Bay Area Council Blog: News Archive


Statement on PG&E Reorganization Plans

The Bay Area Council issued the following statement on the announcement by PG&E that it plans to file for Chapter 11 reorganization. PG&E was a founding member of the Bay Area Council and has been an important supporter of the organization over its almost 75 years.

“PG&E’s announcement that it plans to file for bankruptcy should alarm all Californians,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Most immediately, PG&E’s bankruptcy casts a dark shadow of uncertainly over the 16 million residents and businesses that rely on PG&E for power, the many community organizations that benefit from PG&E’s philanthropy and the many victims of wildfires who are seeking redress for their profound losses. And while it might be easy for some to put the blame solely on PG&E for this action, the many factors and circumstances that contributed to this unfortunate decision have immense implications for the entire state and how we manage the incredible risk that climate change poses to California.

“For all of our great leadership on reducing carbon emissions, California has only just begun to consider ways to make its communities more resilient to the impacts of increasingly severe droughts, floods, wildfires, and extreme heat events that climate change brings. California still has much work to do to develop the public policies and regulations necessary to address this monumental threat. That includes how we manage our forests and broader ecosystems, how we decide where to build and where not to build, how we invest to modernize our energy infrastructure, and how we determine responsibility and accountability for all these things.

“Dismantling PG&E will not solve these problems. Unless we come to terms with these difficult questions—and soon—no amount of bankruptcies, sanctions, fines or punishments will prevent us from a repeat of the horrific wildfires that have raged across our state and caused unbearable pain and suffering to so many.”


Gov. Newsom’s Proposed Budget a Good First Step for Addressing California’s Major Challenges

The Bay Area Council applauded Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed 2019-20 budget as a good first step in addressing California’s major challenges while also reflecting the need for fiscal stability and prudence as the possibility of a recession looms in the coming years. The spending plan prioritized investments and policy changes in a number of areas, including early education, housing, higher education, homelessness and transportation, in which the Council is heavily focused. Council CEO Jim Wunderman issued the following statement:

“Gov. Newsom’s budget proposal is bold and innovative without being irresponsible. With its focus on fiscal resilience, housing, education, homelessness and transportation, this spending plan addresses many of our major challenges. We’re extremely encouraged by Gov. Newsom’s plans for balancing new housing investments with badly needed policy reforms, particularly his emphasis on targeting onerous impact fees and increasing accountability at the regional and local levels.

“The increased investments Gov. Newsom is proposing in early education and higher education are also welcome news and promise to produce huge economic returns that will benefit California for many years to come.

“The proposed investments on homelessness solutions included in Gov. Newsom’s budget, accompanied by such long-overdue policy reforms as utilizing idle state land, easing strict environmental regulations and making programs incentive-based, give us a real chance of getting a handle on this entrenched and painful human, social and economic problem. In particular, the Governor’s focus on regional coordination among cities and counties is consistent with an initiative the Council is developing to tackle this scourge.

“We’re also very excited about the new investments in transportation that Gov. Newsom has spelled out, how he connects them with housing and how they reinforce the priorities that voters have emphasized in approving state, regional and local funding to ease traffic and expand public transit.

“California’s economic boom won’t last forever and Gov. Newsom’s plans to increase the state’s reserves as well as paying down debt will ensure we are in a better position to weather the inevitable downturn.”

The Council will be working closely with state legislators and the Newsom administration over the coming months as the budget moves forward along with related legislation needed to implement the policy elements the Governor outlined. To engage in the Council government relations work, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.


Former Council Chair Mendonca Named Chief Economic, Business Advisor to Gov.-elect Newsom

The Bay Area Council today (Jan. 5) heartily applauded the appointment of its former chair, Lenny Mendonca, to serve as Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom’s chief economic and business advisor. Mendonca also served as chair of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, the Council’s think tank.

“Gov.-elect Newsom has chosen wisely,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Lenny’s depth and breadth of understanding and knowledge about California’s economy is unparalleled. On housing, early education, higher education and so many other issues, Lenny knows what makes the state’s innovation economy tick. He is thoughtful, strategic and decisive, and he is widely respected by business leaders across California. Lenny also brings incredible international experience and knowledge that will be important in helping California compete globally. His steady hand will be invaluable for Gov.-elect Newsom as he confronts growing pressures and stresses on California’s economy.”

“What really makes Lenny stand out is that he is widely respected across a number of different communities in the state,” said Micah Weinberg, President of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. “He has been one of the state’s most important business leaders for decades but he’s also deeply committed to addressing issues of poverty and economic mobility. Most of his professional career has been in the Bay Area but he grew up on a farm in the Salinas Valley and his work with statewide organizations has been especially focused on elevating the areas outside of the cities on the coast.”

Mendonca had a distinguished career at Council member McKinsey & Co., where he continues to serve as senior partner emeritus from the global consulting firm’s Washington, D.C. and San Francisco offices. He founded McKinsey’s U.S. state and local public sector practice. For many years Lenny led McKinsey’s knowledge development efforts overseeing the McKinsey Global Institute and the firm’s communications, including the McKinsey Quarterly. Among his many board positions, Mendonca serves on the UC Merced Foundation Board of Trustees.


Workforce of the Future Completes Grant with Citi Foundation

The Bay Area Council’s Workforce of the Future initiative wound down a successful grant with the Citi Foundation at the end of November. The grant supported the Council’s workforce programming to build stronger connections between employers and educators, providing career pathways for historically underrepresented populations in the Bay Area. The Citi Foundation grant supported the Council’s partnerships on seven Inclusive Economy career fairs, the rapid expansion of our innovative Occupational Council model, and enhancements to website to expand user engagement. The Council extends its gratitude to Citi Foundation for its generous support. We look forward to continuing to build a stronger, more inclusive workforce throughout the Bay Area. To engage in the Council’s Workforce of the Future initiative, please contact Senior Vice President Linda Bidrossian.


Many Ways to Help Victims of Deadly Fires

Northern California too soon is reeling from a deadly fire. The Camp Fire in Butte County exploded to become one of the state’s most destructive and deadly fires in history, incinerating the entire town of Paradise and so far killing at least 63 people with hundreds still missing. The conflagration has destroyed an estimated 9,000 homes, leaving thousands homeless as winter approaches and putting urgent pressure on local, state and federal agencies to find replacement housing in a remote area already reeling from a serious housing affordability problem.

The Bay Area Council extends is deepest condolences to all the victims and families affected by this horrific inferno, and the Woolsey blaze in Southern California. We express our profound gratitude to the firefighters, police and other first responders, along with an army of selfless volunteers, who are working courageously and tirelessly to put out the flames and assist residents in recovering. Many Bay Area Council member companies have moved quickly to provide resources and raise millions of dollars for the massive rescue and recovery efforts that are already under way. Much more will be needed in the coming weeks and months.

The Camp and Woolsey fires come just a little over a year after the devastating North Bay fires, which killed dozens, eviscerated whole neighborhoods and communities, and wiped out more than 7,000 homes. While the reasons for these catastrophic blazes are complex, climate change is a major factor in creating weather conditions that contribute to the severity of fire. The Bay Area Council is working along several channels to help address how we adapt to changing weather and make our communities more resilient to the effects of climate change. Our Bay Area Council Economic Institute is working with leaders in the North Bay to leverage data in developing new policies that can help speed the rebuilding of homes and address the growing risk of building in areas where fire danger is highest. As California’s population grows, we must work to concentrate new housing away from rural and remote areas that increasingly will be affected by more and more dangerous fires and other impacts of climate change.

Red Cross: Monetary donations can be made to the American Red Cross by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

California Water Service & Utility Workers Union of America Camp Fire Relief Fund. Cal Water will match the first $25,000 of contributions made to the Camp Fire Relief Fund before November 26, 2018, effectively doubling your individual contribution.

North Valley Community Foundation: Fund goes to support the needs of the evacuation centers who opened their doors to house fire victims who lost their homes or had to evacuate. Donate here.

United Way of Northern California Relief Fund: To donate text BUTTEFIRE to 91999, or visit and select “Camp Fire Relief”

California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund: Supports victims by helping to rebuild homes and providing financial assistance to those who need medical and mental treatment. Donate here.

California Fire Foundation: Provides financial support to surviving families of fallen firefighters and firefighters who are battling at the front lines of the blaze. Donate here.

Airbnb: The home-rental company started a program that asks users to open their homes to those hit hardest by the fire. Hosts in regions marked on the map will offer their homes for free until November 29, 2018. Offer is good for displaced residents and relief workers.

North Valley Animal Disaster Group: Works jointly with public and private agencies and organizations in the area help in the safety and well-being of all domestic animals and farm animals, including wildlife, affected by a disaster. This includes assistance with emergency temporary shelter, evacuation, and medical care. Donate here.

Volunteering: The Red Cross has a volunteer page for those who want to pitch in above and beyond donations.


Council’s Wunderman among the Bay Area’s Most Admired CEOs

Great leadership, vision and values. Those were the themes of the San Francisco Business Times’ Most Admired CEOs Awards on Thursday celebrating the business community’s most esteemed leaders, including Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman.

In his acceptance remarks, Wunderman reflected on the importance of listening and teamwork as essential to effective leadership, and effusively praised the incredible work of the business executives governing the organization and Council staff as key drivers to both his and the organization’s success. Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO and Bay Area Council Chair Bernard J. Tyson introduced Wunderman, praising his strategic and visionary leadership and emphasizing his unique ability to bring together other CEOs and diverse stakeholders to shape the future of the Bay Area.

2018 Most Admired CEOs: Bay Area Council’s Jim Wunderman brings businesses into policy conversations>>

Hosted by San Francisco Business Times Publisher and Council Executive Committee member Mary Huss, the celebration also honored Council board members Jeff Hoopes, CEO of Swinerton, Rich Robbins, CEO of Wareham Development, and Jim Wallace, CEO of BPM.


SF Business Times Names Its Most Admired CEOs of 2018

You’ll never guess who was named one of the San Francisco Business Times outstanding CEOs of 2018? That’s right.  We are thrilled to announce that Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman will be honored at the 2018 Most Admired CEOs Awards, which will be held on Thursday, November 8 from 5:30-9:00pm at the Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco. Since becoming CEO in 2004, Wunderman has tripled the size of the organization, elevated its influence, expanded the organization to Sacramento and China and honed the Council’s regionalist approach to advocacy in key areas that impact the Bay Area’s economy and competitiveness. With Wunderman at the helm, the Council has played a leading role on issues related to housing, transportation, water, climate change and energy, early education funding and healthcare reform. The event will also honor Council board members Jeff Hoopes, CEO of Swinerton, Rich Robbins, CEO of Wareham Development, and Jim Wallace, CEO of BPM.  Join us in celebrating some of our region’s most esteemed business leaders on Nov. 8>>


Key Council-Backed Housing Legislation Advances

Legislation (SB 1227, Skinner) the Bay Area Council sponsored to address a critical statewide shortage of affordable student housing is headed to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for his signature, along with another bill (AB 2923, Chiu and Grayson) the Council supported that could produce an estimated 20,000 units of new housing ideally situated near the BART mass transit system. The bills were among a handful the Council either sponsored or supported this year to address California’s historic housing shortage and affordability crisis. Another important housing bill (SB 828) by Sen. Scott Wiener that the Council co-sponsored also appeared poised for the Governor’s signature following an Assembly vote today that sends it to the Senate for concurrence.

“It’s starting to sink in that California has a devastating housing crisis,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “We applaud the legislature for approving these bills and we strongly encourage Gov. Brown to sign them. While this represents a good step forward in addressing a problem that is hurting millions of Californians and threatening our economy, we really need a big leap forward to remove the myriad regulatory and other barriers that are a huge obstacle to building the millions of new housing units we need. We’re not done, yet.”

SB 1227 authored by Sen. Nancy Skinner allows housing built for students to receive a 35 percent density bonus as long as 100 percent of the units are dedicated to students, a minimum 20 percent of the units are reserved for very low-income students, and students experiencing homelessness get priority. The legislation is aimed at bringing relief for the estimated 800,000 college students statewide that recent studies have found are either homeless or housing insecure.

“College students are increasingly priced out of California’s extraordinary housing prices, threatening the Golden Goose of our economy,” said Matt Regan, Senior Vice President in charge of housing policy for the Bay Area Council. “If the world’s most promising students can’t afford to study here, they’ll go someplace else. This bill gives colleges and universities new tools to build affordable off-campus housing. We want than Sen. Skinner for her leadership in addressing our housing crisis.”

“SB 1227 will encourage the construction of more housing and more affordable housing for college students up and down the state,” said Senator Skinner. “Students deserve to focus on learning instead of worrying about whether they have a place to live.”

The Council also hailed the passage of AB 2923 by Assemblymember David Chiu (San Francisco) that would require the elected BART Board of Directors to establish guidelines for transit-oriented development for BART-owned land at or around BART stations. Cities would then update their local zoning to be consistent with these standards while retaining control over community design standards and final permitting authority. It’s estimated that BART-owned land could support as much as 20,000 new housing units. The Council made passing AB 2923 a major priority during this legislative session.

“This bill kills two birds with one stone, producing badly needed housing near transit that encourages commuters to leave their cars behind,” said Wunderman.

With the legislative session coming to a close, the Council was still working to win passage of SB 828 (Wiener), which would reform the state’s housing allocation system and hold cities more accountable for meeting their local housing obligations. Another bill (SB 831, Wieckowski) the Council sponsored this year to promote construction of accessory dwelling units, also known as granny or in-law units, previously fell short of the votes needed for passage.

The Council on Tuesday also cheered the passage of AB 2596 (Cooley). The bill, which the Council co-sponsored with the Greater Sacramento Economic Council, would authorize the creation of a statewide economic development strategy. It would help improve the state’s economic competitiveness, bolster California’s resilience to an economic downturn and expand economic opportunity.

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About the Bay Area Council

The Bay Area Council is a business-sponsored, public-policy advocacy organization for the nine-county Bay Area. The Council proactively advocates for a strong economy, a vital business environment, and a better quality of life for everyone who lives here. Founded in 1945, the Bay Area Council is widely respected by elected officials, policy makers and other civic leaders as the voice of Bay Area business. Today, more than 300 of the largest employers in the region support the Bay Area Council and offer their CEO or top executive as a member. Our members employ more than 4.43 million workers and have revenues of $1.94 trillion, worldwide. Learn more at


JP Morgan Chase Grant Fuels Innovative Workforce Program

JPMorgan Chase & Co. continues its commitment to the Bay Area Council’s Workforce of the Future program with a $100,000 grant. These funds will help accelerate programs already underway through our Occupational Councils and our Inclusive Economy work, which is focused on serving under-represented populations in the Bay Area. In addition, the funds will drive regional collaboration with workforce stakeholders across California, leveraging best practices from different regions to maximize results at large scale.

Corporate philanthropy dollars are the engine for workforce programs run by the Council and other non-governmental organizations serving under-represented populations. JPMorgan Chase & Co. funding over the years has supported the growth of the Occupational Councils in aviation, healthcare, and construction.  These employer-driven programs are systematically removing barriers to entry for our local diverse talent.  Curated career fairs, targeting youth of color, veterans, emigrants and refugees, through the Inclusive Economy work where the Council leverages the expertise of talent training partners Work2Future, Swords to Plowshares and Upwardly Global. The regional efforts have already started with partnerships across the megaregion and Southern California. To participate and benefit from the Workforce of the Future programs, please contact Senior Vice President Linda Bidrossian.


Council CEO Again Named to Top 100 Influencers List

For the fourth straight year, Bay Area Council CEO Jim Wunderman was named to the Capitol Weekly’s Top 100 Influencers list. Wunderman was quick to deflect any individual role in the honor and said it reflects the larger influence that the Bay Area Council has in working on a wide range of legislative and public policy issues in Sacramento. The Council’s Sacramento office, which is led by Policy Manager Cornelious Burke, was opened under Wunderman’s leadership and has become an important and effective platform for engaging with political, government and business leaders. The Council this year sponsored important legislation to address the state’s housing crisis, was instrumental in passing legislation last year that led to Regional Measure 3—the $5.6 billion traffic relief ballot measure Bay Area voters approved in June—and has played a leading role on issues related to water, climate change and energy, early education funding and healthcare reform.