Bay Area Council Blog

Housing forum

Council Convenes Lively Debate on Housing Moratoria

A standing room-only crowd at the Bay Area Council Conference Center was treated to a lively discussion on Thursday (Feb. 26) about the roots of the region’s current housing affordability crisis, the impact it’s having on communities and strategies for addressing the problem. The Bay Area Council Economic Institute and Bay Area Council Housing Committee under the leadership of Chair and TMG & Partners CEO Michael Covarrubias convened the forum in response to recent controversial proposals in San Francisco and the East Bay to impose housing moratoriums in response to new rapid residential construction, plus issues of displacement and gentrification. There was general agreement that the housing crunch is largely a supply-side problem, is causing pain and putting the region’s economic boom at risk, but views diverged on how to respond.

Chris Thornberg of Beacon Economics gave a fascinating overview of some of the economic and policy fundamentals underlying the current crunch and said imposing measures like moratoriums and rent control will only discourage new housing or push demand into other neighborhoods or cities. Click here to view the presentation. San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, who is championing a moratorium in the city’s Mission District, agreed we are confronting a supply problem, but said a freeze would allow a “pause” to assess impacts and explore ways to develop more affordable housing (below market rate). Association of Bay Area Government President Julie Pierce said the economics of creating or incentivizing affordable housing are challenging everywhere and pointed to various state laws and regulations as culprits. Thanks for Economic Institute President Micah Weinberg for moderating the discussion and Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman for introductory and closing remarks. To engage in our housing policy work, contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

Watch video of the full discussion>>


Chinese New Year Fete Welcomes the Year of the Ram

More than 300 close friends gathered Thursday evening (Feb. 26)  as the Bay Area Council celebrated Chinese New Year and ushered in the Year of the Ram at the Julia Morgan Ballroom, which was generously donated for the event by Board member Clinton Reilly, Chairman and President of Clinton Reilly Holdings. Presented by Signature Trade Group, the 5th Annual Chinese New Year Celebration welcomed recently appointed Consul General Luo Linquan of the People’s Republic of China in San Francisco and Kenneth Petrilla, Executive Director of the California-China Office of Trade and Investment. Consul General Linquan expressed his enthusiasm and eagerness to collaborate with the Bay Area Council on growing and deepening the mutually beneficial economic ties and relations between our prosperous region and China. The Bay Area Council continues to expand its initiatives focused on increasing bilateral trade and investment activity through its China offices—located in Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Nanjing—and through the co-operation of the California-China Office of Trade and Investment with Governor Jerry Brown and his Office of Business and Economic Development.

The Council extends its special thanks to Presenting Dragon Sponsor Signature Trade Group; Gold Sponsors Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, Marvell, University of San Francisco; Jade Sponsors Deloitte, HSBC, Kaiser Permanente, Nixon Peabody, Sungroup and Wells Fargo; Partner Asia Society Northern California; and Clinton Reilly Holdings for hosting the event.

To engage in the Council’s China work, please contact Chief of Global Initiatives Del Christensen.



The Bay Area Council’s work over the past year to speed traffic relief on the badly congested Highway 101 corridor between San Francisco and San Jose took a major step forward this week with new legislation (AB 378) introduced by Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo). The bill includes a number of solutions the Council identified through its work Silicon Valley and Peninsula member companies and that we believe can be game-changers in easing gridlock. Among the solutions are expanding carpool lanes, deploying advanced traffic management technologies and aggressively promoting ridesharing apps. There is much at stake. Traffic delays along one of the nation’s most economically productive corridors have grown intolerable, collectively worsening the commute by 760 hours a day on average and fast emerging as a strategic business issue for employers. The Council applauds Assemblymember Mullin for his great leadership on this issue and will be working closely with him in the coming weeks to add further detail to the solutions proposed in AB 378. To engage in our transportation policy work, contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.

equityresidentialemeryville 304


The Bay Area Council is responding quickly to a troubling move by several Bay Area cities to impose moratoriums on new housing. After the Council voiced its strong opposition to a proposed moratorium in Emeryville, the City Council last Friday (Feb. 20) narrowly rejected the plan. A similar proposal emerged this week in San Francisco and the issue has also surfaced in Walnut Creek. With the region experiencing a major housing shortage and affordability crisis, the Bay Area Council believes that halting housing construction is bad policy. Moratorium backers express concern about the impact of rapid housing development in their communities. In a letter to the Emeryville City Council, the Bay Area Council said “a moratorium will not bring down costs or ease displacement concerns; in fact by further restricting new supply this proposal will have the exact opposite effect, further pushing up prices and forcing more longtime residents out.” The Council is convening a region-wide summit on the issue of housing moratoriums. Stay tuned for details. To engage in our housing policy work, contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.



With a record dry January leading California into its 4th year of drought, Capitol Weekly and the University of California on Thursday held their annual Water Conference at Sacramento’s Masonic Temple. Bay Area Council Policy Director Adrian Covert spoke about the drought’s impact on urban businesses during a discussion with Assemblymember Henry Perea (D-Fresno); Jim Branaham, Sierra Nevada Conservancy; Chairman Bo Mazzetti, Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians; and Laurel Firestone, Community Water Center. The panel provided an excellent platform to discuss both the Council’s water policy objectives, and the water conservation efforts of member companies like Comcast, Genentech and AT&T. To engage in the Council’s Water Committee, please contact Policy Director Adrian Covert.



The Bay Area Council’s Cybersecurity Committee met this week (Feb. 19) in Sacramento to discuss with top state officials the key issues at the center of the national debate over how to strengthen our system against online attacks, data breaches and other digital vulnerabilities. Speakers included Assemblymember Mike Gatto, the newly appointed Chair of the Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection; Justine Cain, Cybersecurity Task Force Coordinator for the California Office of Emergency Services; Robert Morgester, Senior Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice; and Mary DiPietro, Deputy Chief Information Security Officer for the Department of Technology. The group discussed information sharing between government and the private sector; the need for improved laws and regulations; and the need for increased cybersecurity research and education. Assemblymember Gatto encouraged the Council’s Cybersecurity Committee to remain engaged with him on the issue. To get involved in the Council’s cybersecurity work, contact Senior Advisor Matt Gardner.



Michael Scanlon, the retiring General Manager of the San Mateo County Transit District, was the featured guest and speaker at the Bay Area Council Transportation Committee’s meeting this week (Feb. 19). During his 15 years leading the District, Scanlon transformed SamTrans into a modern mobility transit system and led the growth of Caltrain into a regional and record-setting rail system.  Scanlon discussed past achievements with Caltrain and highway management in San Mateo County.  As projected job growth along the corridor will further exacerbate traffic delays and strain transit systems, Scanlon emphasized the need to fund infrastructure improvements and harness new technologies to improve performance. Scanlon also made bold predictions about the future of the corridor, projecting that San Mateo County would get an HOV lane in the next three to four years and that driverless cars would be a regular feature on Bay Area highways by 2017. Following the meeting, Scanlon was honored for his public service at a reception that was generously sponsored by Hanson Bridgett LLP. To engage in the Council’s transportation work, contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.



The Tri-Valley is fast emerging as a new, white-hot technology and innovation powerhouse for the Bay Area, according to a report by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute that was the focus of a forum this week (Feb.19) co-hosted by the Economic Institute, Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty and Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group and generously sponsored by Comcast. “Tri-Valley Rising into the 21st Century” convened the area’s top business executives, community leaders and elected officials to explore the Tri-Valley’s vital role in the greater Bay Area economy and identify the transportation improvements that will be needed to sustain its record growth. Economic Institute Vice President Tracey Grose presented findings from the report, followed by a discussion with Supervisor Haggerty and Bay Area Council President & CEO Jim Wunderman on the Tri-Valley’s heavily impacted transportation system and opportunities to improve to the I-580 corridor and extend BART to Livermore. The forum closed with a panel discussion featuring top executives from Tri-Valley businesses and heads of the national laboratories. They said the Tri-Valley’s high quality of life and proximity to Silicon Valley will continue to make it an attractive location for businesses and families, but agreed that housing and transportation are the biggest barriers to the area’s continued success.

Read the full report — Tri-Valley Rising: Its Vital Role in the Bay Area Economy>>



Just days after the Bay Area Council convened top leaders to rally support for fast-tracking the re-opening of a third lane on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) did exactly that. BATA on Wednesday (Feb. 11) approved a plan that could slice up to 18 months off the original schedule for the overall project. Congestion on the bridge during the evening commute is horrendous and adds to existing backups on Highways 101 and 580, as well as clogging local streets. The action by BATA is welcome, but the Council thinks more can be done to move the project along. Even with the accelerated timeline, the project wouldn’t be completed until 2017. Following testimony by the Council and other fast-track supporters, BATA agreed to explore ways to shorten the timeline even more. To engage in the Council’s transportation policy work, contact Policy Associate Emily Loper.

equityresidentialemeryville 304


UPDATE (2/17): The Emeryville City Council on Friday, Feb. 13 narrowly rejected a proposed moratorium on residential construction.

Placing a moratorium on building new housing at a time when the Bay Area is experiencing a major housing shortage and affordability crisis isn’t good policy. That’s the position the Bay Area Council is taking on a surprise proposal unveiled at the Emeryville City Council this week to temporarily halt all residential construction, with options to extend the freeze by up to a year. Strangely, the rationale given for the drastic move was concerns about rising housing prices. In a letter strongly opposing the move, the Council wrote that “a moratorium will not bring down costs or ease displacement concerns, in fact by further restricting new supply this proposal will have the exact opposite effect, further pushing up prices and forcing more longtime residents out of Emeryville.” The City Council is scheduled to vote on the moratorium today (Feb. 13). To engage in our housing policy work, contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.