The impact of a century of fire suppression policies in the Sierra Nevada could have major implications for Bay Area water supplies, and the Bay Area Council is engaging with state water and forest managers to better understand what’s at stake and how best to address the challenge. The Council recently joined a tour of the Plumas National Forest organized by the Governor’s Office of Planning & Research to examine how fire suppression policies have reduced state water supplies and wreaked havoc on natural ecosystems. The Bay Area gets about half of its fresh water from watersheds in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
For centuries, native Californians managed large portions of Sierra Nevada forests with low-intensity fires that promoted biodiversity and reduced the risk of explosive wildfires. In response to heavy logging following the Gold Rush, aggressive forest conservation efforts focused on bolstering fire suppression to protect trees, timber production, and property. As a result, much of the Sierra Nevada is wildly overgrown. Increased snowfall that is captured in dense tree canopies evaporates before it reaches the ground, causing a big drop in water runoff that would otherwise fill rivers, streams and reservoirs. Hydrologists estimate that forest thinning, through a combination of precision logging and reintroduction of low-intensity fire management, could yield hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of additional water flows. The Council will continue to work with stakeholders to develop solutions for improving the health of California’s upper watersheds. To engage in the Council’s water policy work, please contact Vice President Adrian Covert.
Ridership on San Francisco Bay Ferry is soaring, highlighting the importance of the Bay Area Council’s continuing work to dramatically expand the role of water transit in helping address the region’s horrific traffic mess. A record 288,000 passengers traveled on SF Bay Ferry in July, according to the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA), which operates the service. Ridership increased on all four of SF Bay Ferry’s routes, and is up 78 percent overall since 2012.
The Council, whose CEO Jim Wunderman serves as vice chair of WETA, has been advocating for years for increasing funding to expand the number of boats and routes serving the region. Most recently, the Council has been working in Sacramento to maximize funding for ferries in legislation (SB 595) that would authorize a regional vote in 2018 on a bridge toll increase to pay for a wide range of projects to ease traffic and expand transit service. The additional funding is critical to realizing WETA’s plans to expand to 44 vessels, 16 terminals and 12 routes. To engage in the Council’s water transit work, please contact Policy Director Emily Loper.
It’s estimated that as many as one million Californians (10 times the population of Flint, Michigan) lack access to safe, clean drinking water, mostly in rural, economically disadvantaged areas. This troubling statistic undergirded the Bay Area Council Water Committee’s conversation with Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel) hosted by member company Cargill on Tuesday (July 25). Senator Monning’s bill, SB 623, would create a new clean drinking water fund capitalized through a combination of new fertilizer taxes and fees on water utility bills. The Council took the issue under advisement until the precise bill language becomes available. The Committee also received a briefing from the Department of Water Resources’ Erin Mellon on the race against time to repair the Oroville Dam Spillway, which was destroyed during last years’ record rainfall. To engage with the Council’s Water Committee, please contact Vice President of Public Policy Adrian Covert.
The next meeting of the Bay Area Council Water Committee will feature special guest Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel) to discuss SB 623. An estimated one million Californians, mostly in small rural areas, are currently served unsafe drinking water. SB 623 would generate about $110 million per year for clean drinking water infrastructure in small rural areas, and would be funded through increased fertilizer taxes and a monthly surcharge on water bills statewide. The bill is supported by a coalition of agriculture and environmental justice organizations, and has drawn opposition from the Association of California Water Agencies. In addition, Committee members will receive a presentation from the Department of Water Resources on the incredible construction project currently underway to repair the Oroville Dam spillway, which was heavily damaged during last winter’s record storms. To RSVP, please contact Policy Manager Rachele Trigueros.
Last month, the Bay Area Council joined with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine and other Bay Area leaders to announce the launch of an exciting design competition to solicit innovative solutions to address the effects of sea level rise, severe storms, flooding and earthquakes in communities around the San Francisco Bay. In response, the Resilient by Design/Bay Area Challenge has received an amazing 51 applications from local, national and international teams competing to become one of ten finalists chosen to design innovative projects aimed at improving the health and resilience of Bay Area communities. The final teams will be chosen in the coming weeks, with the designs themselves to be unveiled May 2018. Resilient by Design is an initiative of the Rockefeller Foundation, and a spinoff of the successful Rebuild by Design efforts following Hurricane Sandy. The goal is to help communities become resilient before a natural disaster strikes, rather than after. Rockefeller considered many other regions to award to the Resilient by Design Competition, but chose the Bay Area following the 2016 passage of Measure AA, a Bay Area Council-supported ballot measure that creates $500 million over the next 20 years for wetland restoration and bay flood protection projects. To learn more about Resilient by Design, please contact Bay Area Council Vice President of Policy, and Resilient by Design Executive Board member, Adrian Covert
Failure to produce housing in the Bay Area’s urban core and near transit represents a serious threat to the region’s open space, according to a new study released yesterday by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute that makes the economic case for preserving natural and working lands and identifies opportunities for responsible development in the region.
Despite the vast opportunity and need – let alone a requirement by law to help meet California’s ambitious GHG reduction targets – the Bay Area has made glacial progress realizing only 57% of the full potential for infill housing development of its urban core. Inability to build housing in the region’s core is forcing development further away from job centers, jeopardizing valuable open space and undermining state climate change goals. The analysis estimates the Bay Area greenbelt’s value to be as high as $14 billion per year – with direct and indirect benefits stemming from food, recreation, clean air, natural resources and protection against sea level rise.
“Building more housing and protecting open space are not mutually exclusive,” says Bay Area Council Economic Institute President Micah Weinberg. “We need to develop responsibly and actually fulfill state-mandated requirements to build within Priority Development Areas, meeting transit-oriented, infill housing goals. Smart growth will spare our open space and keep the Bay Area economically resilient, sustainable and equitable.”
Read Bay Area Balance: Preserving Open Space, Addressing Housing Affordability>>
On Wednesday the Bay Area Council Workforce of the Future team and Bay Area Young Men of Color Employment Partnership (BAYEP) colleague LeadersUp toured the Coca Cola Bottling Plant in San Leandro to learn about available middle and entry level workforce opportunities. For years the Bay Area Council has worked with Coca Cola, a leader in sustainability, on water policy and conservation. The Council is thrilled to expand this work to the workforce space by including Coca Cola in our Occupational Councils to help close the middle skill gaps transportation and logistics companies face, as well as helping fill entry level roles with untapped young Bay Area talent through BAYEP. Given the excellent career pathways offered, Coca Cola is an extremely attractive opportunity for both entry and middle skill workers. To engage in the Workforce of the Future Committee, contact Senior Vice President Public Policy Linda Bidrossian.
A critical vote is scheduled for Monday, July 10 in the Assembly Transportation Committee on legislation (SB 595) to authorize a regional transportation funding ballot measure, and the Bay Area Council is urging lawmakers to approve it. The committee is chaired by East Bay Assemblymember Jim Frazier, who has been a champion of improving transportation and was co-author of SB 1, the landmark bill to invest $52.1 billion to fix the state’s roads, highways and bridges, fight congestion and enhance transit. On SB 595, the Council has been working directly with state lawmakers who are crafting a $3-$4.2 billion regional plan that would support a major expansion of regional ferry service; acquire new high capacity BART cars; break freeway bottlenecks; and invest in other critical improvements that will address the Bay Area’s transportation crisis.
These badly needed improvements would be funded by a gradual increase of tolls on state-owned bridges (Regional Measure 3) in the Bay Area that voters in all nine counties would be asked to approve in June 2018. Recent poll results found that Bay Area voters fed up with the region’s awful traffic and overcrowded transit systems would approve a toll increase of up to $3. The Council will be in Sacramento on Monday testifying in support SB 595. To learn more about the Council’s transportation policy work, contact Policy Director Emily Loper.
Our polling and traffic studies all confirm what you experience – traffic is the Bay Area is epically bad. The Bay Area Council is working directly with the Bay Area Caucus (our state Senators and Assemblymembers) on a $3-$4.2 billion regional plan that would massively increase ferry service throughout the region; get BART new, higher capacity cars; break critical freeway bottlenecks; improve freight movement; and secure other critical improvements our members and residents badly need (or really, needed “yesterday”).
Ferries, in particular, can play a huge role in addressing growing Bay Area traffic congestion. Ferries used to carry 55 million passengers a day. Dormant for decades, a new system was launched in 2004 behind the Council’s strong advocacy. Ridership has since skyrocketed, climbing 78 percent in just the last two years to 2 million riders a year. With terminals costing just $10 million apiece (on average) and boats costing between $1.5-$15 million depending on their size, it’s possible to get a “BART-on-the-Bay” armada crisscrossing the waters from Silicon Valley to the Carquinez Strait in a very short period of time, and at a low cost. New York City just brought a system of 20 boats online in nine months, and after 60 days the system is over capacity and the city is scrambling to get more boats built.
The improvements included in the regional plan would be paid for with a toll increase on the Bay Area’s seven state-owned bridges, which early polling suggests voters would back in a June 2018 election. The legislation (SB 595) will have several critical votes in the next few months, and we will keep you updated. To engage in our transportation policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.
Fresh from our successful trip with Governor Jerry Brown to China to promote climate change partnership, the Bay Area Council this week joined a first-ever summit to bring billions of dollars in Chinese clean energy investments to California. Organized by the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development in partnership with the California-China Trade Network, the Select California Investment Summit in Sacramento included 22 Chinese investors seeking opportunities in clean tech, water innovation, sustainable development, zero emission vehicles, and more. Attracting foreign direct investment from China and elsewhere is a primary focus for the Council, which provides a range of services to guide Chinese and other investors as they look to enter or expand in the Bay Area and California marketplaces. Chinese investment represents a huge opportunity for California, which from 2000-2016 secured 415 investment deals valued at $25.5 billion from mainland China investors. Statewide, global investment in California employs 631,500 workers. To learn how the Council can help foreign investors find opportunities in California, please contact Chief of Global Business Development Del Christensen.