Bay Area Council Blog: Newsroom Archive

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Council’s Board Welcomes Senator Feinstein and Mayor Schaaf

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf met with the Bay Area Council’s Board of Directors Thursday to discuss a range of pressing issues, from healthcare reform and homelessness to infrastructure investment and public safety. Board Chairman and Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Bernard J. Tyson welcomed both leaders to a packed room at Kaiser’s Oakland headquarters. Feinstein updated the Board on her efforts to ban assault weapons, an issue she has championed for decades. She also discussed the importance of making Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) permanent as well as her interest in leveraging public private partnerships to repair and rebuild the nation’s aging and crumbling infrastructure.

Investing to expand and improve the region’s congested transportation system was also a top issue as Feinstein emphasized the need for a new crossing south of the Bay Bridge. Tyson thanked Feinstein for her great leadership and urged Council members to join a business delegation we’re leading to D.C. in May to promote California’s importance to the nation as some critics frame the Golden State as out of control.

Feinstein also gave warm praise for Mayor Schaaf, who described the progress Oakland is making in turning around years of crime and addressing a complicated homeless problem. Schaaf also highlighted a measure she is championing for the November ballot—the Oakland Children’s Initiative—that would invest in expanding access to early education and other early childhood programs. She touted the huge returns that early childhood investments have in increasing employment opportunities and avoiding expensive social and public safety costs. This is an issue that has long been a priority for the Council, whose executive leadership has expressed early support for Schaaf’s November measure as she works to get it placed on the ballot. The Council extends its gratitude to Kaiser Permanente for hosting our meeting.

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OP-ED: KEEP INTERNATIONAL STARTUPS FLOWING TO THE BAY AREA

It’s no secret that the Bay Area is the leading place for technology, innovation and entrepreneurial activity in the nation. Not the only one, for sure, but the largest, richest and most productive. Its universities are strong and aggressively support entrepreneurship, the region hosts the world’s largest pool of venture capital, incubators and accelerators abound, and an open, entrepreneurial environment attracts and fosters creative talent that drives the economy forward.

This is also an international story. The Bay Area is considered by aspiring entrepreneurs around the world as the ultimate source of inspiration and opportunity. The result is the massive presence of early-stage companies from every corner of the world who come to connect, learn and tap its resources. Many remain to base their companies here.

Read Bay Area Council Economic Institute Senior Adviser Dr. Sean Randolph’s Keep international startups flowing to the Bay Area>>

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Voters to Decide $4.5 Billion Traffic Relief, Transit Improvement Plan

The Bay Area Council today (Jan. 24)  loudly cheered a decision by the Bay Area Toll Authority to seek voter approval in June 2018 for Regional Measure 3 (RM3), a comprehensive plan to invest $4.5 billion to attack the region’s record traffic by fixing bottlenecks along key freeway corridors and improving and expanding transit services. The Bay Area Council is partnering with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and SPUR to lead a campaign to pass RM3, which requires majority voter approval of all nine Bay Area counties.

“RM3 gives us a fighting chance to get a handle on Bay Area traffic,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “The significant investments RM3 will make in all nine counties will hit directly at our worst congestion problems and add major capacity to existing mass transit systems like BART, ferries and Caltrain. We applaud the Toll Authority for giving voters the chance to take control of their transportation future. Traffic and overcrowded transit systems are costing commuters hundreds of dollars a year in lost time and fuel and robbing them of time better spent with family and other activities. The fixes that RM3 will make to ease traffic and improve transit will also help ensure we maintain our strong economy.”

Legislation by state Sen. Jim Beall last year authorized the Toll Authority to place RM3 on the ballot. RM3 would increase tolls on state-owned bridges by $3, with $1 increases made over six years. A recent poll by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission found sufficient support to pass RM3, but that an aggressive campaign would be necessary to educate and inform voters about the many benefits it would bring.

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2018 POLICY AGENDA TARGETS HOUSING, TRANSPORTATION, WORKFORCE

Behind the Bay Area Council’s continuing advocacy, the California legislature this year took its first (albeit modest) actions to address the state’s historic housing crisis. Much, much more needs to be done, and the Council’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors, under the leadership of Chair and Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard J. Tyson, this week approved a 2018 policy agenda that calls for escalating our work to achieve deeper, stronger and more effective reforms for spurring the tsunami of new housing the state so badly needs. Already, the Council is identifying new legislation for 2018 that can speed the approval and bring down the cost of new housing.

The 2018 agenda also prioritizes ridding the scourge of traffic fom the Bay Area’s roads and highways and getting more commuters out of their vehicles and into ferries, carpools, shuttles and other forms of transit. The Council is gearing up now for a campaign to win passage of Regional Measure 3, a $4.4 billion transportation investment plan that is expected to hit the June 2018 ballot. Rounding out the Council’s top policy priorities for 2018 is building a stronger workforce pipeline to meet the future needs of the region’s employers. The Council’s Workforce of the Future Committee is making immense strides to better align educators and employers to close the region’s yawning middle skills and talent gap, as well as creating new career opportunities for underserved youth.

Along with the top three policy priority areas, the 2018 agenda includes gender equity and workforce diversity, healthcare, advanced communication infrastructure, China and global innovation, carbon reduction and renewables, and water and climate resiliency.

The policy agenda was approved Thursday (Dec. 7) during a meeting hosted by new member Santa Clara University. The Board also welcomed state Sen. Jim Beall Jr. and applauded him for his incredible leadership as the author this year of SB 1, which invests $52 billion in statewide transportation improvements, and SB 595, which authorized the vote on Regional Measure 3. Beall talked about both measures and outlined his plans for new legislation for delivering transportation projects faster and at lower cost. The Council will be working closely with Sen. Beall on that project delivery legislation.

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BREAKING THE SILENCE ON SEXUAL HARASSMENT

The issue of sexual harassment has burst into the open in recent months as a growing number of women across the country have shared graphic and painful stories of abuse, assault and other inappropriate workplace behavior by male leaders, colleagues and others. The stories have exposed an insidious and systemic culture of abuse that women—across all industries and representing all socio-economic groups—have felt powerless to confront because of shame, embarrassment, fear of retribution, and legitimate concerns that their careers would be jeopardized, among many other reasons.

Time Magazine this week honored a handful of women as its “Person of the Year” for their courage in making their stories public, shining a light on the issue and empowering other women to come forward. Dubbed “The Silence Breakers,” this group of five women included Adama Iwu, a top government relations executive for Bay Area Council member Visa.

Iwu in October co-founded We Said Enough, a group that is working to expose a culture of abuse and harassment in California government and hold accountable perpertrators and enablers. More than 140 women, including legislators, penned an oped in the Los Angeles Times that announced “we’re done with this” and calling on both women and men to join in finding solutions. The Council applauds the courage and actions of leaders like Iwu in breaking the silence on sexual harassment. Through our Gender Equity Committee, we have been working with member companies to get more women into higher positions of leadership, address issues of gender bias and develop policies and practices for creating workplace cultures that take a zero tolerance stance against all forms of sexual abuse and harassment. To learn more about the Council’s gender equity work, please contact Policy Director Emily Loper.

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Regional Coalition Submits Bid for Amazon HQ2

Leveraging a highly skilled and educated talent pool, a renowned innovation culture unmatched in the world and a slew of large transit-rich development sites located near top universities and airports, a Bay Area Council-led coalition of cities including Concord, Fremont, Oakland, Richmond and San Francisco today (Oct. 19) submitted a proposal to bring Amazon’s second corporate headquarters to the Bay Area. The Bay Area Council worked with the cities and other partners to coordinate the development of the bid.

“The Bay Area offers the whole package and is a natural and perfect fit for an innovation leader like Amazon,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “We are the world’s innovation capitol. We offer top talent, top universities and large development sites connected by a rich network of mass transit and other transportation systems. Our competitive advantages are unparalleled, including our strong connections to the huge Asia-Pacific region.”

The coalition of cities working with the Bay Area Council has identified numerous sites which together offer Amazon an unmatched level of flexibility to create a world-class headquarters that embraces new models of dispersed but highly connected workplaces.

Read the Bay Area Amazon HQ2 proposal>>

The proposal includes more than 60 million square feet of high-quality office and research and development space, far exceeding Amazon’s requirement for up to 8 million square feet needed to house 50,000 workers. All of the sites provide seamless connections to robust transportation and mass transit networks, including BART and a fast-growing ferry system, and easy access to both regional and international airports.

Among the sites featured in the proposal are the Concord Naval Weapons Station in Concord, Coliseum City and numerous downtown locations in Oakland, the Warm Springs Innovation District in Fremont, SF Shipyard in San Francisco and the Richmond Field Station and Hilltop Mall in Richmond. All the cities are served by BART, which is undergoing a massive upgrade to expand its capacity and speed in the coming years, as well as by nearby international and regional airports and freeways. The proposal includes a combined 45,000 units of new housing that cities envision being built in the coming years.

“We are extremely confident that steps we are taking now as a region to improve our housing and transportation infrastructure will address Amazon’s needs for its workforce and future growth,” Wunderman said. “Our housing production has increased three fold in just the past six years and numerous residential development sites throughout the region envision adding tens of thousands of more units in the next five to 10 years.”

Amazon already knows the value of being located in the Bay Area, with current operations occupying more than 3 million square feet around the region.

A major draw for tech employers like Amazon is the access to some of the world’s best talent. Not only does the Bay Area produce its own highly educated and highly skilled workforce from top tier universities and colleges like UC Berkeley, Stanford, UC Davis, UC San Francisco, California State University East Bay and St. Marys attracts the best and brightest workers from around the globe. More than 75 percent of the Bay Area population holds a bachelor’s degree or higher, with more than 40 percent of those coming from science and engineering-related fields.

The proposal also outlines a range of state and local tax credits and other incentives along with commitments to streamline permitting and environmental review and work with Amazon on various workforce training and similar programs.

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FIRST IMPORTANT STEP IN ADDRESSING CA HOUSING CRISIS

California took an important first step today in addressing its massive housing crisis when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a package of legislation aimed at providing new funding, streamlined local approvals and stronger enforcement of existing housing laws. Bay Area Council CEO Jim Wunderman joined Gov. Brown, legislators and housing advocates from around the state at a signing ceremony in San Francisco’s Hunter’s Point for 15 bills that included a handful for which the Council had advocated. SB 2 (Atkins) creates a $75 real estate transaction fee that is estimated to generate $250 million annually for affordable housing and SB 3 (Beall) authorizes a statewide $4 billion bond measure for housing that is expected to appear on the ballot in 2018. In addition, SB 166 (Skinner) and SB 167 (Skinner) add teeth to existing laws requiring cities to approve new housing. Much more remains to be done to open the pipeline of new housing the state so badly needs and the Council is already turning its attention to the next legislative session. With an annual shortfall of about 80,000 housing units on top of an estimated 2 million unit deficit, California has a long way to go before it closes the gap and begins to make a dent in its affordability problem.

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COUNCIL CHAIR BERNARD J. TYSON A NATIONAL VOICE ON BIPARTISAN HEALTHCARE FIX

The debate over the nation’s healthcare system continues to rage and Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO and Bay Area Council Chair Bernard J. Tyson is emerging as a strong national voice on the topic. Tyson was a key witness in testifying before Congress on the latest repeal effort and brought his views to a national television audience in offering analysis on what steps we need to take to stabilize healthcare markets. Tyson advocated for a bipartisan approach to addressing problems with the ACA that ensures access for all to healthcare and healthcare insurance, provides adequate cost-sharing provisions and allows flexibility for states.

Watch Tyson’s comments on ABC News>>

Watch Tyson’s testimony in Congress>>

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NEW POLL HIGHLIGHTS URGENCY FOR HOUSING SOLUTIONS

Results of a new statewide poll gave added urgency to the Bay Area Council’s efforts in securing Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature on legislation to address California’s epic housing crisis. The survey by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies found that 25 percent of voters are considering leaving California because of skyrocketing rents and home prices fueled by a massive housing shortage. The poll found that 92 percent of Bay Area voters think that housing affordability is a serious problem, exceeding the 84 percent level statewide. Council CEO Jim Wunderman was a featured guest on KQED Forum on Thursday to talk about the Berkeley poll results and the solutions on which the Council is focused.

The Council is urging Gov. Brown to sign SB 2 (Atkins) and SB 3 (Beall), which would authorize a statewide vote in 2018 on a $4 billion bond measure for affordable housing and a $75 real estate transaction fee to support local housing, respectively. The Council also is urging the Governor’s signature on two bills by Sen. Nancy Skinner (SB 166 and SB 167) that add teeth to existing laws requiring cities to approve housing.

Listen to the KQED Forum segment with Jim Wunderman>>

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Bay Area Coalition Hails Assembly Passage of Traffic Busting Bill

A coalition representing many of the Bay Area’s largest employers and millions of workers and residents today hailed the state Assembly passage of legislation (SB 595—Beall) that promises major investments across the region to ease traffic congestion, fix nagging highway bottlenecks and dramatically expand mass transit services. The Keep the Bay Area Moving coalition, which is led by the Bay Area Council, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, California Alliance for Jobs and SPUR, has been working for over a year with Bay Area legislators and transportation planners to craft the bill and is now urging the state Senate to give its approval and Gov. Brown to sign it into law.

“The Bay Area has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take a big whack at traffic congestion,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Worsening traffic is ruining our quality of life, damaging our environment and hurting our economy, but this bill gives Bay Area voters the chance to turn the tables on highway congestion and overcrowded transit. We are calling on the Senate to approve and Gov. Brown to sign SB 595 and give voters the chance to approve a visionary regional traffic relief plan.”

The bill, which authorizes a regional ballot measure in June 2018, outlines a bold, balanced plan that focuses on making big fixes to the Bay Area’s transportation system with the primary goals of reducing or eliminating some of the region’s worst highway backups, getting cars off congested roads and highways and creating a modern, seamless public transit network that addresses overcrowding and better connects cities and employment hubs.

“Working with key stakeholders allowed this coalition the opportunity to find balance and fairness within SB 595. A compromise between the entire Bay Area on how these funds are invested is integral to our success,” said Carl Guardino, President and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and a Governor Brown appointee to the California Transportation Commission. “Our ability to work collaboratively towards a common goal – easing gridlock on our Bay Area roads in order to improve quality of life for our workers and their families spells success for everyone in the Bay Area. It is through this lens that we support Senate Bill 595 by Chairman Beall.”

The bill includes unprecedented levels of public oversight and accountability to guarantee that all investments are made according to the overall plan, known as Regional Measure 3 (RM3) following two previous measures that voters have approved over the past 30 years. Specifically, RM3 would establish an independent oversight committee to review all investments, including making regular reports to the state Legislature, and create a new Inspector General position to serve as a watchdog for investments on BART.

Among the centerpiece projects included in the RM3 plan are:

  • Increasing the BART fleet and completing an extension from the East Bay to Silicon Valley
  • Improving key highway interchanges in Contra Costa County at Interstate 680 and Highway 4 and in San Mateo County along Highway 101 to ease traffic bottlenecks
  • Extending Caltrain to connect with other regional mass transit systems in San Francisco
  • Expanding regional water transit service to meet skyrocketing demand
  • Accelerate planning for a second transbay rail crossing
  • Adding express lanes along major highway corridors to move cars faster, including the Highway 101 Novato Narrows connecting Marin and Sonoma counties
  • Improving transit access in the Tri-Valley and North Bay areas
  • Reducing truck traffic that clogs highways and pollutes the air

“RM3 will fund a set of transformative investments that will start to get our region’s transportation system working again,” said Gabriel Metcalf, President and CEO of SPUR.

Polling done in June 2017 shows strong voter support for Regional Measure 3. The survey by FM3 of nearly 9,500 voters found 56 percent support for RM3, exceeding the 50 percent threshold needed for passage.

“Not only will motorists see significant improvement in alleviating traffic bottlenecks and improving transit service for everyone throughout the nine Bay Area counties, they can rest assured that their money will be spent only on voter approved projects thanks to strict accountability, financial safeguards and citizen oversight. By implementing accountability measures, such as the creation of a new Inspector General position, SB595 will ensure that the financial commitment to voters is honored and projects are delivered in a timely manner.” said California Alliance for Jobs Executive Director Michael Quigley.

RM3 would raise up to $4.2 billion and would be paid for by a bridge toll increase of between $1 and $3. The final amount of any toll increase included in RM3 will be decided in the coming months by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.