Bay Area Council Blog: Housing and Sustainable Development Archive



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>>



The Tri-Valley is fast emerging as a new, white-hot technology and innovation powerhouse for the Bay Area, according to a report by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute that was the focus of a forum this week (Feb.19) co-hosted by the Economic Institute, Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty and Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group and generously sponsored by Comcast. “Tri-Valley Rising into the 21st Century” convened the area’s top business executives, community leaders and elected officials to explore the Tri-Valley’s vital role in the greater Bay Area economy and identify the transportation improvements that will be needed to sustain its record growth. Economic Institute Vice President Tracey Grose presented findings from the report, followed by a discussion with Supervisor Haggerty and Bay Area Council President & CEO Jim Wunderman on the Tri-Valley’s heavily impacted transportation system and opportunities to improve to the I-580 corridor and extend BART to Livermore. The forum closed with a panel discussion featuring top executives from Tri-Valley businesses and heads of the national laboratories. They said the Tri-Valley’s high quality of life and proximity to Silicon Valley will continue to make it an attractive location for businesses and families, but agreed that housing and transportation are the biggest barriers to the area’s continued success.

Read the full report — Tri-Valley Rising: Its Vital Role in the Bay Area Economy>>

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UPDATE (2/17): The Emeryville City Council on Friday, Feb. 13 narrowly rejected a proposed moratorium on residential construction.

Placing a moratorium on building new housing at a time when the Bay Area is experiencing a major housing shortage and affordability crisis isn’t good policy. That’s the position the Bay Area Council is taking on a surprise proposal unveiled at the Emeryville City Council this week to temporarily halt all residential construction, with options to extend the freeze by up to a year. Strangely, the rationale given for the drastic move was concerns about rising housing prices. In a letter strongly opposing the move, the Council wrote that “a moratorium will not bring down costs or ease displacement concerns, in fact by further restricting new supply this proposal will have the exact opposite effect, further pushing up prices and forcing more longtime residents out of Emeryville.” The City Council is scheduled to vote on the moratorium today (Feb. 13). To engage in our housing policy work, contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

bus tour


With new leadership and increasing signs Oakland is on the cusp of a sustained economic upswing, the Bay Area Council this week (Jan. 29) convened and led a group of 80 real estate developers, investors and other business leaders on a bus and walking tour of key development sites around the city. Interest in Oakland opportunities is so great there was a waiting list to join the tour. The Bay Area Council, along with the San Francisco Housing Action Coaltion, led the group on tours of three sites where the city has pre-approved plans that can speed investment and development of residential and commercial projects.

The tour kicked off with a stop at Oakland City Hall, where Mayor Libby Schaaf welcomed the group and declared that Oakland is open for business and ready to work with investors, developers and others to stir economic growth across the city. Oakland Planning Director Rachel Flynn served as tour guide, describing the various sites and answering questions. The tour concluded with a lunch hosted by Wendel Rosen Black & Dean. The Council will be following up with developers and investors to facilitate meetings with city officials about potential projects. Our thanks to Bauers IT for providing the bus. To engage in the Council’s housing and development policy work, contact Vice President Matt Regan.