Bay Area Council Blog: Press Releases Archive

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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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Bay Area Leads Nation in Squeezing Most Economic Value from Water

The Bay Area not only is one of the stingiest water users in the country it also squeezes more economic value out of every precious drop than any major metropolitan area in the nation, according to a new analysis the Bay Area Council Economic Institute released today. The findings come as state officials consider cutting water flows to the Bay Area.

San Francisco led U.S. counties with over $1.32 million of gross domestic product (GDP) generated per acre-foot of water consumed, while Silicon Valley led US metropolitan regions with almost $504,000 in GDP per acre-foot of water consumed, the study found. One acre foot equals 325,851 gallons or about the amount of water used by 11 Californians per year.

“Nobody gets more bang per gallon than Bay Area residents and businesses” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Public policy should encourage population and economic growth in the most water efficient ways possible, including supporting development in areas with a proven track record of economic efficiency with our limited water supplies.”

The findings come as the State Water Resources Control Board discusses a plan to reduce water diversions from the San Joaquin River and its tributaries, including the Tuolumne River. In an average year, approximately 48 percent of Tuolumne River water is diverted to the Turlock and Modesto Irrigation Districts, 38 percent remains in the river, and 14 percent serves the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and its 2.6 million customers in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and the East Bay. Residents in the SFPUC service area use an average 54 gallons per day, compared to the California state average of 82 gallons.

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California Businesses Launch Major New Climate Resilience Initiative

The Bay Area Council today launched the “California Climate Challenge,” a major new initiative to strengthen California’s resilience to climate change. The statewide challenge will attract resources from across the business community to support research, planning, and implementation of community-level resilience projects and policies focused on California’s water, energy and telecommunications infrastructure, as well as its natural ecosystems and the wildland-urban interface.

The effort is being jumpstarted with a $1 million contribution from PG&E Corporation to the Bay Area Council Foundation. The total amount raised through the challenge – and final details on its scope – will be announced in concert with the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco in September 2018. PG&E’s contribution will come from its shareholders, not its customers.

“California’s business climate is inseparable from its actual climate,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Much of California’s infrastructure was built under a colder, wetter, more predictable climate than we have today. Protecting our homes and employment centers from extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods and wildfires, requires a top-to-bottom assessment of our existing resilience, and fresh thinking on how to best adapt.”

“We are already experiencing the reality of climate change in California,” said Geisha Williams, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation. “PG&E is incorporating this ‘new normal’ into how we manage risks, plan, and invest our resources. But our collective response to extreme events such as the tragic North Bay firestorms must go beyond the immediate work of rebuilding what was lost. A focus on resilience will strengthen our communities for the future.”

“We applaud this initiative to fund a public-private partnership for climate resilience in California,” said Mindy Lubber, CEO of Ceres, a leading sustainability non-profit organization. “Businesses are concerned about climate risks, which have the potential to cause wide-ranging disruptions to their operations and supply chains. Corporate support for tackling climate change is only growing stronger, and companies clearly see the benefit of staying ahead of the game and doing their part.”

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Climate change will push California’s already volatile weather system to further extremes, increasing the frequency and severity of droughts, heat waves, flooding, and wildfires, and drive longer-term changes such as rising sea levels. California’s recent drought included the driest three-year period in the state in 1,200 years, including the hottest year ever recorded. Conversely, Northern California just experienced the wettest “water year” in its recorded history, resulting in severe infrastructure damage at California’s largest reservoir. According to the U.S. Forest Service, more than 100 million trees have died in California since 2010 and Cal Fire’s budget has increased by 45 percent since 2014 to address successive record wildfire seasons.

The California Department of Water Resources predicts the Sierra snowpack, which accounts for over a third of California’s total water supply, will decline by up to 65 percent by the end of this century, straining California’s farms, cities and ecosystems. On our coastlines, sea levels at the Golden Gate are projected to rise 6-13 inches by 2050, on top of the eight-inch rise measured in the 20th century. According to a study from the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, the Bay Area alone could suffer over $10 billion in damages (about the same as Loma Prieta earthquake) during an extreme storm under current sea levels.

These and other changes have the potential to negatively impact the health and safety of communities throughout the state, and undermine California’s economic prosperity. California companies are integral to the sustainability of the communities they serve — and have a unique responsibility to help them prepare for, withstand and recover from extreme events caused by climate change.

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Council Announces $3.3 Million for North Bay Fire Relief

The Bay Area Council raised more than $3.3 million for North Bay fire relief during its Annual Dinner and Bay Area Business Hall of Fame event on Nov. 9, including a $2 million contribution announced by Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Bernard J. Tyson on behalf of the Oakland-based healthcare giant. Another $1.3 million, including a $500,000 matching grant by Verizon Wireless, was tallied during a live Raise a Paddle fundraising auction at the dinner, where Tyson was formally installed as new Chair of the Council. A gift package donated for the auction by the Golden State Warriors that included two courtside tickets, a pre-game dinner with owner Joe Lacob and a briefing with Coach Steve Kerr alone raised $65,000.

“The Bay Area is a close knit community that looks after its own and we’re proud of the generous response by our member companies to the awful tragedy in the North Bay,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Kaiser Permanente and Bernard Tyson set the tone for the amazing outpouring of support we have received. These contributions will go directly to community organizations in the North Bay that are working tirelessly to help thousands of residents, businesses and others recover from the horrific fires and rebuild their lives.”

The Council is partnering with non-profit Tipping Point on the Band Together Bay Area fire relief campaign along with Council members Salesforce, San Francisco Giants and Google, among others. The support raised at the Annual Dinner is part of an estimated almost $20 million in overall contributions and in-kind support donated by Council member companies to the fire relief effort so far, including groups not affiliated with Band Together.

List of Council members contributing to fire relief>>

As soon as Tipping Point announced several weeks ago that it would hold a Band Together benefit concert on the same night (Nov. 9) as the Council’s Annual Dinner, the Council quickly shifted the focus of its annual event to include a major fundraising push for fire relief.

In announcing Kaiser Permanente’s contribution, Tyson talked about the incredible bravery and sacrifice of the many first responders, residents and others in battling the historic blazes and working on the recovery. In a particularly moving story, Tyson told about a Kaiser Permanente doctor who continued to treat fire victims even as the flames demolished his own home.

The Council is working with local North Bay officials and legislators on ways to help speed the recovery and rebuilding. Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman is serving on the advisory board of Rebuilding North Bay, an organization established to lead long-term recovery efforts.

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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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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.

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Statement on Charlottesville Tragedy, Bay Area Rallies

The Bay Area Council today (Aug. 17) issued the following statement in response to reported plans by a white nationalist or similar group to hold a rally in San Francisco in the coming days on the heels of the deadly and painful events in Charlottesville, Virginia:

“In the wake of the tragic and awful events in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend, the Bay Area Council is calling on public safety and other officials in San Francisco and throughout our region to do everything in their power and to take every precaution available to prevent similar violent confrontations here,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “The Bay Area Council condemns in the clearest, strongest terms possible the hatred, bigotry and racist beliefs being promoted by the white supremacist, neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic and other hate groups that ignited and fueled the horrific events in Charlottesville.

“As the Charlottesville tragedy aptly demonstrated, with Nazi sympathizers bringing weapons, these “rallies” would be expected to incite a strenuous reaction from the overwhelming majority of Americans who reject these hateful views and believe they deserve no place in our public discourse, politics, business, society or anywhere else,” Wunderman said. “Uncontrolled, these rallies are unpredictable and disruptive, threaten public safety and put the general public in harm’s way, cost considerable taxpayer dollars and often can result in considerable damage to public property, and local businesses.

“Expression of political views must be done without weapons and the intent to physically confront those who hold opposing views, and we call upon local police to make sure that bullies carrying weapons are not a part of political demonstrations of any kind,” Wunderman said. “For anyone planning to attend any such events in the Bay Area, we urge you to exercise extreme caution and even greater restraint.

“Violent white supremacy rallies damage the American brand, and those communities that foment and tolerate this kind of behavior will not fare well in the worldwide competition for jobs and economic growth,” Wunderman said.

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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.