbank, Maslin Maullin, Metz & Assoc. found 70 percent of Bay Area voters supported such a measure.

Let’s be clear: cost of inaction is extremely high. California is vulnerable to prolonged periods of heavy rainfall, elevated tides and gale force winds known as “atmospheric rivers.” These storms can bring flooding on a biblical scale. The great flood of 1862 brought rain to Northern California for 43 days straight, transforming the central valley into an inland sea, destroying Sacramento and bankrupting the state.

What would happen in the Bay Area today? A March 2015 study by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute – Surviving the Storm – estimates that a mega-storm would conservatively wreak $10.4 billion in damages on the Bay Area. That’s about the same as the Loma Prieta earthquake.

Surviving the Storm models a significantly smaller storm than 1862, but larger than anything seen since. Ten days of torrential rain would grind daily life to a halt. Local rivers and creeks would swell beyond anything seen since the Gold Rush. Air travel would stop and major roadways would be blocked. The San Francisco Bay, elevated by low barometric pressure, storm surge, and a king tide, would overtop local levees like a clogged sink, resulting in widespread flooding. Add sea level rise, and this existing problem is going to get much worse.
While virtually every coastal city on earth is grappling with the impact of sea level rise and climate change, the Bay Area has both the natural and human assets to lead the response. Our overall hilly landscape and the Golden Gate help limit the region’s overall vulnerability, while our intellectual, financial and political resources are unrivaled. With a little investment and preparation, we can step back from the brink.

Visit to learn about the risks facing the bay, and access shareable resources to help spread the word.



A hulking, eight-story concrete parking garage near San Francisco’s iconic waterfront would be replaced by badly needed housing under a plan the Bay Area Council’s Housing Committee has endorsed. A sleek, elegant building proposed for 75 Howard Street would rise 20 stories and include 133 condominium units and almost 6,000 feet of street-level retail space for shops, restaurants and other neighborhood-serving small businesses. By putting housing in an area that is seeing meteoric growth in jobs and is served by a robust mix of transit options, the project supports San Francisco’s goals of discouraging the use of automobiles.

The Housing Committee agreed with property owner Paramount Group that the project’s strong connections with transit, including BART, MUNI and ferries, and its close proximity to the new Transbay Terminal will provide both economic benefits and enhance the neighborhood walkability and livability. Paramount Group says the project, which is designed by leading architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, will support 250 construction jobs and 82 permanent neighborhood jobs.

To help solve San Francisco’s chronic housing shortage, 75 Howard Street needs your support. The project goes before the San Francisco Planning Commission on Sept. 3. Add your name to the growing list of supporters>>

To request the Housing Committee consider a project for endorsement, contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.



Under the leadership of new Chairs Kofi Bonner of Lennar Urban and Denise Pinkston of TMG Partners, the Bay Area Council Housing Committee met this week (Aug. 11) and got an insider briefing from Oakland Assistant City Administrator Claudia Cappio on continuing negotiations and other developments involving the Coliseum City project. Cappio gave an update on the many challenges of the project, including financing, the various uses that could be incorporated into any future development and dynamics surrounding the plans of the Oakland Raiders, the NFL and the Oakland A’s.

The committee also approved making a recommendation to the Council’s Executive Committee to formally oppose Proposition F on the November 2015 ballot in San Francisco. Prop F would impose Draconian restrictions on short-term rentals at a time when the city is in desperate need of housing. The committee concluded that regulations on short-term rentals that the city approved in 2014 deserve time to work, and that ballot-box legislating would be harmful, could produce unintended consequences and would be difficult to undue or revise. To engage in the Council’s housing policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.



Gov. Jerry Brown this week traveled to the Vatican City to talk with the Pope about climate change and his aggressive new targets for reducing California’s greenhouse gas emissions. One of the biggest impediments to meeting these ambitious targets is, ironically, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Gov. Brown has famously called CEQA reform “the Lord’s work” and we hope he took this opportunity to urge the Pope to put it on the “to do list.”

This 40-year-old law is one of the chief litigation tools used by opponents of responsible growth to block higher-density infill development and other projects that help reduce dependency on cars and increase use of renewable energy. The Bay Area Council Executive Committee recently endorsed Sen. Pavley’s GHG reduction bill, SB 32, with one condition being that the Legislature consider the negative impacts of CEQA. Council CEO Jim Wunderman today in an OpEd in the San Francisco Chronicle spelled out the case for modernizing CEQA. To engage in our CEQA reform policy work, contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

Read Jim Wunderman’s OpEd calling for CEQA reform>>



The Bay Area Council Executive Committee and Board of Directors on Thursday (July 17) applauded Virgin America CEO David Cush for his two years of strong leadership as Chair of the regional business and economic policy group and welcomed Michael Covarrubias, Chairman and CEO of development firm TMG Partners, as his successor. Covarrubias’ selection to the two-year leadership position came during a meeting generously hosted by member company Google at their Mountain View campus.

Cush’s two-year tenure as Chair marked a period of significant growth and accomplishment for the Council. Covarrubias, the 37th Chair in the organization’s 70-year history, has been a stalwart supporter of the Bay Area Council and is actively engaged in driving the Council’s work to create more housing in the region. Covarrubias chairs the Council’s Housing and Sustainable Development Committee, and serves on several of the Council’s key governance groups. His TMG Partners is one of the region’s leading real estate development companies whose landmark projects include some of San Francisco’s most prominent buildings. Covarrubias is highly regarded within the real estate community and in 2008 was named Dealmaker of the Year by the San Francisco Business Times.

The Council was warmly received by Google executive Mark Golan. Golan spoke about Google’s strong alignment with the Council’s continuing work to address the region’s serious housing shortage and crisis-level traffic. At the Executive Committee meeting, the Council’s top leadership discussed pending legislation to expand California’s battle against greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, reviewed a bold strategy for addressing the state’s historic drought and water infrastructure needs, and discussed options currently being considered during a special session of the Legislature for how to fund the state’s massive transportation infrastructure needs. The Council will announce more details about its positions on these various issues in coming weeks.

In a series of lively reports, the Board of Directors heard from policy committee chairs on the great progress the Council is making on its priority issues. Rosemary Turner, Northern California President for United Parcel Service, reported on transportation; Michael Covarrubias on housing; Suffolk Construction West Region President Andy Ball and Montezuma Wetlands Jim Levine on water; AT&T California President Ken McNeely on 21st Century Infrastructure and Signature Development Group CEO Michael Ghielmetti on the Council’s China activities. During the water report, Levine and Ball unveiled a fun, new drought awareness public service announcement featuring San Francisco Giants ace Sergio Romo that will begin airing statewide compliments of Bay Area Council member Comcast, whose Hank Fore was in attendance Thursday.

The Board of Directors was also treated to an update from Executive Committee member and San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York and Super Bowl 50 Host Committee CEO Keith Bruce on the plans for the Super Bowl next year. Bruce shared images of the exciting Super Bowl City that will erected at the base of Market Street in San Francisco, described the unprecedented charitable component of the event and talked about the many activities that will surround the eight-day extravaganza. Thanks again to Google for hosting us.

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Performance, not promises should inform regional housing incentives

While the Bay Area continues to suffer from a severe housing shortage and a congested transportation system, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s One Bay Area Grant (OBAG) program offers one funding mechanism for integrating regional transportation and housing goals. One of the objectives of the OBAG program, designed to fund transportation and infrastructure projects, is to “reward jurisdictions that accept housing allocations through the Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA) process.”

The RHNA process identifies the total number of new housing units that the Bay Area needs in each city; however, few jurisdictions have been able to hit their targets. For example, in the 2007-2014 RHNA cycle, only seven of the region’s 101 cities accomplished their housing production goals. While this RHNA period occurred within a deep recession and followed a Bay Area housing boom, recent housing production is falling well short of keeping up with demand. To enhance the program’s incentive to build housing, OBAG funds should reward cities that achieve their RHNA targets by actually building new units—as opposed to only accepting housing allocations. Moreover, there should be consequences for cities that fail to permit the required number of new housing units. The OBAG program is currently being revised by MTC for its second iteration of Plan Bay Area, and the Bay Area Council is calling for an emphasis on performance rather than promises. To engage in the Council’s housing policy work, please contact Senior Vice President of Policy Matt Regan.



The Bay Area Council this week (June 23) released results of our region-wide 2015 Bay Area Council Poll, the only survey of its kind that provides a comprehensive and incisive look at the attitudes of Bay Area residents on the most topical and critical issues affecting the region. The poll examined attitudes on the economy, top issues, drought, housing and transportation.

View all the results>>

Residents Say Soaring Economy May Be Reaching a Plateau

Bay Area residents think the region’s super-heated economy may be reaching a plateau according to the results, although they are generally bullish about the overall direction the region is heading. 46 percent of residents said the Bay Area is doing at least somewhat better than six months ago while 40 percent say things are about the same and 11 percent think things are worse. But looking ahead, confidence is somewhat weaker than the outlook only a year ago. Today, 39 percent think the Bay Area economy will be performing somewhat better in six months, a 12-point drop from 2014 when it was more than a majority.

Drought Tops Concerns; Residents Say They Are Already Conserving What They Can

California’s historic drought easily topped residents’ list of concerns, followed closely by housing costs and overall cost of living. Only in San Francisco did the drought take second to housing costs as the leading problem. The poll found 48 percent of residents rank the drought among the Bay Area’s most dominant issues, with 89 percent saying that preparing for drought is an important priority for the region.

But, Bay Area residents appear to be tapped out when it comes to restricting their water use, and heavily favor expanding the use of recycled water, turning seawater into drinking water and building new dams and reservoirs. While 38 percent say they could do a bit more to conserve, another 38 percent say they’re already doing everything they can to reduce water usage. Another 15 percent said they don’t make a special effort to conserve and 3 percent pay little attention to their water use.

In the drought’s fourth year, residents are heavily in favor expanding the use of recycled water, turning seawater into drinking water and building new dams and reservoirs. Even the notion of adding recycled water to drinking water supplies got more support than raising rates, with 58 percent of residents in support.

Housing Crisis Worsens and Attitudes Soften on Density, Regulations and Fees

Second to the drought only in San Francisco, as the Bay Area’s housing crisis worsens, poll results find that a growing number of residents support reducing fees and regulations on new development, streamlining environmental reviews and allowing higher population densities in their cities. Almost 67 percent said that trying to find a place to live in the Bay Area has gotten harder over the past year.

Residents also are not interested in building just any housing, the poll finds. A significant 76 percent say the focus should be on building workforce housing for low- and middle-income residents. When asked to show on a map where they think housing is needed most urgently, the overwhelming majority of residents from around the region point to a city where home prices and rents are soaring to stratospheric heights: San Francisco.

Residents say getting around the Bay Area is harder than a year ago, Strongly Support Investing in BART, Second Transbay Tube and Driverless Cars

Driverless cars have yet to hit the road beyond early experimental and testing projects, but that doesn’t mean Bay Area motorists aren’t eager to try them. That is among the findings in the poll, which gauged attitudes on a wide range of transportation-related issues including traffic congestion, support for a BART bond, a second transbay tube and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) fees to improve roads.


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2015 Bay Area Council Poll: Residents Say Soaring Economy May Be Plateauing; Drought, Housing and Crime Surface as Top Issues

Bay Area residents think the region’s super-heated economy may be reaching a plateau, according to results of the 2015 Bay Area Council Poll released today (June 23), although they are generally bullish about the overall direction the region is heading. And, there are some stark differences depending on how much residents make and where they live.

California’s historic drought easily topped residents’ list of concerns, followed closely by housing costs and overall cost of living. Only in San Francisco did the drought take second to housing costs as the leading problem, and residents in the East Bay counties of Alameda and Contra Costa identified crime and public safety high on their list of concerns. Detailed results on residents’ attitudes about the drought, housing, transportation and other issues will be released separately in the coming days. The results also examine attitudes based on age, county of residence, employment status and income level.

View the 2015 Bay Area Council Poll top issues, economic outlook>>

On the economic front, 46 percent of residents said the Bay Area is doing at least somewhat better than six months ago while 40 percent say things are about the same and 11 percent think things are worse. But looking ahead, confidence is somewhat weaker than the outlook only a year ago. Today, 39 percent think the Bay Area economy will be performing somewhat better in six months, a 12-point drop from 2014 when it was more than a majority.

“As hot as the Bay Area economy has been, residents may be thinking something has to give,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Intensifying concerns about the drought, housing crisis and growing traffic also may be coloring residents’ economic outlook, although they remain generally upbeat about the overall direction the Bay Area is heading. It’s imperative that to avoid eroding confidence we as a region continue to focus on the problems we can address.”

Lower income residents are decidedly less optimistic about the Bay Area economy. While 58 percent of residents from households making $125,000 or more per year think the economy is doing better today than six months ago, only 43 percent of residents from households making $75,000 or less annually think the economy is doing better. Looking ahead, the poll found that 48 percent of higher income residents think the economy will get better over the next six months while just 38 percent of lower income residents think the economy will continue its upward trajectory.

More broadly, the poll found that 55 percent of residents think the Bay Area overall is heading in the right direction. Millennials (18-33 years) are decidedly more upbeat, with 62 percent saying the region is on the right track and 20 percent saying it’s on the wrong track. Older residents (65 years and older) are less impressed with the direction of things, with only 49 percent saying we’re headed in the right direction and 34 percent saying we’re off track.

Residents are little happier with things close to home, with 59 percent saying their local community is headed in the right direction. They are less enamored of the state overall, with 51 percent agreeing California is headed in the right direction.

Gov. Jerry Brown gets very high marks from Bay Area residents, with 66 percent approving the job he is doing. His biggest fans are among the older set, with 77 percent of residents 65 years and older approving of the job the governor is doing. Among millennials, the governor’s approval rating dips to 56 percent. The normally beleaguered state Legislature gets some credit for decreasing their squabbling, with residents bumping their approval of lawmakers from 36 percent in 2014 to 48 percent in 2015.

Residents are unhappy about taxes. The Bay Area Council Poll found 73 percent of residents think the amount of taxes they pay is somewhat too high (41%) or much too high (32%). Another 22 percent said their taxes are about right. Attitudes towards taxes are fairly consistent across counties, with residents in Contra Costa (78%) and Alameda (76%) feeling most over-burdened.

The poll also explored residents’ use of smartphone technology, with 41 percent saying they rely a great deal on their device to accomplish day-to-day tasks, an increase of eight points from 2014. Another 29 percent have a moderate reliance on their smart phone and only 11 percent of Bay Area residents surveyed don’t have a smart phone. While 60 percent of residents say they currently have a landline telephone, 42 percent say it’s likely they’ll cut the cord in the five years.

The 2015 Bay Area Council Poll, which was conducted by Oakland-based public opinion research firm EMC Research, surveyed more than 1,000 residents online about a range of issues related to economic growth, housing and transportation, drought, education and workforce. The margin of error is 3.1 percent.