Bay Area Council Blog: Press Releases Archive


Council Names Bernard J. Tyson Vice Chair

The Bay Area Council Executive Committee has elected Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Bernard J. Tyson Vice Chair of the organization, positioning the Council for continuing strong leadership in addressing the region’s major challenges. Tyson joins Chair Michael Covarrubias, Chairman and CEO of TMG Partners, in filling out the Executive Committee’s top two leadership roles.

“Bernard’s appointment will ensure the Council continues a powerful legacy of business leadership in the Bay Area and California,” said Covarrubias, who is in the middle of a two-year term as Chair that ends in 2017. “I’m glad he said yes. It’s comforting to know that a visionary like Bernard is waiting in the wings to carry the Council forward. I’m excited to work with him during my term as Chair to achieve the Council’s important policy goals and make sure that the voice of business is heard loud and clear – here, in Sacramento and D.C.”

As chief executive of a $61 billion a year organization that serves 10.6 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia, and employs 180,000 workers and 18,000 physicians, Tyson is widely considered one of the nation’s most influential health care leaders. Tyson has played an instrumental role in shaping the Council’s health care policy agenda and its focus on providing high-quality care, controlling costs and making health care accessible for more Californians. And he has provided important leadership on the Council’s Executive Committee of CEOs and other top executives in setting and achieving the Council’s overall policy priorities.

“The Bay Area Council is working across the entire region and across industries to create positive dialogue intended to solve our region’s toughest challenges,” Tyson said. “I’m honored by the appointment, and I look forward to working with Mike Covarrubias and the entire Council leadership to create an even stronger economy and more vibrant communities for everyone who lives and works here.”

Tyson’s selection as Vice Chair adds momentum to the progress the Council is making on its lead policy priorities under Covarrubias. The Council is waging an aggressive campaign to expand workforce housing in California, working to win passage in the state Legislature of a proposal by Governor Jerry Brown to fast track local approval of affordable housing. The Council is also focused on reducing traffic congestion and increasing investment in regional transportation systems, ensuring the Bay Area has a reliable water supply and building stronger connections between employers and higher education institutions to close the middle skills employment gap.

In addition to his role at Kaiser Permanente, Tyson is also an outspoken voice nationally on addressing and improving race relations, and for increasing economic opportunities for boys and men of color. His 2014 essay following Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, MO – It’s Time to Revolutionize Race Relations – described his experience as an African American CEO and contributed to the national conversation on the status of race in the U.S. Under his leadership, Kaiser Permanente is serving as an early champion of a new regional pilot project launched in Oakland on July 22 that will work to provide jobs for hundreds of Bay Area youths, with specific focus on boys and men of color.

“Bernard J. Tyson is a leader’s leader,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Bernard brings to the Council Executive Committee an incredible background of business acumen, knowledge and experience. And while his professional career has been in healthcare, Bernard readily grasps the bigger picture of issues – from housing, to transportation, to workforce opportunity – affecting employers, workers and the broader community. The Council looks forward to thriving with his leadership.”

Read Bernard J. Tyson’s full biography>>


Can Megaregion Approach Help Solve Megaproblems?

The Northern California megaregion is one of the largest and fastest-growing in the United States, but the rapid speed and scale at which it is taking shape is creating megaproblems that highlight the urgent need for greater collaboration, investment and planning in the areas of housing, transportation, education and economic development, and goods movement, according to a new report the Bay Area Council Economic Institute released Thursday (June 30).

Read The Northern California Megaregion: Innovative, Connected, Growing>>

Encompassing the Bay Area, Sacramento and northern San Joaquin valleys and Monterey Bay Area, the NorCal megaregion is home to a complex network of job centers, neighborhoods and transportation corridors in 21 counties and 164 cities. The many rail, road, labor, goods movement, and innovation connections that currently exist between these once-independent regions provide evidence of a growing integration among them.

At the report launch event, University of the Pacific Provost Maria Pallavicinip provided opening remarks to an audience that included state legislative staff, city managers, and economic development professionals from across the megaregion. UOP provided data and research that helped inform the report. A presentation of report findings was followed by a discussion between Sacramento Area Council of Governments CEO Mike McKeever; Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council President and CEO Barry Broome; UC Davis Associate Vice Chancellor Dr. Dushyant Pathak; and City of Tracy Councilmember Nancy Young. The panelists explored the issues of transportation, housing, and job creation, and agreed that coordinated advocacy from megaregional leaders would provide a first step in securing more funding from state and federal governments.

By examining the economic and demographic changes occurring within the NorCal megaregion, the report offers an alternative vision for rethinking existing political, demographic and economic boundaries in a way that can suggest new solutions for some of our most intractable problems. To learn more about the Northern California Megaregion report, please contact Senior Research Associate Jeff Bellisario at

megaregion report

New Report: As Northern California Megaregion Takes Shape, Megaproblems Intensify

The Northern California megaregion is one of the largest and fastest-growing in the United States, but the rapid speed and scale at which it is taking shape is creating megaproblems that highlight the urgent need for greater collaboration, investment and planning in the areas of housing, transportation, education and economic development, and goods movement, according to a new report the Bay Area Council Economic Institute released today.

Encompassing the Bay Area, Sacramento and northern San Joaquin valleys and Monterey Bay Area, the NorCal megaregion is home to a complex network of job centers, neighborhoods and transportation corridors in 21 counties and 164 cities. The many rail, road, labor, goods movement, and innovation connections that currently exist between these once-independent regions provide evidence of a growing integration among them.

Read The Northern California Megaregion: Innovative, Connected, Growing>>

The 12.2 million residents that call the megaregion home represent nearly one-third of California’s population, with 1.5 million being added since 2000 and another 1.9 million expected by 2030. And, the megaregion’s 2014 gross regional product of $875 billion was 5 percent of the nation’s GDP and the highest per capita in the country.

“The blurring lines among these four regions means we need to sharpen our focus on megaregional collaboration,” said Dr. Micah Weinberg, President of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. “The Northern California megaregion is like an engine powered by multiple cylinders. You get the most power and the most efficiency when all the cylinders are finely tuned and firing together. Increasing the connections and coordination among the different parts of the megaregion will create an unstoppable economic powerhouse and ensure a high quality of life.”

Home to three of California’s fastest-growing counties, the NorCal megaregion has also been one of the nation’s leading job creators across multiple industries, particularly in technology. Much of the job growth has been concentrated in the Bay Area, where rising demand and an historic housing shortage has resulted in a perfect storm of skyrocketing rents and home prices. Priced out of the Bay Area, growing legions of workers are increasingly seeking less expensive options in distant communities to the east.

As a result, although the megaregion’s workforce increased by 17 percent between 1990 and 2013, the number of commuters crossing “traditional” regional boundaries grew by 78 percent. More than two-thirds of them or nearly 175,000 employees, including from areas immediately outside the megaregion, commute into the Bay Area for work, resulting in clogged freeways and commutes that take hours, contribute to regional air pollution and stymie the state’s efforts to meet aggressive targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Increasing investment in megaregion commuter rail systems like Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor and San Joaquins services and the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) can create stronger and more efficient transportation connections, expand ridership capacity and reduce pressure on already congested roads and highways, according to the report. Today, the three megaregional rail services serve a combined 3 million passenger trips a year, with Amtrak recently announcing the expansion of its San Joaquin service to address growing ridership.

Improving coordination among passenger and commercial freight rail carriers that share the same tracks can also help expand the capacity for both and support the megaregion’s important trade and goods movement industry. That will be important as projections show that by 2020 the major rail segments in the megaregion will be operating very near capacity.

Better distributing job growth within the megaregion across a range of industries could also hold the answer to nagging housing and transportation problems, the report suggests, while also helping spread greater prosperity.

The Bay Area technology industry has been a chief driver of new jobs in Northern California, fueled largely by the heavy concentration of highly educated workers and a strong network of public and private universities, state and community colleges and research laboratories. Raising education levels throughout the megaregion by increasing investment in state and community colleges and building better connections with employers can make regions outside the Bay Area more attractive for companies looking to start a business or grow. That can also help attract more venture capital investment to inland regions as entrepreneurs, start-ups and growing companies look for less expensive alternatives to the Bay Area, including outside the state.

There’s evidence this is already happening. Since 1990, the Sacramento area has seen the greatest increase of workers on a percentage basis in the high-tech sector of any California region. A thriving innovation and tech sector in the Tri-Valley area is leading to strong connections with bordering San Joaquin County.

“There’s no reason to cede our thriving tech economy to places like Boston, Austin and Seattle when the NorCal megaregion offers plenty of room, connections and opportunity,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “We can have our cake and eat it, too, but we need mega-planning to stay ahead and address our housing, transportation and workforce challenges. It means breaking down traditional geographic and other barriers and working together.”

Among the specific recommendations for the megaregion that are included in the report:

  • Make a substantial investment in education outside the Bay Area to spread businesses and workforce talent across a broader geography. Investments in California State University system, the community college network, and apprenticeship programs in inland areas can prepare residents for jobs in growing industries, including technology, health care, business services and logistics.
  • Create economic development structures that cross county lines. Currently, economic development efforts are locally-oriented.  Enhanced information sharing across the megaregion can help companies expand operations in places such as Davis and Sacramento instead of in competitive regions such as Portland or Austin with similar workforce profiles and affordability.
  • Prioritize improved and expanded service of megaregional rails lines. Intra-regional transit systems, particularly passenger rail, need to be expanded to move millions of commuters more efficiently throughout the region. That means supporting expanded service on ACE, San Joaquins and Capitol Corridor routes and prioritizing investment in megaregional rail hubs in Livermore, San Jose, and Oakland in the 2018 California State Rail Plan.
  • Streamline housing approval processes across the megaregion, especially those that are served by transit. Governor Jerry Brown proposes that cities and counties require only “by-right” approval for certain types of housing projects. By-right approval can help to spur housing development across the Northern California megaregion and facilitate higher density building near existing or planned rail stations, giving residents greater choice in where they live and work.
  • Institute a statewide tax credits to incentivize new business development and job creation in inland areas. The package of tax credits issued at the state level, including a venture capital investment tax credits, a geographically targeted R&D tax credit, and a New Markets Tax Credit, would promote the movement of more capital to other parts of the megaregion.

What Others Are Saying

“This report describes a scale of connectedness that reflects the service Capitol Corridor provides today and we need to be ready for tomorrow.”

—Jim Allison, Manager of Planning, Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority

“This research helps prepare our neighboring regions and local communities to be competitive and maximize economic opportunities with vibrant places, jobs and housing options closer together, and travel options that help us get out of traffic. Collectively, we have a better chance of bringing new jobs and a higher quality of life to our communities.”

 —Mike McKeever, CEO, Sacramento Area Council of Governments

“The report confirms and expands upon our research about the increasingly integrated Megaregion labor market.  The Bay Area Council’s recommendations for Megaregion policy and planning efforts are important and timely.”

—Dr. Jeff Michael, Executive Director, Center for Business and Policy Research, University of the Pacific

“As the communities within the Northern California Megaregion continue to grow, we must meet their needs by striving to offer additional train service throughout the megaregion. Riders need frequent, convenient scheduling options to choose from in order to incorporate train travel into their business or leisure trips.  Increasing the frequency of Amtrak San Joaquins will greatly improve the connectivity between the San Joaquin Valley, the Bay Area, and Sacramento”

—John Pedrozo, Chair of the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority; Merced County Supervisor

“There are over 65,000 commuters traveling daily from the Northern San Joaquin Valley to the Bay Area – most of which are coming over the Altamont Pass. We are very pleased this study of the Northern California Megaregion highlights the importance of improving and expanding the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) service to help meet the growing transportation demands between the Northern San Joaquin Valley, the Tri-Valley, and the Silicon Valley.”

Bob Johnson, Chair of the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission; Lodi City Councilmember

“California’s state capital is a big part of the solution. Sacramento is already the #2 choice for people leaving the Bay Area. Sacramento’s costs are 67 percent those of San Francisco. Businesses that relocate to Sacramento have access to a young and educated workforce, enjoy a significant cost savings, and remain within the Megaregion.”

—Barry Broome, President and CEO of the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council

“We are in a good place as one of the fastest growing areas in the world, but that good place can collapse under the weight of its own success unless we choose to do something about the inadequate production of housing and the resulting rising unaffordability of housing. This creates transportation systems that are clogged with commuters and employees who have to make long commutes to their jobs diminishing their quality of life. And because of Nimbyism, communities now have no place for the young or middle class. Only through collaboration and embracing the big idea can we solve these problems. The Bay Area Council has always been a catalyst for collaboration and this report and its findings can bring us closer to a solution. But we have to act.”

— Dale Eldridge Kaye, CEO, Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group

“This important study sets the stage for increasing dialogue, planning and defining opportunities to collectively work together to  our mega-regional needs.”

Arthur L. Dao, Alameda CTC Executive Director


Council Joins Computer Science Education Coalition

The Bay Area Council is proud to announce that it has joined the Computer Science Education Coalition, a nonprofit organization comprised of businesses and NGOs focused on expanding computer science education in K-12 classrooms across America to ensure that our nation remains globally competitive and secure for decades to come.

Today, only one out of four K-12 schools teach any computer science, leaving the vast majority of our nation’s students without access to the skills needed to thrive in the future. It is estimated that by the end of the decade, around 77% of jobs will require technological skills and we risk falling behind other nations who have prioritized the teaching of computer science in their countries if we do not take action. Our universities graduate only about 40,000 computer science students annually which is woefully inadequate, as there are over 500,000 unfilled computing jobs nationwide.

The Computer Science Education Coalition is seeking a $250 million federal investment in K-12 computer science this year. It’s estimated that an initial infusion of $250 million in federal funds could support as many as 52,500 classrooms and reach 3.6 million students in the coming year. The benefit is a skilled workforce, a boost to the country’s manufacturing, defense, financial, healthcare, aeronautic, technology, agricultural and other industries — strengthening America for future generations.

Learn more about Computer Science Education Coalition>>


Council Applauds Governor’s Housing Proposals

The Bay Area Council today (May 16)  issued the following statement on proposals made by Gov. Jerry Brown in his May budget revision that would help address California’s housing crisis:

“California’s massive housing shortage requires bold and meaningful action and Gov. Brown has delivered.  The Governor in his revised budget has sent a powerful message to the state that we must remove barriers to creating affordable housing that millions of Californians so desperately need. The state’s housing shortage and the high housing costs that have resulted is the main reason for California’s nation-leading poverty rate, with the bottom 25 percent of income earners spending 67 percent of their income on housing. And the obstacles to creating housing where it’s needed most is undermining California’s ability to meet its ambitious climate change goals. In the Bay Area alone, 170,000 “mega commuters” drive to their jobs from places as far away as Sacramento, Lathrop and Manteca.

“Gov. Brown’s proposal to speed up local approval of affordable housing through “by right zoning” will encourage more housing near transit and job centers and reduce long polluting commutes. And his support of legislation like SB 1069, authored by state Sen. Bob Wieckowski and sponsored by the Bay Area Council, has the potential to create hundreds of thousands of affordable accessory dwelling units. We applaud the Governor and the Legislature for taking important first steps on addressing the housing crisis and encourage them to continue to collaborate on funding for affordable housing, streamlined housing approvals, and maintaining California’s fiscal and environmental health.”


Council Names Assemblymember Evan Low Regionalist of the Year

The Bay Area Council on Monday (May 2) announced Silicon Valley Assemblymember Evan Low its 2016 Regionalist of the Year. Low has been a stalwart in promoting regional cooperation in addressing the Bay Area’s many challenges and working to strengthen the region’s innovation economy. Low established the California Legislative Technology and Innovation Caucus, for which he serves as co-chairman. He also is sponsoring AB 2395, which would improve California’s economic competitiveness and provide a roadmap to transition the state’s antiquated communications networks to the IP-based communications systems of the 21st century.

A 2014 report by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute – 21st Century Infrastructure: Keeping California Connected, Powered and Competitive — highlighted the critical importance to the state’s economic competitiveness of updating and investing in communications.  A key finding of the report  was that technological advancements of the current century, including those in such critical fields as healthcare, agriculture, public safety, education and clean energy, are utterly dependent on advanced communications infrastructure. Adama Iwu, Senior Director for Government Relations at Visa, presented Low with the award during a dinner concluding the Council’s Sacramento Day advocacy trip. To engage in our Sacramento policy work, please contact Policy Manager Cornelious Burke.

water recycling

Council Unveils New Regional Water Supply Prioritization

The Bay Area Council today (May 5) released a first-of-its-kind prioritization of regional water infrastructure projects that, if completed, could produce up to 250,000 acre-feet of new water each year, enough to serve or offset the use of an estimated 3.6 million new Bay Area residents, or approximately 1.25 million new Bay Area households.[1] The Bay Area’s 11 major water agencies project an estimated 2 million additional residents by 2035.[2]

The Regional Water Project Prioritization identifies 23 water supply projects around the Bay Area that would bring an additional 250,000 acre-feet of new water supply to the region. An acre-foot of water is enough to serve the annual water needs of about five Bay Area households.

The Bay Area Council worked with the region’s 11 major water agencies over the past six months to create the ranking as part of a larger process to prepare the Bay Area for climate change and prioritize how the region pursues limited state and federal funding to pay for water infrastructure projects.

“If everything’s a priority, nothing’s a priority” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “The region needs to focus on using our limited resources to create new water, maximize the water we currently have, and protect vital bay infrastructure. The mercury is rising, so too are sea levels and the cost of inaction. We hope these projects will help kick-start a regional conversation about how we prioritize and fund our future water needs.”

The projects include 18 water recycling production-and-conveyance projects; three brackish desalination facilities; two reservoir expansions; and a state-of-the-art storm forecasting system. In total, the water supply projects would cost $2.37 billion.

“The rain doesn’t stop at water agency jurisdictions” said Jerry Brown, General Manager of the Contra Costa Water Agency. “That’s why the Bay Area’s water agencies are looking to regional planning efforts like this to prepare the region for climate change and to improve our drought resiliency. I applaud the Bay Area Council for helping launch that discussion.”

The prioritization also includes four flood protection projects totaling $1.23 billion to defend critical bayside infrastructure from sea level rise and extreme-weather-related flooding. According to the Bay Area Council Economic Institute’s 2015 report, Surviving the Storm, a 150-year storm event could cost the entire region greater than $10 billion in economic damages, about the same as the Loma Prieta Earthquake. Flooding would be most acute in Santa Clara County, where major water and wastewater facilities are located along the bay shoreline. At SFO, flight delays and cancellations would result an estimated $164 million in lost economic productivity.

Approximately 66 percent of the Bay Area’s freshwater originates as Sierra Nevada snowpack, which the California Department of Water Resources estimates will decline by at least 25 percent by 2050.[3] However, the Bay Area’s 11 major water agencies project an additional 2 million residents by 2035.

The Council’s priorities are being announced as Bay Area water agencies begin the development of the Bay Area Regional Reliability Drought Contingency Plan (the BARR DC Plan). The BARR DC Plan is a joint effort by eight Bay Area water agencies collectively serving more than 6 million people in seven counties, and bringing a regional approach to enhancing water supply reliability, leveraging existing infrastructure investments, facilitating water transfers during critical shortages, and improving climate change resiliency. The BARR DC Plan is funded by a grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and will culminate in a report to be finalized in early 2017.

[1] Calculated from State Water Resources Control Board estimate of per-capita Bay Area water use between March 2014-2015, and ABAG regional population estimate (7 million). Assumes 2.87 individuals per household (Source: Department of Water Resources. “California Single Family Water Use Efficiency Study”, June, 2011. Table 96, pg. 251).

[2] 2013 Bay Area Integrated Regional Water Management Plan, Figure 2-18

[3] State of California. Department of Water Resources. Climate Change Impacts on California’s Water. Fall 2008.



Bay Area Residents Narrowly Support Legalizing Marijuana

A California initiative to legalize the recreational use of marijuana that appears headed for the November 2016 ballot would have the support of a majority of Bay Area residents, according to the 2016 Bay Area Council Poll. Backers of the initiative, including tech entrepreneur Sean Parker and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, announced today that they had gathered double the signatures needed to qualify the initiative.

The poll of 1,000 Bay Area residents found that 50 percent support legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in California, including 26 percent that strongly support and 24 percent that somewhat support. Among the 41 percent who are opposed, 25 percent strongly oppose and 16 percent somewhat oppose. Another 10 percent answered “don’t know.” The initiative would require a simple majority to pass. A similar measure in 2010 failed with 53 percent opposed.

Support was strongest in San Francisco (56 percent) and the North Bay (54 percent). San Mateo was the only county where those opposed (46 percent) outnumbered supporters (43 percent). The ratio of support to oppose was generally consistent across the other counties, including Santa Clara (47%/43%), Alameda (49%/39%), and Contra Costa (49%/41%).

Support was pretty even among generations, including Millennials (50%/38%), GenXers (50%/40%), Baby Boomers (50%/41%), and residents 65+ (47%/47%). Although, Millennials had greatest intensity of support, with 27 percent giving strong support versus 22-23 percent for other generational groups.

The 2016 Bay Area Council Poll, which was conducted by Oakland-based public opinion research firm EMC Research from Feb. 12-March 9, surveyed more than 1,000 residents online about a range of issues related to economic growth, housing and transportation, drought, education and workforce. It has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.


BACPoll: Economic Confidence Softening

Bay Area residents agree the regional economy is humming right along, according to results of the 2016 Bay Area Council Poll released today, but a growing number also appear more cautious about where the economy is heading and see the possibility of a significant downtown on the horizon.

The poll found that 83 percent of residents think the economy is doing the same or better compared to six months ago, but the intensity of their optimism has started to wane from two years ago. While 53 percent said in 2014 that the economy would be doing somewhat or much better than six months prior, that number dropped to 35 percent in 2016. Residents who think the economy is doing about the same jumped from 35 percent in 2014 to 48 percent in 2016, and the number that think the economy has worsened has almost doubled from 8 percent in 2014 to 15 percent in 2016.

“Unlike Steph Curry, the Bay Area economy isn’t going to keep hitting long-range three pointers,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Economic ebbs and flows are inevitable, but we can take steps to gird ourselves against the harshest impacts of a downturn. The Bay Area Council has advanced a comprehensive Regional Economic Strategy that offers a framework for increasing the region’s resilience against economic swings, including building the housing we need, investing in transportation and other critical infrastructure, strengthening the connections between our universities and employers, and creating a regional entity exclusively focused on economic sustainability.”

Read the Regional Economic Strategy>>

Read the Bay Area Council Poll summary results>>

See Bay Area Council charts and graphs>>

See complete Bay Area Council Poll results>>

Looking ahead in the near term, the poll found a similar cooling off in residents’ attitudes about the economy. In 2014, 50 percent said the economy would be doing somewhat or much better in six months and 35 said it would be doing about the same. The 2016 poll found that 27 percent believe the economy will show improvement in six months, while 49 said it will be doing about the same. Another 21 percent said in this year’s survey that the economy will worsen in six months, a significant jump over the 9 percent in 2014 who had a pessimistic outlook for the coming half year.

Looking a little deeper into the crystal ball, more residents than not think the Bay Area is in store for a significant economic downturn. The poll found 37 percent of residents think the regional economy is due for a correction sometime in the next three years. Another 15 percent think it will be 3-5 years before the pendulum swings back, 7 percent say it will be more than five years and an optimistic 20 percent think the Bay Area will dodge any economic downturn.

Despite concerns about the regional economy, residents appear to have a slightly brighter view of their own household financial situation. The poll found 78 percent of residents think their household is the same (53%) or better off (25%) financially than six months ago. And they generally see things getting a little better in the near future, with 83 percent saying they expect their household financial picture to stay at least the same (54%) or improve (29%). That optimism is generally consistent across counties, although Contra Costa County residents appear the most sanguine with 39 percent saying they expect their financial situation to improve in the next six months while across the bay in San Francisco just 22 percent of residents think they’ll be better off.

Along income lines, higher earning households feel more financially secure. The poll found that 85 percent of households making $150,000 or more feel their finances are the same (51%) or better (34%) than six months ago, compared to the 70 percent of households with incomes of $50,000 or less who say their finances are unchanged (49%) or better (21%).

The 2016 Bay Area Council Poll, which was conducted by Oakland-based public opinion research firm EMC Research from Feb. 12-March 9, surveyed more than 1,000 residents online about a range of issues related to economic growth, housing and transportation, drought, education and workforce. It has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.


BACPoll: One Third of Residents Ponder Leaving Bay Area

Soaring housing costs stemming from a chronic shortage combined with an overwhelmed transportation system and grinding traffic are taking a heavy toll on Bay Area residents, with one third saying they are likely to bolt the region in the next few years, according to results of the 2016 Bay Area Council Poll released today (May 2). Just 40 percent of residents say the region is heading in the right direction, a significant decline from 55 percent last year and 57 percent in 2014.

“This is our canary in a coal mine,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Residents are screaming for solutions. Do we expect to see more than 2 million residents up and leave? Of course not. But losing even a fraction of that number and the talent they represent because we failed to deal with our most pressing issues would be very bad. We need to act with urgency, we need to act decisively and we need to act regionally to address the underlying problems of housing and traffic that are causing discontent and aggravation.”

The urge to leave is strongest among residents who have been here the shortest time, those making lower incomes and those paying a larger share of income for housing. Despite the 34 percent of residents who are eyeing an exit, another 54 percent said they’re not going anywhere. And among those looking to leave, just 13 percent felt strongly about it while 31 percent of residents felt strongly about staying put. Still, the message is clear and alarming as concerns mount about a growing economic divide in the Bay Area.

Read the Bay Area Council Poll summary results>>

See Bay Area Council Poll charts and graphs>>

See complete Bay Area Council Poll results>>

“We need to pull every lever we can to remove regional and local obstacles to creating housing, helping working families afford to live here, eliminating the scourge of traffic and sustaining a healthy economy,” Wunderman said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us, but we’ve also got the tools, ingenuity and creativity to do it.”

Housing, Traffic, Cost of Living Top Concerns

High housing costs topped the list of the Bay Area’s most important problems, the poll found, with 22 percent of residents in an open-ended question naming it first ahead of traffic at 17 percent and cost of living at 9 percent. Given a set list of issues, 25 percent of Bay Area residents ranked cost of living, which is often associated with housing costs, as the region’s most serious problem followed by housing at 23 percent and traffic at 13 percent.

Putting an exclamation point on the results, 64 percent of residents identified cost of living among their top three problems for the Bay Area, with 48 percent citing housing in the top three and 39 percent ranking traffic among the region’s top problems. Poverty and income inequality also figured prominently with 27 percent of residents listing it among the region’s top three problems. That represents a significant jump from 2014, when just 8 percent of residents listed poverty and income inequality among the top three problems in the Bay Area.

There are some notable differences among generational groups when it comes to ranking some of the region’s biggest problems. Millennials and Gen Xers harbor the greatest concern about the cost of living, with 33 percent and 31 percent, respectively, citing it as their top worry compared to 14 percent for Baby Boomers and 13 percent for residents over 65. Housing comes in second among Millennials, Gen Xers, and residents over 65, and is the primary concern among Baby Boomers.

Millennials are more concerned than their elders about poverty and income inequality, with 37 percent rating that among the region’s three most important problems. Gen Xers put poverty and income inequality fourth behind cost of living, housing and traffic; Baby Boomers put it fifth behind housing, cost of living, traffic and crime; and residents over 65 put it seventh behind cost of living, traffic, housing, homelessness, crime and other unspecified problems.

Drought Drowned Out as Top Issue

Concerns about housing costs and the region’s high cost of living drowned out worries about the drought. Even with an under performing El Nino, just 4 percent of Bay Area residents ranked California’s historic drought as their leading concern, a precipitous drop from the 28 percent that put it at the top of the region’s most important problems in 2015.

A look at confidence across counties shows that San Francisco residents are the gloomiest, with 52 percent saying things are the wrong track — up from 28 percent just last year — and 33 percent saying things are heading in the right direction. While the mood is a little better to the south, it’s also fallen a lot further. In Santa Clara County, 37 percent of residents say things are on the right track, down from 67 percent in 2014 and 58 percent in 2015.

Discontent across Generations, Incomes

Overall confidence was generally weak among generations. The poll found 42 percent of Millennials think the Bay Area is headed in the right direction, although 21 percent were strangely undecided about how things are going. Residents 65 years and older expressed a similarly tepid level of optimism while Gen Xers were glummer with 38 percent saying the Bay Area is headed in the right direction and 41 percent expressing pessimism.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the region’s most well off feel the greatest sense of optimism. Among residents with household incomes over $125,000, 46 percent say the Bay Area is headed in the right direction. Optimism slumps in lower income brackets, with 42 percent of residents with household incomes between $75,000-$125,000 saying the region is headed in the right direction and just 38 percent making less than $75,000 feeling optimistic.

The 2016 Bay Area Council Poll, which was conducted by Oakland-based public opinion research firm EMC Research from Feb. 12-March 9, surveyed more than 1,000 residents online about a range of issues related to economic growth, housing and transportation, drought, education and workforce. It has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.