Bay Area Council Blog: Press Releases Archive

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Statement: Caltrain Electrification Groundbreaking

MILLBRAE, CA— Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman today joined Governor Jerry Brown, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Congresswoman Jackie Speier and other key stakeholders at the Millbrae Caltrain Station for the official groundbreaking ceremony of the Caltrain Electrification Project.  The Bay Area Council released the following statement attributable to Jim Wunderman.
“It’s ironic that the region that invents much of the future has struggled with an overcrowded, diesel-powered, 153-year-old rail line running right through its heart – but today that changes. Silicon Valley will soon have a modern, fast and clean rail system that according to our 2012 study, will deliver 9,600 construction and related jobs and generate more than $2 billion in economic activity across America. Our region is not alone dealing with outdated infrastructure and we hope Congress can unite around a large-scale national improvement program this year, making Caltrain Electrification the start of a legacy of new building.”
The Council has long advocated for an electrified Caltrain and helped assemble the original package of federal, state and regional funding for the project. The final push across the finish line came in May when U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao approved a final $647 million grant that had been promised to help pay for the project.
Special thanks goes to Senator Dianne Feinstein who worked very hard behind the scenes to achieve this momentous goal.

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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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New Report: Underdevelopment of Urban Infill Jeopardizes Bay Area’s Economically Significant Open Space


Key Business, Environmental Groups Unite in Unprecedented Partnership Around Sustainable, Responsible Growth

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – 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 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. More, a recent sample of 65 Priority Development Areas (PDAs) conducted for Plan Bay Area found that only 235,000 of 337,600 allocated housing units were likely to be built by the 2040 deadline. Developing every infill parcel to its fullest potential would yield 4 million new housing units statewide.

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. “The Bay Area’s incredible natural and working lands are an essential part of our regional identity,” says Bay Area Open Space Council Executive Director Deb Callahan. “Our parks, open spaces and agricultural lands provide myriad benefits that are highly valued by our region’s residents – including the billions of dollars of economic benefits outlined in this important report.”

Read the full report>>

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

The Bay Area’s booming economy and record job growth, which show no sign of slowing down, are not being adequately matched by the right type of development. In 2015, the Bay Area added 133,000 jobs to only 16,000 units of housing. Inability to fulfill PDA housing development targets is forcing development further away from job centers, jeopardizing the region’s immensely valuable open space and undermining state climate change goals. Since 2012, open lands in the region have dropped from 322,800 to 293,100 acres. Continuous pressure to develop puts at least 63,500 acres at a high probability of development within the next 10 years.

Amid today’s extreme housing shortage causing skyrocketing rents and driving the median price of a single-family home to $700,000, over 100,000 commuters travel 90 minutes or more every day to their jobs from more affordable areas. As Bay Area workers relocate to less expensive areas in the neighboring regions of Central Valley, Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley, a fast-emerging megaregion necessitates new policies for sustainable growth that preserve valuable open space, as well as significant investment in our transportation systems.

“This report makes the case that protecting the Bay Area’s open spaces is an economic imperative and that by building new homes in the right places within our cities and towns we can meet our housing needs without jeopardizing our critical natural and agricultural landscapes,” says Greenbelt Alliance CEO Jeremy Madsen.

In addition to beginning more serious and immediate planning to address growing megaregional sprawl, the report provides a roadmap for responsible housing development through policy recommendations and strategies that protect and fund natural lands, streamline PDA project approvals, and reduce excessively high-costs of housing production, among others.

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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.”

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Member Spotlight: DLA Piper Launches Global Scholarship Initiative

DLA Piper has awarded 21 scholarships to students from some of the world’s least developed countries including Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Senegal, Uganda and Zambia. Students will receive substantial financial support towards studies in their home countries, robust career mentoring from DLA Piper lawyers, and a series of global placements. The students selected are both high-achieving and ambitious to improve the rule of law in their countries.

DLA Piper Partner and Bay Area Council Board Member Dean Fealk said, “This project epitomizes our many efforts to serve as engaged and responsible stakeholders in our communities and around the world.”

DLA Piper Global Co-Chairman Juan Picón said, “Whilst the firm has a long history of supporting student lawyers and promoting social mobility, this program increases the depth of our work with a smaller pool of students, making it truly transformative…We hope that the students will use their experiences to strengthen the infrastructure within their home countries.” DLA Piper will award further scholarships in December this year. This initiative is part of the Break into Law program. Read the full press release>

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New Oakland A’s Stadium Would Generate $3.05 Billion in Economic Impacts, Create 2K Jobs

Oakland residents and businesses would reap $3.05 billion in economic benefits over the first 10 years from the construction and operation of a new privately financed Oakland A’s stadium and the increased attendance and game day spending that would come with it, according to an analysis released today (June 20) by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. Building the stadium would also create 2,000 construction jobs, many of which would go to local workers and businesses under hiring agreements expected to accompany the project.

“A new Athletics baseball stadium would be very, very good for Oakland,” said Dr. Micah Weinberg, President of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. “These types of signature projects come along only once every couple of generations. A new ballpark represents a significant and important investment in Oakland that will generate tremendous buzz and excitement, creating local jobs, supporting local businesses and spurring even more investment in the city.”

The analysis breaks down the economic impacts from the first 10 years of stadium operations into three categories, including:

  • $768 million from construction and related spending
  • $1.54 billion from game-day spending
  • $742 million from ballpark operations

Read the Oakland A’s stadium economic analysis>>

The study does not identify a specific location in Oakland for any new stadium and does not include estimates for the considerable additional economic benefits from new commercial development and other business activity that would likely be spurred by the arrival of a new ballpark. Noting that Major League Baseball teams can serve a very public purpose, the analysis said “the stadiums that they play in are often viewed as a public amenity, which can increase civic pride, attract new residents and businesses to a city, and act as a tool for neighborhood revitalization.”

The excitement around a new stadium can also lead to a significant boost in attendance, which is a major factor in pushing up game-day spending on tickets, merchandise, food concessions and luxury suites. The study estimates that a new Athletics stadium could lift annual attendance from its 2016 level of 1.5 million to 2.55 million in the first year of operation before settling back to an average of 2.4 million in subsequent years. That estimate is based on historical data from 12 other teams that have built new ballparks since 1998.

For example, when the San Francisco Giants moved from their windy, isolated stadium at Candlestick Point south of the city to a more intimate ballpark downtown the team saw attendance increase from 1.2 million in 1995 to 3.3 million in the first year at their new facility in 2000. Similar increases have been seen in Minnesota, San Diego, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh when those teams built new ballparks. Winning also helps bring in more fans, and the study acknowledges that the A’s success on the field would impact attendance totals.

The study is careful to use a variety of methods to identify just those benefits that would accrue exclusively to Oakland, and excludes benefits that would flow outside the city. For example, the study assumes that 25 percent of the estimated cost to build a new stadium would likely flow to vendors outside Oakland. The analysis also does not reflect possible increases in the significant community and philanthropic contributions the club already makes in Oakland and the East Bay.

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Council Statement on Tragic Shootings in SF, D.C.

Two shooting tragedies today (June 14) struck painfully close to home for the Bay Area Council. A Bay Area Council-led business delegation arriving in Washington, D.C., today for meetings with Congressional and Administration leaders was stunned and saddened by the shooting at a congressional softball practice that critically injured Republican House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and four others. Within hours, another awful shooting at a facility operated by Bay Area Council member UPS in San Francisco claimed the lives of four people.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by today’s senseless and horrific shootings in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “There is absolutely no place in our society or anywhere for violent acts like this. That the shooting in Washington, D.C., may have been politically motivated makes it even more despicable, particularly at an event that highlights how we can and must rise above partisan differences to serve a larger purpose. Regardless of the motivation, it is our greatest wish that these tragedies will cause people to reflect on the need for more civility in public discourse and a greater coming together to peacefully and respectfully address our differences and move our country forward.”

The Council delegation in D.C. is planning to attend the Congressional Softball Game on Thursday to show our support for those who were injured and the bipartisanship that the game symbolizes.

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Statement on President Trump’s Decision to Withdraw U.S. from Paris Climate Accord

The Bay Area Council today (June 1) issued the following statement in response to President Donald Trump’s withdrawing the United States from the landmark 2015 U.N. Convention of Parties climate change agreement (COP21). The Council has long supported California’s global leadership on clean energy and was the first major business group to endorse the historic California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. In 2016, the Council hosted energy ministers from the world’s largest 23 economies and the European Union for the Clean Energy Ministerial 7 (CEM7) in San Francisco—a follow-up to the COP21 talks—and next week is leading a delegation to Beijing for CEM8 along with Governor Jerry Brown.

“California and the Bay Area remain on an irreversible course forward to lead the world into a sustainable clean energy future,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Addressing climate change is not just an environmental or moral imperative, it is an economic imperative and an economic opportunity. California’s ambitious assault on climate change has spawned a vibrant and fast-growing clean technology industry that is creating new jobs, attracting investment and new businesses and producing innovative new products. It has also given us a strong competitive advantage in a sector we believe will continue to grow and thrive as more and more companies embrace a clean energy future.”

The Bay Area Council is working on a variety of initiatives focused on addressing the climate change challenge, including:

  • Promoting urban infill and transit-oriented housing development that reduces long, polluting commutes
  • Building stronger connections with China and other countries to expand the development and use of clean energy technologies
  • Championing investment in the expansion and modernization of mass transit systems, including BART, ferries and Caltrain
  • Leading an innovative regional effort to restore wetlands and build infrastructure to protect against the threat of rising seas and extreme storms
  • Advocating for investment and policies that support the creation of a new, modern energy grid to better integrate and manage growing renewable energy sources
  • Modernizing and expanding our water storage and delivery system to prepare for future droughts
  • Supporting business in adopting corporate renewable energy goals and strategies
  • Advancing the deployment and adoption of electric and other zero emission vehicles
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New Poll Finds That 25% of Homeowners Would Add an In-­Law Unit, Creating 400,000 New and Affordable Housing Units

SAN FRANCISCO—Amid the Bay Area’s crippling housing crisis, important legislation that took effect in January makes it faster, easier and less expensive for homeowners to build in-law or accessory dwelling units (ADU). SB 1069 authored by Senator Bob Wieckowski and sponsored by the Bay Area Council reduces parking requirements, discretionary permitting, and onerous utility connection fees that previously made in-law units infeasible for many residents.

In the recently released 2017 Bay Area Council Poll, a total of 25 percent of homeowners said they would consider adding an ADU. The Bay Area Council estimates that this could create an additional 400,000 new units—an even greater number than was previously projected when the legislation was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown.

The poll also found that 76 percent think the region’s housing shortage is threatening the Bay Area’s economy, with 40 percent of respondents considering leaving the Bay Area in the next few years. The Bay Area’s future workforce and talent pipeline of millennials led the way at 46 percent.  Encouragingly, the poll found 62 percent of respondents are in favor of building new housing in their neighborhood, up from 56 percent in 2014.

With the ability to build in-law units quickly and cheaply, the potential for new affordable rental housing in the Bay Area is massive and crucial to reducing the number of students, teachers, nurses, family members, senior citizens, and others being priced out. The expansion of ADUs has been tremendously successful in alleviating housing woes in other cities like Vancouver, which after passing similar legislation over a decade ago, has seen 35 percent of single family homes add a second unit.In Portland, recent efforts by proponents have resulted in an increased pipeline from one per month to one a day.

“Despite overall growing support for building new housing and the enormous potential of ADUs, challenges remain,” said Bay Area Council Housing Committee Co-Chair and Partner at TMG Partners Denise Pinkston. “We are working to overcome resistance in implementing the new law as well as raising public awareness among homeowners about this now more accessible opportunity.” The Bay Area Council is also working with local and national banks to develop a financing tool that ensures loan opportunities are available to construct ADUs for households of all incomes.

“While an important first-step in addressing the monolithic regulatory system that’s fueling the housing shortage, ADUs will not be able to single-handedly meet the monumental demand our region is experiencing. Nor were they intended to,” said Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman. “Much bigger and significant statewide reform is needed to reduce regulatory barriers for all housing and build long-term relief.”

The 2017 Bay Area Council Poll, which was conducted online by Oakland-based public opinion research firm EMC Research from Jan. 24 through Feb. 1, surveyed 1,000 registered voters from around the nine-county Bay Area about a range of issues related to economic growth, housing and transportation, drought, education and workforce.

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BAC Poll: Millennials, Older Generations Divided Over Housing Problems, Solutions

Older Bay Area voters who have lived here the longest and own their home are far less likely to support building new housing compared with millennials (18-39), those who rent, and those who have lived here the shortest time and are feeling the worst pain from the region’s housing shortage and affordability crisis, according to Bay Area Council Poll results released today.

The poll found that 70 percent of millennials support building new housing in their neighborhood, compared with 57 percent of respondents aged 40-64 and a similar number aged 65 years and older. And while 76 percent of respondents who have lived in the Bay Area for five years or less and 75 percent who have lived here between six and ten years support building new housing in their neighborhoods, a much lower 55 percent of those who have called the region home for 20 years or more are willing to accept building more housing near them.

“We’re shutting the door on future generations—sons, daughters, grandchildren,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “We need to do much, much more to make building housing easier, faster and less expensive. There’s no other solution to the scale of the problem.  We’re starting to see signs that the message is getting through in Sacramento, and results like these can help us keep policy makers focused on the real problem of dramatically boosting housing supply. We also need local leaders to summon the political courage to reject entrenched and self-interested opposition to new housing.”

Read the press release>>

Read the topline poll results>>

Although there are clear generational differences over housing, there was also overall growing support for building new housing. The poll found 62 percent of respondents overall support building new housing in their neighborhood, up from 56 percent in 2014. Support for new housing was most pronounced in San Francisco, with 75 percent in favor.

Millennials are less satisfied with their current housing situation than older generations. The poll found that while 70 percent of respondents aged 40-64 and 78 percent of those 65 years and older are content with their current housing situation, just 56 percent of millennials are happy with their housing situation.

The poll found 40 percent of respondents say they are likely to move out of the Bay Area in the next few years, an increase from 34 percent in 2016. More than double that, or 86 percent, harbor concerns that their friends or family will not be able to find affordable housing in the Bay Area. Another 58 percent say they are concerned about being able to find an affordable place to live themselves. Millennials are the most likely to leave, with 46 percent eyeing the exits, compared to only 30 percent of those 65 and older who are considering bolting.

Meanwhile, older respondents and those who have lived here the longest appear to be enjoying more financial benefits from the rise in home prices than those who have arrived more recently.

The poll found 84 percent of those here for five years or less and 73 percent of those here six to ten years said they haven’t benefitted from the shortage-fueled run-up in prices. Among those who have lived here 20 years or more, a much smaller 59 percent say they haven’t benefitted. Those findings are not necessarily surprising given that home values and equity build over time, but in a similar question almost twice as many newcomers (62%) as old-timers (34%) said the housing shortage has hurt them personally.

The differences are a bit starker along generational lines, with 14 percent of millennials saying they have benefitted from the surge in home prices and 41 percent of respondents aged 65 and older saying high housing prices have been a financial boon.

“It used to be an American goal that we would provide a better life to our children,” said Wunderman.  “I fear the sentiments discovered in this poll reflect a different mindset.”

With a historic housing shortage and growing employment pushing home prices and rents to at or near record highs, many of these findings will not come as a huge surprise. But they highlight the urgency of a problem that both state and local officials have failed to adequately address. The Bay Area is creating just one unit of housing for every eight jobs and state officials say we’re producing far less than half of the housing we need to keep pace with demand.

Almost across the board, the numbers paint a dark picture:

  • 84 percent expect housing costs will continue to increase over the next two years
  • 78 percent say they know someone forced out of the Bay Area in the past two years by high housing costs
  • 66 percent don’t see themselves buying a home in the Bay Area in the near future, consistent with declining home ownership numbers statewide.

The poll found that 76 percent think the region’s housing shortage is threatening the Bay Area’s economy, which has led the state and nation in creating jobs and generating major revenue for public coffers.

The poll also highlights differences in attitudes between homeowners and renters, urban and suburban areas, by incomes, between counties, and a range of other criteria.

The 2017 Bay Area Council Poll, which was conducted online by Oakland-based public opinion research firm EMC Research from Jan. 24 through Feb. 1, surveyed 1,000 registered voters from around the nine-county Bay Area about a range of issues related to economic growth, housing and transportation, drought, education and workforce.