Bay Area Council Blog: Transportation and Land Use Archive



This week, three Peninsula legislators, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, State Senator Joe Simitian and Assemblyman Rich Gordon, held a press conference to announce an alternative plan to bring high-speed rail up the Peninsula that would save the financially-strapped Caltrain system and hopefully be the shot in the arm high-speed rail needs to gain the support of Peninsula residents.  The proposed plan would electrify Caltrain and use upgraded Caltrain tracks to run the high-speed rail trains at lower speeds along the Peninsula between San Francisco and San Jose.  It’s an interesting concept that deserves some consideration because the Bay Area can’t afford to lose the region’s only commuter rail line connecting San Francisco to Silicon Valley – especially at a time when our region’s tech footprint continues to grow.



On Wednesday, the day after Governor Brown called off negotiations with Republicans, Bay Area Council President & CEO Jim Wunderman spoke to the Solano Economic Development Corporation in Fairfield and provided his analysis of the state budget picture.  Citing California’s unknown fiscal future, Jim summed up the situation with “where we go from here is a rough ride.”  Though sacrifices need to be made across the board in order to solve the budget crisis, Jim stressed that redevelopment is a crucial economic development tool for communities across California, and we will feel the impact throughout the state if the agencies cease to exist on July 1st, as is currently proposed.  Alternatives to cutting redevelopment altogether, such as enforcing tighter restrictions on agencies, or tying in funding to support California’s laws regarding greenhouses gas emissions, deserve careful consideration.


Contra Costa Times: People must be made to understand high-speed rail strategy

By Jim Wunderman and Carl Guardino

CONFUSED IS the best way to describe how our two organizations — representing more than 600 Bay Area businesses — felt when we first heard the news that the California High-Speed Rail Authority had chosen Borden to Corcoran as the first high-speed rail segment to be built. After all, the majority of Californians probably only see those towns when they’re looking out the window as they fly up or down the state.

We would have liked to see the first phase started in the Bay Area, but the resistance cast by residents in parts of Northern and Southern California raised enough doubt in the minds of policymakers in Washington that they decided to skip over our region and allocate the funds to the safe choice. While disappointing, that should come as no surprise.

But what everyone who has called this initial route the “Train to Nowhere” is failing to grasp is that the train still needs to start being built somewhere.

Borden to Corcoran may not be ideal, but there are reasons for starting there, mainly, the estimated 80,000 jobs the first segment is expected to create. As recently as October 2010, there were 88,900 unemployed workers residing in the counties that are located along the first phase of construction — and that number doesn’t factor in the time that those Californians have been out of work, and the countless others who are struggling to get by. It’s the reason that some have dubbed the Central Valley, “New Appalachia.”

In the Bay Area, we’re still feeling the effects of the economic downturn as well, but we benefit from living in a part of the state that has historically bounced back faster, with much more prosperity when the boom hits.

The other point to consider is that regardless of where the Central Valley segment had been built, the first phase won’t be carrying trains on it. The $4.15 billion the High-Speed Rail Authority plans to spend will be used for building the stations, acquiring rights of way, constructing viaducts, grading, and re-aligning and relocating roadways, existing railways and utilities — not buying rolling stock.

So those who expected trains to be speeding by on the hour between Merced to Fresno or Fresno to Bakersfield are mistaken. It will happen, just not yet.

As many have pointed out, high-speed rail is akin to the interstate highway system created in the United States in the 1950s. The highways were not created overnight, and when they were created, construction first started in Missouri, not Los Angeles or New York. We need to think of high-speed rail the same way.

Moving forward though, the High-Speed Rail Authority needs to quell the anger and confusion about the project that is spreading across the state, and replace it with the appropriate sense of urgency and excitement that comes with a game-changing project of this type.

This can only happen if the authority better explains the nuances and complexities of high-speed rail to the public and gets buy-in for the overall strategy to bring the project to fruition over the next decade. Included in that should be a firm commitment that the next segment will connect two major California metro areas.

We cannot forget why 53 percent of Californians statewide voted to support and allocate funds for high-speed rail. This project will re-establish our leadership across the nation and around the globe. And it also won’t hurt to provide an environmentally sound alternative to the country’s busiest air route and take nearly 70 million auto trips off the road every year — which is what the statewide high-speed rail network is projected to do.

Above all, we should not let the concerns over this first phase of the project kill high-speed rail in California altogether. As the saying goes, we can’t make perfect the enemy of the good.

Building a project of this size and scope was never going to be easy and there were always going to be difficult choices and bumps in the road.

How we deal with those challenges over the long haul is what will ultimately get high-speed rail built.

This is a marathon, not a sprint.

Read the story…



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



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:

PDF Press Release

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.


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.



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 for more information. BCDC’s next public hearing will be October 21. Visit their website for more information on their specific proposal.

Stem cell institute

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: 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.


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.”