Bay Area Council Blog: Transportation and Land Use Archive

8.13.10

Statement: BAY AREA COUNCIL APPLAUDS OBAMA ADMINISTRATION FOR REDIRECTING HIGH SPEED RAIL FUNDS TO CALIFORNIA

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — The U.S. Department of Transportation today redirected $1.2 billion in high-speed rail funds from Ohio and Wisconsin to 14 other states, including California, which will now receive an additional $624 million for high-speed rail.

In response to this news, Bay Area Council President & CEO Jim Wunderman released the following statement:

“These additional funds will keep California high-speed rail on the fast track.  The infusion of new federal money will help to extend the first segment of high-speed rail to another urban center in the Central Valley, quelling concerns that California is building a ‘train to nowhere’.  Today’s news also means more jobs for California at a time when we are still facing 12.4% unemployment.

High-speed rail will re-establish California’s leadership across the nation and around the globe, provide an environmentally sound alternative to the country’s busiest air route (SFO to LAX) and take nearly 70 million auto trips off the road every year.

The Bay Area Council applauds the Obama administration and Department of Transportation for supporting high-speed rail in California.”

PDF Statement

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Press Release: BAY AREA COUNCIL AND USC TO HOLD REAL ESTATE CASE COMPETITION FOR DALY CITY’S MIDWAY VILLAGE

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — The 2010 USC Ross Program in Real Estate, presented by the Bay Area Council, will hold a case competition and graduation ceremony at 4:00 PM on Thursday, December 9 at the CitiGroup Center, 1 Sansome St., San Francisco.

The three-week program, taught by faculty from the University of Southern California (USC), as well as over fifty local industry experts and professionals from the Bay Area, helps participants gain technical expertise and expand their understanding of real estate development and investment, while building the networks necessary to succeed in urban renewal.  Each year, the program culminates in a case competition in which participants present their solutions for a local development issue.

“The depth of knowledge that this year’s students bring to the table is quite remarkable,” said Jim Wunderman, President & CEO of the Bay Area Council.  “We are proud to offer training and resources to such talented real estate professionals through the Ross Program and I am confident that these participants will positively impact future development in the Bay Area.”

This year, the case competition focuses on redevelopment of the Midway Village and an adjacent site in the Bayshore neighborhood on the border between San Francisco and Daly City.  Ross Program participants will present their proposed plans for the site in front of a panel of judges, including representatives from the City of San Mateo Housing Authority and the City of Daly City, the two organizations that control the site. Judges include: Greg Vilkin, MacFarlane Partners; Michael Barker, Barker Pacific Group; Michael Johnson, UrbanCore, LLC; Margo Bradish, Cox Castle Nicholson; Libby Seifel, Seifel Consulting; Vince Gibbs, Intequity LLC.

Participants in this year’s program include Benjamin Brandin, a Green Project Analyst with Eden Housing; Catherine Etzel, Assistant Project Manager at BRIDGE Housing Corporation; Daryl Thomas, Managing Director, NID Housing Counseling Agency; and Lena Robinson, Regional Manager of Community Development for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

A pdf overview of the program can be downloaded at: http://www.bayareacouncil.org/docs/Ross.pdf

PDF Press Release

12.2.10.2

Doyle Drive Public-Private Partnership Prompts Lawsuit From State Public Engineers Union

The state engineers union is suing to stop the Doyle Drive rebuild because it is partially financed through a public-private partnership (P3) with international investors. The Council is currently exploring ways to get involved so that the project isn’t stopped.  We can’t afford to let this project be derailed because of the seismic risk of not repairing the span, but also because the lawsuit may affect P3 investments all across the country if the union prevails.  With the state and nation facing huge deficits for the conceivable future, P3 investments will be the only way to get major infrastructure projects financed and completed.

Rendering of Doyle Drive after construction.

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Ross Program in Real Estate Awarded $10,000 by The Counselors of Real Estate

By Chandra Alexandre

The Ross Program in Real Estate, an intensive executive training program in real estate development and finance serving approximately 20 people every year, provides education in real-estate innovation, sustainability, and environmental quality, to create mentors and leaders in the Bay Area. Due to the lack of real estate networking and urban infill development training in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area, the program focuses on filling the local educational and training gap. This year, the Counselors of Real Estate awarded a grant of $10,000 for two scholarships to be awarded to Ross Scholars.

Through the Ross program, participants get the technical expertise and resources needed to develop and invest in significant real estate projects in underserved communities.  Participants are 63 percent local minority (40 percent African-American, 19 percent Asian and four percent Latino) and 58 percent women. These professionals come from both the public and private sectors. The nine-day program is dedicated to “education and practical application” in order to train qualified individuals for urban infill revitalization projects.

Larry Souza, CRE, an active volunteer leader, mentor and teacher in the program noted, “On behalf of the Board and Mary Fleischmann, President and CEO of The Counselors of Real Estate—Congratulations! We’re delighted to support the Bay Area Council’s program in this way.”

For more information about this year’s program, please contact: Scott Zengel, VP, Family of Funds.
To make a contribution to support the Council’s endeavors in this arena, please contact: Chandra Alexandre, VP, Development.

10.18.10

NEW BCDC AMENDMENTS TO DRAMATICALLY AFFECT SMART DEVELOPMENT

By Scott Zengel

The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) is proposing amendments to the Bay Plan that could dramatically affect smart growth, urban infill,  housing, and above all, the quality of life in the Bay Area.

The proposed amendments potentially impact $62 billion in existing shoreline development, 270,000 people and 213,000 acres.  By implementing such strict development restrictions, BCDC’s plan could seriously affect the ability of developers to supply sustainable, transit-oriented affordable housing, prevent business expansion and threaten the Bay Area economy.  The proposal could push employees further away from their jobs, increase commutes, and in turn, increase greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to sea level rise – the very thing BCDC wishes to combat.

The Bay Area Council, the Bay Planning Coalition and the Building Industry Association have already proposed changes to the amendments, but to date, BCDC staff has not agreed to  incorporate them into the plan.

Sea level rise is a very real issue we must face as a region, and that we must address head on, but we believe it can be done in a way that actually enhances our economy and growth patterns. We need to convince BCDC that there is a better approach than the one put forward by their staff.  The Council will be holding a working session on October 19 for concerned stakeholders. Please contact me at 415-946-8716 or szengel@bayareacouncil.org for more information. BCDC’s next public hearing will be October 21. Visit their website for more information on their specific proposal.

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Ross Program in Real Estate Info Session September 21

Please join us for the next info session for the USC Ross Program in Real Estate, presented by the Bay Area Council. We will be joined by Ross Program alumni as well as Connie Moore, President & CEO, BRE Properties, who will be speaking on “The Changing American Dream.”

Tuesday, September 21, 2010
6:00 – 8:00 PM
at the offices of the Bay Area Council
201 California St., 14th Floor, San Francisco

Please RSVP to: bflores@bayareacouncil.org or 415-946-8729

About the Ross Program:
The USC Ross Program in Real Estate is a comprehensive educational program for the working professional to elevate skills and expand understanding of real estate development and investment, while building the networks necessary to succeed in urban renewal. The nine-day program will be held between November 11 and December 4.

8.13.10

After Tour of Peninsula Rail Corridor, Council Calls on Menlo Park and Atherton to Stop High-Speed Rail Lawsuit

By Joe Arellano

Today, I joined stakeholders and elected officials from Peninsula cities to tour the Peninsula rail corridor and discuss issues related to the future California High-Speed Rail.

The tour, hosted by Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, was convened in response to a July 29, 2010 letter from Bay Area Council President & CEO Jim Wunderman that expressed concerns about an attempt by five Peninsula cities to slow down the implementation of high-speed rail.

The tour also came on the heels of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood declaring this week that California is, “…way ahead of the curve on high-speed rail,” and High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Roelef van Ark remarking that, “If you don’t get the environmental process done by September 2011, you won’t get the funding…”

After today’s tour, I issued the following statement:

“Those who oppose high-speed rail understand that delay is their best weapon to kill the project.  There are ways to resolve issues and there are ways to stop progress.  We greatly appreciate Assemblyman Hill’s effort to bridge the differences amongst his constituents.  However, the cities of Menlo Park and Atherton are continuing to move forward with a challenge to the environmental impact report of the San Francisco-San Jose portion of the high-speed rail line.

We refuse to stand by and let two small cities de-rail this historic multi-billion dollar project.  By slowing the environmental process down, Menlo Park and Atherton are trying to run out the clock on high-speed rail.

We understand the concerns of Peninsula residents and we are sensitive to their apprehension about having high-speed rail in their community.  But we need to remember that Prop 1A was supported by over 60 percent of San Mateo and Santa Clara County voters, and statewide it passed with over 53 percent support.  The people of California and the Peninsula are counting on all of us to deliver.

High-speed rail is the perfect opportunity to execute a bold, statewide vision to prove to the people of California that we are still capable of accomplishing big things.  However, doing big things takes big people.  Instead of filing their petition to stop the EIR, Menlo Park and Atherton should take a step back and work with the High-Speed Rail Authority to address the concerns of residents, find an agreeable resolution and continue to move the process forward.”

8.2.10

BAC Sends Pointed Letter to Peninsula Cities Consortium (PCC) About High Speed Rail

By Jim Wunderman

Last Friday, I sent a sharply-worded letter to a Peninsula group that poses a threat to the Bay Area’s plans for high speed rail. High speed rail is too important to let a small, vocal minority decide its fate.

Here’s the text of what I sent:

July 29, 2010

Mayor Cathy Baylock and Councilmembers, City of Burlingame
Mayor Patrick Burt and Councilmembers, City of Palo Alto
Mayor Richard Cline and Councilmembers, City of Menlo Park
Mayor Kathy McKeithen and Councilmembers, Town of Atherton
Mayor Christine Wozniak and Councilmembers, City of Belmont

Dear Mayors Baylock, Burt, Cline, McKeithen, and Wozniak, and Councilmembers:

I am writing to you regarding your cities’ and the Peninsula Cities Consortium’s obstructionist policies towards California high speed rail and the grave danger that they pose for our state. As a former public official who served two San Francisco mayors, I have the greatest respect for the dedication, responsibility, and authority of local government leaders such as yourself, and it is with some regret that I critique your leadership. I have concluded, however, that there are much larger issues at stake and that it is appropriate and necessary that I convey to you the strongly held concern and recommendation of the Bay Area Council.

In characterizing your cities’ policies as obstructionist and dangerous, I do not mean to impugn your motives, which I am entirely confident are only to best serve the interests of your local residents. Yet the fact remains that the policies and actions that your cities are pursuing are serving to obstruct and undermine a project that is quite literally of historic importance to the residents of the Bay Area and California. To say, as does your Peninsula Cities Consortium, that “high speed rail should be built right or not at all,” and that cost analysis should play no role in determining alignment, is to say that the project need not, should not, and will not be built.

You are, I trust, as aware as anyone of the importance of high speed rail to the State of California and of the environmental, mobility, and urban revitalization benefits that it will bring. You may not, however, be entirely aware of the extent to which your cities’ demands endanger the project and bolster the advocacy of the very small and very vocal minority of Californians who cannot be satisfied unless high speed rail, and Caltrain with it, is killed.

Let me point out to you the support that the Proposition 1A high speed rail bond measure enjoyed among your neighbors and constituents in the November, 2008 election. Statewide, it passed with 53 percent support. In San Mateo County it earned 61 percent approval and in Santa Clara County 60 percent support. Within the cities of your Peninsula Cities Consortium—the voters that you represent—Proposition 1A was embraced by 61 percent (46,023 yes – 29,242 no). Such overwhelming public support from your citizens for high speed rail makes it appear extremely unlikely that they would want their city to be the one standing in the way of the project coming to fruition.

Respectfully, you may also under-appreciate the staggering toll of unemployment and economic distress on millions of California families of modest means. Though your communities, like other high-wealth communities in the state, have escaped the brunt of the Great Recession, 2.3 million unemployed Californians are not as fortunate. For these struggling Californians, $4 billion of near-term high speed rail construction expenditure would be lifesaving.

There was, no doubt, a period in American history in which government infrastructure planners ran roughshod over the interests and welfare of residents and communities. Thankfully, this era is behind us, but it has been replaced by an era in which too many public officials believe that no project can or should be built unless there is universal approval of the public. Overwhelming public support with large and widespread public benefits are somehow offset by the vocal opposition of a single individual. In the case of high speed rail, a small handful of individuals in a small handful of neighborhoods in a small handful of communities raise a seemingly endless series of complaints and objections and threaten to halt the construction of a project of generational significance, and immediate economic survival, for this state and its residents.

This is not why I went into public service, and I don’t believe that it is why you went into public service. You likely were motivated, as was I, by the belief that public officials can be powerful and effective leaders to improve the public welfare. Public leadership, however, requires more than hearing and representing only the loudest voice in the room. It takes leaders who look to the future rather than the past, who throw their energy into making positive change happen rather than preserving the status quo, and who stand confidently in support of progress even when critics fling arrows. California once stood at the forefront of social progress—recognized as the nation’s leader in higher education, research and development, environmental protection, and job creation—and deserved to be called the Golden State. Today, after decades of holding progress hostage to the unachievable ideal of “universal consensus,” the Golden State moniker is used only to show how far we have fallen.

This failure of leadership did not originate with the emergence of high speed rail, and it isn’t limited to your cities. Far from it. But high speed rail is where the politics of paralysis must end. After decades of inaction, California is finally, with high speed rail, taking a step worthy of a Golden State. It is a first step and a crucial test of whether California can once again establish and execute a bold statewide vision for the general benefit of the state and its residents. If the answer is no—if Californians choose to remain bound by the politics of paralysis—then look for status quo trends to continue, with the tragic consequences that this entails for our schools, public facilities, economy, employment, livability, and, ultimately, the lives of the state’s citizens. This is not the future that I want to see, and I doubt that it is the future that you want. And I deeply believe that in approving the Proposition 1A high speed rail bond, Californians were sending a message that they too are ready for California to rebuild itself and restore the dream of the Golden State.

I urge you to step back and re-evaluate your cities’ positions on high speed rail. Look again at the benefits—economic, environmental, urban revitalization, jobs, mobility—that high speed rail offers to the citizens of California. Watch An Inconvenient Truth. Visit with unemployed construction workers. Consider the need to restore the Golden State for our children. And ask yourself if you can in good conscience advocate that “not at all” is your position on high speed rail unless every demand of every member of your community is met in full.

Sincerely,

Jim Wunderman
President and CEO

cc: Board of Supervisors, County of Santa Clara
Board of Supervisors, County of San Mateo
City Council, City of Belmont
City Council, City of Burlingame
City Council, City of Menlo Park
City Council, City of Palo Alto
City Council, Town of Atherton

4.6.10

Bay Area Agencies Must Work Together to Improve Transit System

By Jim Wunderman

As published in Bay Area News Group papers

For a region whose residents lead the nation in their support for public transit, you’d be forgiven for expecting the Bay Area to have an outstanding transit system. But anyone who rides transit here knows the reality: fares are high and rising, buses and trains are old and dirty, and services are often slow and infrequent.

If you’re dependent on transit, you’re going to spend a huge part of each day waiting for and riding the bus, especially if you live in an outlying area or work late or very early hours.

If you’re an occasional transit user? Good luck figuring how to get from point A to point B via some combination of the more than two dozen proudly independent transit operators in the Bay Area.

Life isn’t much easier for those who work at transit agencies either. With huge budget shortfalls today and as far as the eye can see, demoralizing service cuts and layoffs are the order of the day.

What is at the bottom of this mess? If you’ve followed the latest news, you might think that the state is to blame for taking money away from transit.

It’s true that the state has taken some transit funds, but the problems originated long ago and go much deeper. Sadly, most of the problems are self-inflicted. It has become clear that we are spending so much time and energy arguing among ourselves and pointing fingers that we are failing to work on the progress that we all want.

The latest example pitted two worthy goals — building a new BART rail link to Oakland International Airport, and backfilling cuts to local bus service — against each other. Any objective analysis would conclude that the Bay Area needs both, but what we’re likely to get is neither.

We’ve managed to convince ourselves that we can only get our own particular transit concern addressed if we make sure that someone else doesn’t. This is not a recipe for success.

The Bay Area spends more than $2 billion each year on public transit, including hefty chunks of money from bridge tolls, sales taxes and parcel taxes. Bay Area residents, however, choose transit for only 6 percent of their trips. It’s not just about insufficient funding — Bay Area transit funding has increased by 91 percent over the past decade, but ridership only increased by 7 percent.

This isn’t just a minor problem. The Bay Area is entering a new phase of its growth in which we will become increasingly reliant upon an effective, affordable public transit system. That’s because we’ve essentially tapped out the growth pattern of the past several decades in which our region sprawled into the hinterland, while loading more cars onto already congested highways.

Over the next several decades, new homes and jobs will need to come back to city centers and other zones that can support effective and convenient public transit. This is no longer a terribly controversial idea in the Bay Area — the Bay Area Council believes it, environmental and social equity groups believe it, Bay Area public officials believe it, and state law encourages it — but it does require a public transit system that works. We don’t have such a system, and we’re not going to get one by continuing in the direction that we’re heading.

The Bay Area can have world-class public transit, however, and I think that we must. It’s going to require more money for transit, and significant reform toward how public transit agencies use that money. The bad news is that no one is going to do this for us. The good news is that the Bay Area can largely do it on its own. We can identify what’s not working with transit, what we really want our transit system to look like, and how to best deliver those transit services that residents want. If we do it right, I am confident that Bay Area residents would support a modest regional tax increase that would make the system a reality.

All of us who consider ourselves public transit leaders need to take a step back and remind ourselves of the values and vision that we all share. We can agree to work together to achieve that vision, and we can commit to individual compromise in place of collective combat.

There’s only one way to make this happen, and that is together. Let’s put aside our disagreements, focus on our fundamental agreements and see how far we can get. We just might achieve something great and necessary for the Bay Area.

3.1.10

Job Creation Measure held up in Senate Environmental Quality Committee

By Matt Regan

SBX8 42 a bipartisan bill co-authored by Senator Lou Correa (D Santa Ana) and Senator Dave Cogdill (R Modesto) would help spur California’s floundering economy and put thousands of people to work this year instead of two or three years from now.

In a nutshell, this bill would protect from needless litigation, a select number of construction and infrastructure projects, that have completed the rigorous California Environmental Quality Act and been given a clean bill of health.

The CEQA lawsuit is the tool of choice of any disgruntled opponent seeking to halt any new development. The California Environmental Quality Act requires that projects of sufficient scope produce an Environmental Impact Report outlining the potential impacts of their projects and what they plan to do to mitigate those impacts. The EIR process also involves a lot of subjectivity and is therefore ripe for litigation. Anyone with an axe to grind can stall vital new projects for years.

Senators Correa and Hollingsworth are not seeking to bypass or CEQA, quite the contrary, their bill requires that any protected project must first complete the CEQA process and meet with the approval of the appropriate governing or permit issuing body. They are simply asking that once this arduous and expensive process has been completed, and the project in question vetted in public and approved, that construction can start rather than waiting another couple of years for the trial lawyers to repeat the whole process again in a court room.

Business and labor were united this week in Sacramento in support of the bill, yet it remains hung up in Committee, probably destined to die there. I wish I could report that our arguments fell on deaf ears, but the truly sad part of this story is that only two members of the Committee in question were actually present in the chamber when Senator Correa presented his bill.

Opponents of the bill rolled out the same tired arguments that we see any time CEQA reform is discussed; “it’s a slippery slope” “it’s a camel’s nose” “they’ll be strip mining Yosemite Valley next” and the sorriest of them all, “why do we have to sacrifice our environment for short term economic gains?”

This bill is very clear and limited in scope and would do nothing other than kick start environmentally sound, CEQA approved, projects in 2010 instead of 2012 or 2013.

We will continue to advocate for this legislation and for other bills that will help put Californians back to work today.