A bold plan to invest $4.5 billion across the region to ease traffic and improve mass transit for millions of commuters took an important step forward this week (Jan. 10) when the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA)’s Oversight Committee recommended placing Regional Measure 3 (RM3) on the June ballot. The Bay Area Council, partnering with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, SPUR and the California Alliance for Jobs, gave input into the legislation by Sen. Jim Beall that authorizes the vote on RM3 and is preparing to lead the campaign for RM3’s passage. RM3 would make important investments to unclog traffic chokepoints on key major freeways in the East Bay, Silicon Valley and the North Bay, help complete the extension of BART to San Jose and replace its aging fleet, expand regional ferry service and make significant improvements to other key local and regional mass transit systems.
A recent poll by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) showed support for RM3 reaches as high as 60 percent, well above the majority threshold needed for passage. But polls are no guarantee of success and passing RM3 will require a concerted regional campaign to inform voters about the many benefits they will enjoy. To pay for the improvements, RM3 proposes raising tolls on seven state-owned bridges by phasing in three $1 increases over the next six years. BATA’s Oversight Committee recommendation to move forward with RM3 now goes to full MTC-BATA for final approval on Jan. 24. To help support the RM3 campaign, please contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.
There hasn’t been a lot of rain so far this winter, but Gov. Jerry Brown had the wet stuff on his mind this week (Jan. 11) when he released a $190 billion budget proposal that ups the state’s “Rainy Day Fund” by $5 billion to $13.5 billion. The reserve is designed to protect California against future economic downturns, which Brown believes is coming sooner rather than later. Still, the budget represents a record for California and includes a $7 billion increase over the previous spending plan. The Bay Area Council applauded many of the spending priorities, which include $4.6 billion for commute improvement projects from last year’s SB1 (Beall) legislation that the Council supported.
The plan invests $245 million to expand and protect affordable housing under SB2 (Atkins), another bill the Council supported last year. Brown proposed another $277 million for housing in anticipation of the passage of a statewide housing bond measure expected to appear on the November 2018 ballot. The spending plan also continues the Governor’s efforts to pay down the overall state debt and makes a small dent in the state’s massive pension liability shortfall. The Council is continuing to analyze the plan and will be weighing in directly as it now moves to the legislature, which has a June deadline to approve it.
Many folks in Sacramento called 2017 the Year of Housing for the 15 bills (many of which the Bay Area Council supported) that Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law that in various ways responded to the state’s awful housing crisis. Despite the volume of new laws designed to ease barriers and provide new funding for housing, the gains were modest compared to the immense scale of a problem that has been decades in the making. Many acknowledged that much more needed to be done, and now it’s starting to look like 2018 may be the main course compared to the appetizer served last year. That’s great news. Senator Scott Wiener was first out of the gate with a package of reform bills that aim to open a floodgate of new housing near transit and put more pressure on cities to meet their commitments for housing. The Council met with Sen. Wiener in December as he was developing his legislation, and many of the changes he is looking to make reflect long-standing reforms to the Regional Housing Needs Allocation process for which we have advocated. We have it on good authority that more reform ideas are soon to come from other members of the Bay Area Caucus.
The Council is also working with state Sen. Bob Wieckowski on a new bill, SB 831, that would build on legislation (SB 1069) we sponsored in 2016 that has unleashed a statewide surge in applications for accessory dwelling units, aka granny or in-law units. And, we are working on legislation to make the construction of student housing near college campuses easier to achieve. At a local level, the Council this week testified at the Alameda City Council in support of a project by member company Carmel Partners that will convert almost 150 units of vacant former military housing into three- and four-bedroom townhomes near the Alameda ferry terminal. The project won approval. Not a bad start to 2018. To engage in the Council’s housing policy, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.
Expanding regional ferry service in the Bay Area continues to be a top priority for the Bay Area Council, and we have been inspired by the ambitious work that New York is doing to build out its own system. The Big Apple’s embrace of ferries was artfully depicted on the most recent cover of New Yorker magazine in an image by artist Jorge Colombo who said riding the East River Ferry “can be a refuge, a secret hideaway, a sanctuary” from the intense traffic onshore.” Ferry riders, he said, can be a great inspiration. “From where I live, in Brooklyn Heights, it’s a much better way to get to Williamsburg and Greenpoint, or to Thirty-fourth Street in Manhattan, than the subways. It’s a mini boat adventure, an endless trip of a few minutes.”
Council CEO Jim Wunderman in a 2015 San Francisco Chronicle OpEd envisioned a future where expanded ferry service could be a game changer in easing traffic gridlock. The Chronicle also recently featured ferries on the front cover of its pages in a story by reporter JK Dineen that examined the work the Water Emergency Transportation Authority is doing now to build out a robust regional ferry system in the Bay Area. That work would get a big boost from the proposed Regional Measure 3 (RM3) that is expected to go on the ballot in June 2018. The Council was a chief proponent of including ferry funding in RM3 and we will be urging the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to place RM3 on the June ballot when it meets on January 24. Read the Chronicle’s “SF Bay ferry service on brink of major expansion”>>
To engage in the Council’s ferry work, please contact Policy Director Emily Loper.
What is the economic outlook for the Bay Area in 2018 and beyond? How will national and international trends affect our region? Join the Bay Area Council Economic Institute for the 11th Annual Economic Forecast Conference on Friday, January 19 from 8:00am-11:00am at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Each year this conference convenes the region’s top private and public sector leaders to share their economic outlook for the Bay Area, California and the nation. In addition to remarks by SF Fed President Williams, there will be a panel of thought-leaders from three different sectors: tech, commercial real estate, and finance. Also, visually compelling presentations by the leaders in the field of VR/AR will bring to life the economic forecast by showing what our cities will look like as this development occurs. From new urban homes and offices spaces being created in downtown Oakland to massive developments happening at the San Francisco Shipyards and around San Jose’s Diridon Station, we can now see the future before it is built. Speakers include:
Forecasting the Future
John Williams, President and CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
Ranjana Clark, Bay Area President, Union Bank
Kausik Rajgopal, West Coast Regional Manager, McKinsey & Company
Colin Yasikochi, Director of Research and Analysis, CBRE
Igor Popov, Economist, Airbnb
Visualizing the Future
O’Bien Chalmers, President, Steelblue
Radha Mistry, Futurist, Autodesk
Aaron Selvertson, CEO and Founder, Owlized
Mayor Libby Schaaf, City of Oakland; Vice Chair, Bay Area Council Economic Institute
A continental breakfast will be served. Council members will receive a 50% discount using the code BACEI2018. Click here to register.
Behind the Bay Area Council’s continuing advocacy, the California legislature this year took its first (albeit modest) actions to address the state’s historic housing crisis. Much, much more needs to be done, and the Council’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors, under the leadership of Chair and Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard J. Tyson, this week approved a 2018 policy agenda that calls for escalating our work to achieve deeper, stronger and more effective reforms for spurring the tsunami of new housing the state so badly needs. Already, the Council is identifying new legislation for 2018 that can speed the approval and bring down the cost of new housing.
The 2018 agenda also prioritizes ridding the scourge of traffic fom the Bay Area’s roads and highways and getting more commuters out of their vehicles and into ferries, carpools, shuttles and other forms of transit. The Council is gearing up now for a campaign to win passage of Regional Measure 3, a $4.4 billion transportation investment plan that is expected to hit the June 2018 ballot. Rounding out the Council’s top policy priorities for 2018 is building a stronger workforce pipeline to meet the future needs of the region’s employers. The Council’s Workforce of the Future Committee is making immense strides to better align educators and employers to close the region’s yawning middle skills and talent gap, as well as creating new career opportunities for underserved youth.
Along with the top three policy priority areas, the 2018 agenda includes gender equity and workforce diversity, healthcare, advanced communication infrastructure, China and global innovation, carbon reduction and renewables, and water and climate resiliency.
The policy agenda was approved Thursday (Dec. 7) during a meeting hosted by new member Santa Clara University. The Board also welcomed state Sen. Jim Beall Jr. and applauded him for his incredible leadership as the author this year of SB 1, which invests $52 billion in statewide transportation improvements, and SB 595, which authorized the vote on Regional Measure 3. Beall talked about both measures and outlined his plans for new legislation for delivering transportation projects faster and at lower cost. The Council will be working closely with Sen. Beall on that project delivery legislation.
California’s housing crisis was the hot topic of a discussion the Bay Area Council Housing Committee hosted this week with special guest Eleni Kounalakis, 2018 candidate for Lieutenant Governor and former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary. Kounalakis, former president of AKT Development, one of California’s largest housing development firms, said housing is a major plank in her campaign. She described a number of concrete strategies to increase housing production, many of which are consistent with solutions the Council is pursuing, including utilizing public land for development, adding teeth to the housing element law, making some public funds dependent on housing production, supporting bonds to subsidize housing, and creating CEQA exemptions for housing for teachers, first responders, nurses and other employees that are vital to supporting our “social infrastructure.” Kounalakis cited Bay Area first responders who live in Sacramento because of a lack of affordable housing in the Bay Area and the public safety risk that poses here. The Housing Committee will be advocating and potentially sponsoring state legislation next year to support many of these policies. To engage in the Council’s housing policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.
An update to the Bay Area’s long-range regional housing and transportation planning roadmap, Plan Bay Area 2040 (PBA), has been finalized and we’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Since the first plan was approved in 2013, the region has produced just under half of the housing that was called for to keep pace with a healthy, growing economy. The Council argued during the first go-around that the housing targets badly underestimated the region’s need, so it’s likely the gap is even wider based on job and population growth. In addition to creating a massive affordability crisis, the shortfall undercuts the goal of PBA to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles by forcing residents on longer and longer polluting commutes in search of housing they can afford.
The regional planning agencies responsible for PBA have little authority to create housing themselves, but the Council is working to toughen state laws that compel cities to meet their housing obligations under the plan. Gov. Brown last week signed two bills by Sen. Nancy Skinner and supported by the Council that aim to do this. And, the Council is also working to encourage cities to adopt streamlining measures for granny or in-law units, also known as accessory dwelling units (ADU), under legislation we sponsored last year. Cities that have embraced the ADU streamlining measures have seen a dramatic surge in applications.
California took an important first step today in addressing its massive housing crisis when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a package of legislation aimed at providing new funding, streamlined local approvals and stronger enforcement of existing housing laws. Bay Area Council CEO Jim Wunderman joined Gov. Brown, legislators and housing advocates from around the state at a signing ceremony in San Francisco’s Hunter’s Point for 15 bills that included a handful for which the Council had advocated. SB 2 (Atkins) creates a $75 real estate transaction fee that is estimated to generate $250 million annually for affordable housing and SB 3 (Beall) authorizes a statewide $4 billion bond measure for housing that is expected to appear on the ballot in 2018. In addition, SB 166 (Skinner) and SB 167 (Skinner) add teeth to existing laws requiring cities to approve new housing. Much more remains to be done to open the pipeline of new housing the state so badly needs and the Council is already turning its attention to the next legislative session. With an annual shortfall of about 80,000 housing units on top of an estimated 2 million unit deficit, California has a long way to go before it closes the gap and begins to make a dent in its affordability problem.
Results of a new statewide poll gave added urgency to the Bay Area Council’s efforts in securing Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature on legislation to address California’s epic housing crisis. The survey by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies found that 25 percent of voters are considering leaving California because of skyrocketing rents and home prices fueled by a massive housing shortage. The poll found that 92 percent of Bay Area voters think that housing affordability is a serious problem, exceeding the 84 percent level statewide. Council CEO Jim Wunderman was a featured guest on KQED Forum on Thursday to talk about the Berkeley poll results and the solutions on which the Council is focused.
The Council is urging Gov. Brown to sign SB 2 (Atkins) and SB 3 (Beall), which would authorize a statewide vote in 2018 on a $4 billion bond measure for affordable housing and a $75 real estate transaction fee to support local housing, respectively. The Council also is urging the Governor’s signature on two bills by Sen. Nancy Skinner (SB 166 and SB 167) that add teeth to existing laws requiring cities to approve housing.
Listen to the KQED Forum segment with Jim Wunderman>>