Bay Area Council Blog

Lipinsky meeting


The Bay Area is a global center for transportation technology innovation, rapidly developing technologies that are pushing the conventional boundaries of our transportation system. Autonomous vehicles are expected to hit the roads in a mere couple of years, smart grid developments are optimizing transportation systems, and ridesharing technologies are revolutionizing the way people get around. How will government evolve to accommodate these new advancements?

This week Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Illinois) came to the Bay Area to learn just that. The Bay Area Council under the leadership of Transportation Committee Chair and Arup Principal John Eddy on March 12 hosted an invigorating discussion about transportation technology and its implications for the future of the transportation system throughout the country. Rep. Lipinski leads the House Intelligent Transportation Systems caucus so he was especially interested to hear from the Bay Area’s leading transportation technology companies about how emerging technologies are developing and how the federal government should respond to take greatest advantage of these advancements. The companies identified numerous regulatory solutions that would optimize the efficiency of the current infrastructure, including incentivizing ridesharing, supporting a network for autonomous vehicles, streamlining standards, and adapting land use planning to accommodate future advancements.

The discussion tied nicely into the Bay Area Council Transportation Committee’s focus on near-term commute improvement strategies that include implementing transportation technology to squeeze the most efficiency out of the current transportation infrastructure. To engage in the Council’s transportation work, contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.



The innovative early childhood education program that the Bay Area Council is helping lead in Oakland got some good news this week when Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff generously offered to fund 1,500 more “Talk Read Sing” kits for parents, families and caregivers. The Council launched the Talk Read Sing program last year in partnership with former Sec. Hillary Clinton’s Too Small to Fail organization, with support from Bay Area Council members UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, Kaiser Permanente, UPS and Clear Channel Outdoor. The kits include a t-shirt, bath towel, a baby onesie and other learning materials that feature prompts to encourage and make it easy for busy parents to talk read and sing to their babies and toddlers.

The Talk Read Sing program also was among the topics discussed at a recent meeting in New York that Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman attended as a member of former Sec. Clinton’s Too Small to Fail Advisory Council. In addition to funding the new kits and committing Salesforce employees to volunteer to assemble them, Benioff previously donated $3 million to support the initiative and featured it during the company’s major Dreamforce global conference last year. To engage in our early childhood education work, contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

Amb. Bolton


The U.S. risks undermining its global economic interests by failing to project stronger, more assertive leadership in key strategic conflicts around the world, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton told a gathering of top executives during a morning policy briefing the Bay Area Council convened on Wednesday (March 11). From nuclear negotiations with Iran, to the Russian-Ukraine conflict, to China’s territorial push into the South China Sea, Bolton characterized the current U.S. posture as “appallingly weak.” The Republican standard-bearer, who served as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security under President George W. Bush, said that without a tougher U.S. military, economic and diplomatic response to what he called President Vladimir Putin’s territorial “adventures,” Russia may be emboldened to look next to the Baltic states.

Working now as a Senior Fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and regular commentator on Fox News, Bolton offered strong criticism of negotiations by the Obama Administration with Iran over its nuclear program and said the current agreement would invite a Middle East nuclear arms race. And while “no one is looking for a hostile relationship with China,” Bolton said that country’s aggressive push to control the South China Sea should be met with a stronger U.S. response to protect our country’s and our allies’ economic interests in one of the world’s busiest and most economically strategic shipping lanes.



The Sierra snowpack as of Feb. 26 stood at a measly 19 percent of average, matching the previous low set during the infamous 1976-77 drought. What’s more, new figures from the State Water Board show that Californians cut water use only by 8.8 percent this January compared to last year, the lowest conservation figure in months. Against this troubling backdrop, the Bay Area Council’s Water Subcommittees on Drought Awareness and Project Prioritization are meeting today (March 6) at member companies AT&T and Goldman Sachs to develop policy recommendations to improve the region’s water security. The subcommittee recommendations will be discussed at the next full Water Committee meeting on March 27. To engage with the Bay Area Council Water Committee, please contact Policy Director Adrian Covert.



Facing headwinds in Chicago over plans to build his Museum of Narrative Art, Star Wars Director and Bay Area Business Hall of Fame inductee George Lucas recently commented that finding another city wasn’t out of the question. Lucas specifically mentioned Los Angeles, but the Bay Area Council humbly suggested in a letter to Mr. Lucas that he might also consider a city a little further to the north.

“It is a city with a rich history and immense promise,” said the letter from Council CEO Jim Wunderman. “Like your Rebel Alliance, it has battled great adversity against terrific odds. Of course, we are talking about the City of Oakland.” Wunderman went on to say that “there is tremendous excitement growing now about Oakland’s future. As the Bay Area economy continues its recovery, Oakland is poised for a great revival. Your museum could serve as a cultural and economic centerpiece to help Oakland thrive and prosper.”

There was no immediate reply from Mr. Lucas, but Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf embraced the idea and there appeared to be very favorable public reaction to media reports about the Council’s pitch. We wish Mr. Lucas only the best in securing a site in Chicago. But we’ll be watching closely next Thursday (March 12) when a hearing is scheduled on a lawsuit challenging the museum.

Read the full letter to George Lucas>>



What does California need to do to ensure it has the energy and communications infrastructure necessary to compete globally? Is the Bay Area prepared to weather severe storms and rising tides and what will the cost be if we’re not? What is the cost of BART delays on the Bay Area economy? These are the questions that will be answered by a series of reports the Bay Area Council Economic Institute is preparing to release in the coming weeks and months.

Enabling increased investment in building California’s 21st Century energy and communications infrastructure is among the Bay Area Council’s lead policy priorities. This infrastructure will be critical in supporting California’s continuing efforts to combat climate change, create jobs, improve education and public services and grow our innovation economy. The Council’s Economic Institute report will examine what’s at stake and what’s holding us back from modernizing our energy and communications systems. Coming in late March/early April.

Dramatic and unpredictable swings in our weather make the Bay Area vulnerable to the kinds of severe storms that have devastated other parts of the country. Rising tides also put us at risk for huge economic losses. A new report by the Economic Institute will examine the potential economic cost of severe storms here in the Bay Area. Coming in late March.

BART is unquestionably the Bay Area’s mass transit backbone and critical to our economic success. But with growing ridership, rising maintenance costs and constrained funding, increasing service outages on the aging system wreak havoc on commuters, businesses and the economy. A Bay Area Economic Institute report will tally the economic cost to the region when BART goes down. Coming in late spring/early summer.

To commission an economic or other study related to your business or industry, contact Economic Institute Vice President Tracey Grose.

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.