Bay Area Council Blog: Housing and Sustainable Development Archive


Bay Area Balance: Preserving Open Space, Addressing Housing Affordability

Failure to produce housing in the Bay Area’s urban core and near transit represents a serious threat to the region’s open space, according to a new study released yesterday by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute that makes the economic case for preserving natural and working lands and identifies opportunities for responsible development in the region.

Despite the vast opportunity and need – let alone a requirement by law to help meet California’s ambitious GHG reduction targets – the Bay Area has made glacial progress realizing only 57% of the full potential for infill housing development of its urban core. Inability to build housing in the region’s core is forcing development further away from job centers, jeopardizing valuable open space and undermining state climate change goals. The analysis estimates the Bay Area greenbelt’s value to be as high as $14 billion per year – with direct and indirect benefits stemming from food, recreation, clean air, natural resources and protection against sea level rise.

“Building more housing and protecting open space are not mutually exclusive,” says Bay Area Council Economic Institute President Micah Weinberg. “We need to develop responsibly and actually fulfill state-mandated requirements to build within Priority Development Areas, meeting transit-oriented, infill housing goals. Smart growth will spare our open space and keep the Bay Area economically resilient, sustainable and equitable.”

Read Bay Area Balance: Preserving Open Space, Addressing Housing Affordability>>


Council Hails Key Vote on Bill to Address Bay Area’s Traffic, Commute Crisis

SAN FRANCISCO—Following weeks of intensive advocacy in the Bay Area and Sacramento, the Bay Area Council today hailed a pivotal vote by the Assembly Transportation Committee on a bill that could lead to $4.2 billion in new funding to help ease the Bay Area’s traffic and commuter nightmare. The bill—SB 595 authored by state Sen. Jim Beall—would authorize a regional, nine-county ballot measure in June 2018 for a $3 toll increase on state-run bridges in the Bay Area that a recent poll found was supported by 56 percent of voters.

“We’re one step closer to taking a big leap forward in addressing the region’s transportation and traffic crisis,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “With the funding that a regional toll increase would generate we can make important investments to expand mass transit like BART, Caltrain and ferries, ease congestion on traffic-clogged freeways and address the number one frustration plaguing Bay Area commuters. We applaud the Assembly Transportation Committee under the leadership of Chair Jim Frazier for working to create a balanced plan that makes meaningful improvements to the region’s beleaguered transportation system.”

With the Committee’s approval, the bill now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for a vote and, with approval, to the Assembly floor later this summer for final approval before heading to the Governor’s desk for his signature. Passage is expected. The passage of SB 595 would set the stage for a region-wide vote in June 2018, which the Council would play a leading role in organizing. Voters have approved two previous measures.

The Council provided key testimony in support of the legislation at today’s hearing and has worked closely over the past few months with Bay Area legislators and many other stakeholders to shape the spending plan included in SB 595.

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Council-backed Housing Bill Heads to Governor’s Desk

The Bay Area Council today (July 6) cheered the passage by the California Legislature of a bill by state Sen. Bob Wieckowski (Fremont) that clears the way for the construction of up to 20,000 new housing units near BART stations. Introduced at the Council’s request, the bill would extend from a quarter mile to a half mile the distance at which BART can engage in transit-oriented housing developments on land it controls. BART estimates that the change could result in 20,000 units of new housing, including 7,000 designated as affordable, and reduce carbon emissions by 680,000 pounds daily. The bill now heads to Gov. Brown’s desk, where the Council will be advocating for his signature.

“Building new housing near mass transit is a no brainer,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “We are facing a massive housing shortage and affordability crisis and this bill smartly leverages public land to serve the public good. Putting more housing near BART will keep jobs and workers in the Bay Area, reduce commutes and cut greenhouse gas emissions. We applaud Sen. Wieckowski for his leadership in authoring this bill and we encourage Gov. Brown to sign it.”


Senator Skinner and Council Talk Solutions to Housing Crisis

On Thursday (June 29), the Bay Area Council Housing Committee met with State Senator Nancy Skinner, whose district covers large parts of Contra Costa and Alameda counties, to discuss Sacramento’s appetite for comprehensive housing reform. Despite efforts by Senator Skinner and other legislators to move the needle on housing, including Skinner’s SB 167 Housing Accountability Act to make it more difficult for cities to say no to housing, broad political will for bold action is missing. Even though this year was coined the “year of housing,” much of the legislation that has been introduced unfortunately only chips away at the massive problem.

Senator Skinner welcomed innovative ideas from both the Bay Area Council and speaker Brian Hanlon, co-founder of the California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund and YIMBY party member. Some potential policy solutions that were discussed included making transportation funding contingent on meeting regional housing need allocations (RHNA), using CEQA against cities that downzone, and exploring what could be accomplished under a Housing “State of Emergency.”

In addition to offering new housing policy ideas to the Senator, the Housing Committee also welcomed new Co-Chair Carla Boragno, Vice President of Site Services at Genentech. She joins Co-Chairs Kofi Bonner of FivePoint and Denise Pinkston of TMG Partners. The Council is thrilled to be adding her fresh perspective as a large Bay Area employer to the committee. Welcome Carla!  To engage with the Housing Committee, contact Senior Vice President Public Policy, Matt Regan.


Building Housing, Protecting Open Space Compatible

This Monday, Economic Institute President Micah Weinberg discussed the importance of preserving open space in the Bay Area while addressing the housing challenges the region faces at Greenbelt Alliance’s board of director’s meeting. Weinberg pointed out that the Bay Area needs to make progress to accommodate its growing population in a way that is environmentally sustainable while preserving open spaces as economic assets to the region.

The conversation precedes the release of the Institute’s forthcoming report Bay Area Balance: Preserving Open Space, Addressing Housing Affordability that makes the economic case for preserving open spaces and identifies opportunities for responsible development in the region. The report complements East Bay Regional Parks District’s Quantifying Our Quality of Life report, an economic analysis of open spaces in the East Bay.

Listen to the conversation here>> 


Council Agenda Gets Receptive Ear in D.C.

Transportation, housing, trade and healthcare were among the issues a Bay Area Council-led business delegation discussed this week in Washington, D.C., with top Congressional and White House leaders. Led by Council Chair Michael Covarrubias (Chairman and CEO, TMG Partners) and Council CEO Jim Wunderman, the delegation met with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Central Valley Rep. Jeff Denham, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, among many other legislators, cabinet and administration officials.

Delegates highlighted the importance of investment in transportation, particularly as it relates to future Northern California megaregion planning. As a growing economy blurs historic Bay Area, Sacramento and San Joaquin regional boundaries, the Bay Area Council is taking action now to address the future transportation, housing and workforce needs of the emerging megaregion. Much of the immediate focus and a major topic in meetings this week was investing to expand megaregion rail capacity, including securing federal transportation dollars for the Amtrak Capitol Corridor service and the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE Train).

The Council shared a sneak peek at new research by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute that shows the strong and growing connections between Silicon Valley and other parts of the country and how those connections can be leveraged to expand knowledge-based economic opportunities and grow jobs nationwide. The Council also advocated for free and open global trade and immigration policies. Special thanks to our sponsors Microsoft, Oracle, and Alaska Airlines. To learn more about the Council’s federal policy agenda, please contact Senior Advisor George Broder.



Net new arrivals to the Golden State have fallen 17% since February, a new LinkedIn report finds. While the Bay Area historically has shown strong economic growth numbers, we’re now seeing increasing competition for our high-skilled from new tech hubs such as Seattle, Portland, and Austin. These cities are gaining the most employees from the Bay Area, even accounting for the number of workers coming to the Bay Area. The gap is growing, driven by one major contributor – these other regions producing housing to meet population growth. The Bay Area’s struggle to produce housing to meet our growing workforce has led to skyrocketing housing costs and a talent drain in our region. With Bay Area employers struggling to find talent to fill their most in-demand positions, the Bay Area Council is working at both ends of the spectrum: with state and local government to increase housing supply and bring down cost, and with employers to seed home-grown talent and retrain their workers. To engage with the Workforce of the Future Committee please contact SVP Public Policy Linda Bidrossian; to engage with the Housing Committee please contact SVP Public Policy Matt Regan.



With the clock ticking on a June deadline to begin work on electrifying Caltrain, the Bay Area Council is continuing its advocacy to secure $647 million in funding the federal government had promised to help pay for the project. Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman on Monday will join Rep. Jackie Speier, Rep. Anna Eshoo and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, among others, in a press conference to urge President Trump and Congress to release the funding. Electrifying Caltrain has been a top Council priority for many years, and the Council was instrumental in assembling the original $1.5 billion package of federal, state and regional funding to pay for it. The federal funding was halted earlier this year at the request of a group of GOP Congressmembers over their concerns the project is connected to the California high speed rail line they oppose. The Council argues the Caltrain project is critical regardless of what happens with high speed rail. Wunderman emphasized that point in a meeting with GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy several weeks ago. Operating with slow, outdated and dirty diesel trains, Caltrain has struggled to keep pace with record ridership growth on one of the nation’s most economically productive corridors. The electrification project will allow for more and faster trains and help ease congestion along the entire corridor, while supporting 9,600 construction-related jobs and generating $2 billion in economic activity. To engage in the Council’s transportation policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham at



A sweeping plan approved this week by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to address climate change takes unprecedented reach in cracking down on regional carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. The plan outlines 85 measures that seek to reduce pollutants from industry, transportation, agriculture, homes and businesses. Among the measures is imposing new or higher tolls on roadways to discourage driving, completely eliminating natural gas from home heating and other domestic uses, requiring rooftop solar on new homes and reducing consumer consumption of carbon-intensive meat products. The Bay Area Council has long supported efforts to address climate change that also balance the region’s need for affordable housing, sustained economic growth and mobility. Many of the proposed measures require additional regulatory or legislative action before they can be implemented and the Bay Area Council will be working to shape how the plan is enacted. To engage in our regional governance work, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan at

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Time is running out to secure your seat at the Bay Area Council’s 2017 Outlook Conference: The Pacific Summit presented by Kaiser Permanente on Tuesday, May 23. We have assembled an incredible dais of leaders who will provide invaluable insights on the dramatic political and economic changes that are dominating the regional, state and national landscapes. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell and CNN host and global thinker Dr. Fareed Zakaria will talk about the populist forces that propelled Donald Trump into the White House and what it means for the Bay Area and California. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will share his thoughts on how large metropolitan regions can address the massive challenges of housing and transportation. And San Francisco Chronicle Editor in Chief Audrey Cooper will lead a fascinating discussion on the great flight of millennials from our region and the trouble it bodes for our economy. In addition to hearing from these leaders, attendees will also have an opportunity to talk directly with them in small group discussions that are new to the conference this year. The conference will be held at The Presidio, affording attendees a beautiful, retreat-like setting to hear top thinking and interact with a high-level audience.

Learn about sponsorship opportunities and register today at