Bay Area Council Blog



Gov. Jerry Brown this week traveled to the Vatican City to talk with the Pope about climate change and his aggressive new targets for reducing California’s greenhouse gas emissions. One of the biggest impediments to meeting these ambitious targets is, ironically, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Gov. Brown has famously called CEQA reform “the Lord’s work” and we hope he took this opportunity to urge the Pope to put it on the “to do list.”

This 40-year-old law is one of the chief litigation tools used by opponents of responsible growth to block higher-density infill development and other projects that help reduce dependency on cars and increase use of renewable energy. The Bay Area Council Executive Committee recently endorsed Sen. Pavley’s GHG reduction bill, SB 32, with one condition being that the Legislature consider the negative impacts of CEQA. Council CEO Jim Wunderman today in an OpEd in the San Francisco Chronicle spelled out the case for modernizing CEQA. To engage in our CEQA reform policy work, contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

Read Jim Wunderman’s OpEd calling for CEQA reform>>



The Bay Area Council is closely watching a special Legislative session that Gov. Jerry Brown has called to identify up to $6 billion in annual funding ($59 billion over 10 years) to pay for overdue and badly needed transportation infrastructure work statewide. Reliable estimates put the cost of California’s backlog of road and freeway maintenance work at $59 billion with an ongoing annual shortfall of $5.7 billion. That doesn’t include an estimated $78 billion backlog in local road repair work.

The Council’s Executive Committee last week discussed various mechanisms being considered for achieving the Governor’s funding goal, including raising the gas tax and other vehicle-related fees, and will be communicating its position to the Legislature when it returns from a month-long summer recess in August.

A report released yesterday (July 23) by TRIP, a national transportation research group, highlighted the immense economic and individual cost of California’s failure to maintain its roads and highways. The report estimates that poor roads cost the average California motorist $762 a year in repair bills and related vehicle maintenance expenses. The figure is even higher for Bay Area motorists, where the annual cost is $1,000 for each driver. It’s not an exact apples to apples comparison, but when you consider that California’s 24 million licensed drivers are paying $18 billion annually in unnecessary repair costs, the $6 billion the Governor wants to raise annually to fix the roads doesn’t look so bad. To engage in our transportation policy work, contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.



Just hours after Bay Area Council CEO @JimWunderman on Wednesday (July 22) tweeted to Congressional leaders asking about the possibility of achieving a 2015 federal highway funding bill, the Senate voted to begin debate on that very question. Coincidence? Perhaps. But, the Bay Area Council will continue pressing the question next week when Wunderman, Bay Area Council Chair Michael Covarrubias of TMG Partners and Government Relations Committee Co-Chair Peter Brightbill of Wells Fargo lead a member delegation to D.C., for three days of high-level meetings on a range of issues important to the Bay Area business community. The federal highway fund, which provides hundreds of millions of dollars for Bay Area transportation, has become a political football in a messy scrum among the House, Senate and White House.

Delegates led by Transportation Committee Co-Chairs Rosemary Turner of UPS and John Eddy of Arup will meet with U.S. Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Victor Mendez, who is responsible for day-to-day operations of 10 DOT agencies and their more than 55,000 employees nationwide, and acting Federal Transit Administrator Therese McMillan. The federal highway fund, which is set to expire July 31, will be among the hot topics of those meetings and talks with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Tom Carper and top staff of key House representatives.

California’s historic drought will be a main focus of our meeting with Sen. Feinstein, who is seen as the lynchpin to achieving federal water legislation that for more than a year has been hampered by partisan bickering and stakeholder disagreements. We’ll discuss new legislation Feinstein is developing and also meet separately with Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) on a bill he has introduced in the House.

Delegates will also sit down with Jason Goldman, White House Chief Digital Officer, and Michael Daniel, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator, to discuss the growing threat of cybersecurity breaches and strategies for addressing them. And, the group will meet with U.S. Ambassador and Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Robert Holleyman to talk about the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, for which the Bay Area Council has been a strong advocate, and U.S. trade relations with China and India. To engage in the Council’s federal policy work, contact Senior Advisor George Broder.



The Bay Area Council in partnership with Save Our Water – California’s official statewide conservation education program – has released a new public service announcement featuring San Francisco Giants star Sergio Romo. The PSA, filmed at the Giants’ garden in AT&T Park, urges Californians to step up and make even more cuts in their water use.

Save Our Water has been urging Californians to “Let It Go” this summer by limiting outdoor water use and letting lawns fade to gold, while preserving precious water resources for trees and other important landscapes. The program’s public education campaign also encourages Californians to “Turn It Off” and cut back on water use wherever possible inside and out.

“The historic drought has California in a clutch situation,” said Bay Area Council President & CEO Jim Wunderman. “We need all Californians to step up and get us the win, and we could ask for no better ally than San Francisco Giants pitching ace Sergio Romo to strike out water waste.”

Save Our Water’s website is available in both English and Spanish and is filled with tips, tools, and inspiration to help every Californian find new and creative ways to conserve. From tips on how to keep trees healthy during the drought to an interactive section allowing users to visually explore how they can save water both inside and outside the home, Save Our Water has a wealth of resources available for Californians.

We are always looking for new ways to reach Californians with messages of conservation,” said Mark Cowin, Director of the California Department of Water Resources. “This public service announcement with Sergio Romo joins a chorus of Californians all with the same message – we all need to be saving together this summer.”

“This historic drought requires all of us to step up and do more to save water,” said Tim Quinn, Executive Director of the Association of California Water Agencies. “We appreciate the efforts of the Bay Area Council and the San Francisco Giants to raise awareness of the importance of water conservation this summer.”

Throughout the drought, Save Our Water has aimed to give Californians tools and tips to help everyone easily conserve at home and at work, every day. Save Our Water connects with Californians on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. has directed the first-ever statewide mandatory water reductions in California, calling on all Californians to reduce their water use by 25 percent and prevent water waste. Save Our Water is a partnership between the Association of California Water Agencies and the California Department of Water Resources.

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Bay Area Council Unveils Major Regional Health and Wellness Campaign Targeted at Employers

The corporate health responsibility movement received a big boost today (July 20) with the launch of Bay Healthy, an unprecedented regional initiative developed by the Bay Area Council to leverage the strength of the region’s employer community to make a meaningful impact on the health of the Bay Area. From on-site physicians and fitness centers at Silicon Valley’s hottest tech companies to a surge in start-ups developing health-related apps and new biometric technologies measuring wellness, Bay Area businesses are adopting a culture of health

With its Mediterranean climate, boundless outdoor public space, parks and beaches, and ultra trendy farm-to-table food culture, the Bay Area is well known for attracting energized and health-conscious residents. But, it’s not just residents prioritizing personal health in their day-to-day lives. Now, more than ever, health is becoming a business imperative in the region as employers take on the physical and psychological well being of their employees.

As healthcare costs continue to rise, some of the most effective measures companies can take are starting health and wellness initiatives and providing incentives for them. For example, it costs between 10 and 40 cents per member per month to provide comprehensive smoking cessation benefits, versus the average annual cost per tobacco user of $3,400.

“A company’s financial health is only as fit as its workforce,” says Bay Area Council Economic Institute President Dr. Micah Weinberg. “Through employee health and wellness programs, businesses’ bottom lines are benefitting from reduced healthcare costs, as well as lower absenteeism and greater productivity and engagement from their employees. Beyond financial incentives, corporate responsibility around health growing.”

Through its comprehensive online platform, Bay Healthy equips employers with the tools they need to challenge and motivate their employees to pledge One Thing – any small action or behavior related to nutrition, fitness, sleep, gratitude or volunteerism – toward improving their health. The platform also enables businesses to promote and reinforce workplace wellness programs already in place.

“The key is to start small. Sometimes the changes we most desire are the hardest to achieve and balancing a healthy lifestyle can seem incredibly daunting,” says Bay Area Council Healthcare Committee Co-Chair Dr. Kent Bradley. “That’s why the Bay Healthy Challenge is so effective. It helps the individual focus on a single, sustainable change, which often develops into a healthier lifestyle routine.”

Bay Healthy premises that choosing one small behavior at a time enhances the likelihood of longevity for the healthy habit, as incrementally committing to small adjustments in a routine is much easier than attempting a radical lifestyle change. With one small action at its core, Bay Healthy aims to create unparalleled collective action around health in the greater business community.

Bay Healthy was developed in partnership with San Francisco Business Times and is sponsored by Sutter Health, Dignity Health and PwC.



The Bay Area Council Executive Committee and Board of Directors on Thursday (July 17) applauded Virgin America CEO David Cush for his two years of strong leadership as Chair of the regional business and economic policy group and welcomed Michael Covarrubias, Chairman and CEO of development firm TMG Partners, as his successor. Covarrubias’ selection to the two-year leadership position came during a meeting generously hosted by member company Google at their Mountain View campus.

Cush’s two-year tenure as Chair marked a period of significant growth and accomplishment for the Council. Covarrubias, the 37th Chair in the organization’s 70-year history, has been a stalwart supporter of the Bay Area Council and is actively engaged in driving the Council’s work to create more housing in the region. Covarrubias chairs the Council’s Housing and Sustainable Development Committee, and serves on several of the Council’s key governance groups. His TMG Partners is one of the region’s leading real estate development companies whose landmark projects include some of San Francisco’s most prominent buildings. Covarrubias is highly regarded within the real estate community and in 2008 was named Dealmaker of the Year by the San Francisco Business Times.

The Council was warmly received by Google executive Mark Golan. Golan spoke about Google’s strong alignment with the Council’s continuing work to address the region’s serious housing shortage and crisis-level traffic. At the Executive Committee meeting, the Council’s top leadership discussed pending legislation to expand California’s battle against greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, reviewed a bold strategy for addressing the state’s historic drought and water infrastructure needs, and discussed options currently being considered during a special session of the Legislature for how to fund the state’s massive transportation infrastructure needs. The Council will announce more details about its positions on these various issues in coming weeks.

In a series of lively reports, the Board of Directors heard from policy committee chairs on the great progress the Council is making on its priority issues. Rosemary Turner, Northern California President for United Parcel Service, reported on transportation; Michael Covarrubias on housing; Suffolk Construction West Region President Andy Ball and Montezuma Wetlands Jim Levine on water; AT&T California President Ken McNeely on 21st Century Infrastructure and Signature Development Group CEO Michael Ghielmetti on the Council’s China activities. During the water report, Levine and Ball unveiled a fun, new drought awareness public service announcement featuring San Francisco Giants ace Sergio Romo that will begin airing statewide compliments of Bay Area Council member Comcast, whose Hank Fore was in attendance Thursday.

The Board of Directors was also treated to an update from Executive Committee member and San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York and Super Bowl 50 Host Committee CEO Keith Bruce on the plans for the Super Bowl next year. Bruce shared images of the exciting Super Bowl City that will erected at the base of Market Street in San Francisco, described the unprecedented charitable component of the event and talked about the many activities that will surround the eight-day extravaganza. Thanks again to Google for hosting us.

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On Wednesday (July 16), the Senate Governance and Finance gave its nod to AB 57, authored by Assemblyman Bill Quirk and supported by the Bay Area Council. This bill would provide that a colocation or siting application for a wireless telecommunications facility is deemed approved, if the city or county fails to approve or disapprove the application within the time periods established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

This past April, the Bay Area Council Economic Institute completed a study on 21st Century Infrastructure that outlined the vital role advanced energy and communications infrastructure will play in California’s future economy. The study found that the increasing reliance on advanced wireless services is creating a “data-tsunami” for which California’s existing communications infrastructure is ill-prepared.

To accommodate this soaring demand for wireless coverage, capacity and bandwidth, new and upgraded wireless infrastructure is needed. By enforcing the FCC timeline requirements for wireless infrastructure, AB 57 encourages the deployment of advanced telecommunications infrastructure that will spur California’s economic development.

Read the BACEI report on 21st Century Infrastructure report>>

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As the Legislature begins its month long summer recess today (July 17) several Bay Area Council-supported bills were passed by legislative policy committees this week. SB 670 was introduced at the request of the Bay Area Council. This bill re-establishes an employer child care credit to help eliminate the challenges many working families experience given the high cost of childcare. The bill passed unanimously by the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee. The Bay Area provided expert testimony before the committee on the adverse economic impacts of not having a robust and affordable childcare system in California.

Two bills that address commute improvement were heard before Senate committees this week. AB 157 was unanimously passed by the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. This bill will help to deliver widespread congestion relief throughout Marin County by expediting the re-opening of the third lane on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. The Senate Transportation and Housing Committee also unanimously passed AB 194 which would allow regional agencies to develop high occupancy toll lanes. To engage in the Council’s government relations work, contact Sacramento Policy Manager Cornelious Burke.



Against the backdrop of historic drought, the Brown Administration and Federal Officials on Thursday (July 9) released the revised environmental impact report for a plan to build two 35-mile-long water diversion tunnels beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The $15 billion “California Water Fix”, once known as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, is meant to improve water supply reliability and relieve environmental pressures in the southern delta caused by over reliance on massive state and federal pumps near Tracy. Environmental collapse in the delta has restricted freshwater supplies for 3 million acres of farmland and 25 million Californians, and state and federal officials say the tunnels are needed to allow state and federal water contractors to instead divert some water exports from the north delta. The new plan includes changes to intake construction along the Sacramento River and to environmental restoration targets. The Bay Area Council Water Committee has met repeatedly with state officials on the development of the California Water Fix, and will meet with federal policy makers during the Council’s Annual Advocacy Trip to Washington, D.C. from July 28-30. We have not taken a position to date and will be reviewing the new proposal. For more information on the D.C. trip or to join the delegation, please contact Communications Manager Virginia Dawson. To engage in the Council’s water policy work, please contact Policy Director Adrian Covert.


Council preparing recommendations for special Legislative session on transportation funding

As California faces a $59 billion backlog in state highway and road repairs, the Governor has called for a special “extraordinary” legislative session to fix our state’s aging infrastructure. The Legislature is tasked with finding new ways to fund repairs and maintenance for California’s 50,000 miles of highways and nearly 13,000 state-owned bridges. User charge revenue proposals include restoring truck weight fees, increasing the vehicle registration and license fees, creating a new electric vehicle fee, and increasing the gas tax are among the approaches to be considered with a goal of providing a more sustainable revenue stream to fund infrastructure maintenance in the future. The special session also invites legislative solutions for funding goods movement improvements and expediting project delivery of transportation projects throughout California. The Bay Area Council Transportation Committee will be forming recommendations related to these new state transportation funding options. To engage in the Council’s transportation work, please contact Senior Vice President of Policy Michael Cunningham.

A legislative special session was also called on healthcare funding to focus on new revenue sources for Medi-Cal, which will lose $1.1 billion next year with the expiration of the managed care organization tax. To engage in the Council’s healthcare policy work, please contact Policy Associate Emily Loper.