Bay Area Council Blog



Much of the political rhetoric of the 2016 Presidential campaign focused on the winners and losers of the nation’s economic transformation over the past several decades, painting global trade and rapid technological advancements as villains stealing blue collar jobs and decimating local economies in places like Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The story, however, is far more complex and one that has huge implications for our region. The Bay Area Council and the Bay Area Council Economic Institute are delving into those complexities, and this week hosted a fascinating discussion with Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan and Silicon Valley Congressman Ro Khanna on the many and strong connections between the Bay Area and America’s heartland and the vast opportunity for deepening those connections to address concerns about economic displacement. The conversation, which was moderated by former Economic Institute Chair and eminent UC Berkeley economist Laura D’Andrea Tyson, explored how the Bay Area’s innovation leadership can be leveraged to boost up places that are feeling left behind, the ways in which that can happen and the widespread economic benefits that it can produce. The Economic Institute also previewed an online tool that offers a detailed analysis of the existing jobs and economic connections between Bay Area companies and individual states and congressional districts. The tool will be formally launched in the coming weeks.



With the clock ticking on a June deadline to begin work on electrifying Caltrain, the Bay Area Council is continuing its advocacy to secure $647 million in funding the federal government had promised to help pay for the project. Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman on Monday will join Rep. Jackie Speier, Rep. Anna Eshoo and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, among others, in a press conference to urge President Trump and Congress to release the funding. Electrifying Caltrain has been a top Council priority for many years, and the Council was instrumental in assembling the original $1.5 billion package of federal, state and regional funding to pay for it. The federal funding was halted earlier this year at the request of a group of GOP Congressmembers over their concerns the project is connected to the California high speed rail line they oppose. The Council argues the Caltrain project is critical regardless of what happens with high speed rail. Wunderman emphasized that point in a meeting with GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy several weeks ago. Operating with slow, outdated and dirty diesel trains, Caltrain has struggled to keep pace with record ridership growth on one of the nation’s most economically productive corridors. The electrification project will allow for more and faster trains and help ease congestion along the entire corridor, while supporting 9,600 construction-related jobs and generating $2 billion in economic activity. To engage in the Council’s transportation policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham at



A sweeping plan approved this week by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to address climate change takes unprecedented reach in cracking down on regional carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. The plan outlines 85 measures that seek to reduce pollutants from industry, transportation, agriculture, homes and businesses. Among the measures is imposing new or higher tolls on roadways to discourage driving, completely eliminating natural gas from home heating and other domestic uses, requiring rooftop solar on new homes and reducing consumer consumption of carbon-intensive meat products. The Bay Area Council has long supported efforts to address climate change that also balance the region’s need for affordable housing, sustained economic growth and mobility. Many of the proposed measures require additional regulatory or legislative action before they can be implemented and the Bay Area Council will be working to shape how the plan is enacted. To engage in our regional governance work, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan at

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Time is running out to secure your seat at the Bay Area Council’s 2017 Outlook Conference: The Pacific Summit presented by Kaiser Permanente on Tuesday, May 23. We have assembled an incredible dais of leaders who will provide invaluable insights on the dramatic political and economic changes that are dominating the regional, state and national landscapes. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell and CNN host and global thinker Dr. Fareed Zakaria will talk about the populist forces that propelled Donald Trump into the White House and what it means for the Bay Area and California. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will share his thoughts on how large metropolitan regions can address the massive challenges of housing and transportation. And San Francisco Chronicle Editor in Chief Audrey Cooper will lead a fascinating discussion on the great flight of millennials from our region and the trouble it bodes for our economy. In addition to hearing from these leaders, attendees will also have an opportunity to talk directly with them in small group discussions that are new to the conference this year. The conference will be held at The Presidio, affording attendees a beautiful, retreat-like setting to hear top thinking and interact with a high-level audience.

Learn about sponsorship opportunities and register today at



With rumors continuing to swirl around Republican-led efforts to repeal and replace the ACA, California legislative leaders are taking a different — but no less dangerous — approach. SB 562, The Healthy California Act, aims to transition California to a comprehensive and universal single-payer system. California has been a leader in the implementation of the ACA, and has made substantive and important progress that is now in a precarious position due to Congressional replacement proposals and actions by the Trump administration to undermine its implementation. The Healthy California Act is a symbolic measure that would have a massive impact on the state budget and healthcare system, while dividing the California healthcare and health policy community against itself at the exact wrong time. As such, the Bay Area Council has taken an oppose position on the bill.

This week, the Bay Area Council Economic Institute released a policy brief, A Pragmatic Approach to Medicaid Reform, highlighting practical bipartisan ways to increase sustainability, flexibility, and value for medical spending in the Medicaid program. Weinberg traveled to Sacramento on Thursday (April 13) to brief legislative staff and policy analysts on the brief and discuss other health reform issues at state and federal levels. This is the first in a series of health reform briefs that will be published throughout the year by the Institute. The briefs will be co-authored by Economic Institute President Micah Weinberg, PhD and Hoover Institution Fellow Lahnee Chen, PhD, who has served as an adviser to numerous public officials, the policy director to the Romney-Ryan presidential campaign, and as a senior official at Health and Human Services under George W. Bush.

To engage with the Council’s Healthcare Committee, please contact Economic Institute President Micah Weinberg.



On Thursday (April 13), the Bay Area Council’s Transportation Committee met with Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA 11) at Microsoft Corporation to hear insights on the state of affairs in Washington, D.C., and the outlook for federal transportation and infrastructure funding. The Congressman’s impressive tenure in California state politics and close ties to the Bay Area region allowed him to address region-specific inquiries from Council members regarding topics like expanding the state’s commuter rail system, addressing housing affordability, and inequality. The Bay Area Council will meet with the Congressman again during an upcoming delegation trip to Washington, D.C., and will discuss priorities prepared by the Council’s federal transportation policy working group led by Board Member Andrew Dohrmann of T.Y.Lin.

The Transportation Committee is Co-Chaired by Executive Committee member Rosemary Turner of UPS and Jeffrey Heller of Heller Manus Architects. To engage with the Transportation Committee or working group, please contact Senior Vice President of Policy Michael Cunningham at


New Poll Finds That 25% of Homeowners Would Add an In-­Law Unit, Creating 400,000 New and Affordable Housing Units

SAN FRANCISCO—Amid the Bay Area’s crippling housing crisis, important legislation that took effect in January makes it faster, easier and less expensive for homeowners to build in-law or accessory dwelling units (ADU). SB 1069 authored by Senator Bob Wieckowski and sponsored by the Bay Area Council reduces parking requirements, discretionary permitting, and onerous utility connection fees that previously made in-law units infeasible for many residents.

In the recently released 2017 Bay Area Council Poll, a total of 25 percent of homeowners said they would consider adding an ADU. The Bay Area Council estimates that this could create an additional 400,000 new units—an even greater number than was previously projected when the legislation was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown.

The poll also found that 76 percent think the region’s housing shortage is threatening the Bay Area’s economy, with 40 percent of respondents considering leaving the Bay Area in the next few years. The Bay Area’s future workforce and talent pipeline of millennials led the way at 46 percent.  Encouragingly, the poll found 62 percent of respondents are in favor of building new housing in their neighborhood, up from 56 percent in 2014.

With the ability to build in-law units quickly and cheaply, the potential for new affordable rental housing in the Bay Area is massive and crucial to reducing the number of students, teachers, nurses, family members, senior citizens, and others being priced out. The expansion of ADUs has been tremendously successful in alleviating housing woes in other cities like Vancouver, which after passing similar legislation over a decade ago, has seen 35 percent of single family homes add a second unit.In Portland, recent efforts by proponents have resulted in an increased pipeline from one per month to one a day.

“Despite overall growing support for building new housing and the enormous potential of ADUs, challenges remain,” said Bay Area Council Housing Committee Co-Chair and Partner at TMG Partners Denise Pinkston. “We are working to overcome resistance in implementing the new law as well as raising public awareness among homeowners about this now more accessible opportunity.” The Bay Area Council is also working with local and national banks to develop a financing tool that ensures loan opportunities are available to construct ADUs for households of all incomes.

“While an important first-step in addressing the monolithic regulatory system that’s fueling the housing shortage, ADUs will not be able to single-handedly meet the monumental demand our region is experiencing. Nor were they intended to,” said Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman. “Much bigger and significant statewide reform is needed to reduce regulatory barriers for all housing and build long-term relief.”

The 2017 Bay Area Council Poll, which was conducted online by Oakland-based public opinion research firm EMC Research from Jan. 24 through Feb. 1, surveyed 1,000 registered voters from around the nine-county Bay Area about a range of issues related to economic growth, housing and transportation, drought, education and workforce.



Bay Area motorists dodging potholes and fighting traffic can loosen their grip on the wheel after an historic vote in the legislature last night (April 6) that will generate $52 billion over 10 years to fix roads and highways statewide, ease congestion and improve transit. The win culminates a more than decades-long effort by the Council and many others to address a backlog of transportation work that has made California’s roads and highways among the worst in the nation. The Bay Area Council extends its hearty thanks to Gov. Jerry Brown, State Senate President Kevin de Leon and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon for their courageous leadership in winning passage of SB 1 and to bill author state Sen. Jim Beall of San Jose and Assembly Transportation Committee Chair Jim Frazier (Oakley), who authored a companion bill in the Assembly, for their tireless efforts in guiding the legislation to victory.

The Council also extends its gratitude to all the Bay Area legislators who cast their vote in favor of making long overdue investments to fix California’s badly deteriorated roads and highways, including Senators Bill Dodd, Jerry Hill, Mike McGuire, Bill Monning, Nancy Skinner, Bob Wieckowski, Scott Wiener and Assemblymembers Marc Levine, Marc Berman, Cecilia Aguilar Curry, Rob Bonta, David Chiu, Kansen Chu, Tim Grayson, Ash Kalra, Evan Low, Kevin Mullin, Bill Quirk, Mark Stone, Tony Thurmond and Phil Ting. The Council also gives special thanks to Ceres Senator Anthony Cannella, who bravely crossed party lines to provide the votes needed in the Senate. We also want to thank our many member companies that signed letters, made calls and sent emails to legislators urging them to support SB 1.

The Council, as part of a statewide advocacy coalition led by the California Alliance for Jobs, worked feverishly into the night on Thursday (April 1) to help secure the two-thirds votes needed to pass the funding package, which includes a mix of fuel and vehicle taxes and fees. Improving the commute has been among the Council’s top policy priorities for years, and the win Thursday follows through on a pledge by the Executive Committee in early December to “double down” in our efforts to address California’s massive transportation needs, which have been estimated in excess of $136 billion. The funding has immense implications for the future of Bay Area transportation and mobility. With new funding to address the region’s long-standing maintenance needs, the Bay Area can now turn greater attention to growing the future capacity of the region’s transportation system, including extending BART and other rail lines, expanding regional ferry service and building out express lanes.

For the Bay Area, the funding package includes $284 million annually to repair local streets and roads, $135 million to improve local transit and $36 million for a variety of other major county transportation projects. As part of the negotiations for SB 1, Sen. Cannella secured more than $400 million in additional funding through the budget to improve the Altamont Corridor Express rail service that is a critical part of the Council’s work to build transportation capacity for the broader Bay Area megaregion. Under SB 1, the Bay Area is also eligible to compete for a share of $2.5 billion to address congestion on key transportation corridors, and the Council will be working hard to secure that funding. The Council will also be focused on enforcing strict accountability measures designed to ensure the funding is spent efficiently and responsibly.



The Bay Area Council is responding to recent results of our Bay Area Council Poll that show economic confidence slipping as the region’s epic housing and traffic crises take a serious and growing toll on residents. Confidence in the Bay Area economy sunk to its lowest level in four years, according to results released last Saturday (April 1). The Bay Area Council Poll found just 24 percent of those surveyed think the economy will be doing better six months from now, down from 50 percent in 2014. Millennials (18-39) showed less confidence in the economy than older generations.

See details of the Bay Area Council Poll results>>

Poll results released on Sunday (April 2) found that older Bay Area voters who have lived here the longest and own their home are far less likely to support building new housing compared with millennials (18-39), those who rent, and those who have lived here the shortest time and are feeling the worst pain from the region’s housing shortage and affordability crisis. Still, the poll found that 70 percent of millennials support building new housing in their neighborhood, compared with 57 percent of respondents aged 40-64 and a similar number aged 65 years and older. Overall, 62 percent of Bay Area residents support building new housing in their neighborhood.

The Council is working to leverage the growing angst over housing and traffic and changing attitudes about new housing to address these issues. The Council is building on the successful passage of legislation last year to ease the path for in-law units that we estimate could add up to 150,000 new affordable units. We’re working to grow awareness of the new opportunity to build in-law units and develop financing mechanisms to help homeowners pay for them. We’re also continuing our work at the statewide level to win broader housing streamlining reforms. To engage in our Workforce Housing Committee, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

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Bay Area Council Chief of Global Business Development Del Christensen on Thursday (April 6) led a panel at the Silicon Valley Forum’s “AgTech and the Connected World” Conference on the evolution of American and Chinese agriculture technology sectors. Panelists KY Cheng of East West Bank and Simon Shao Green Pasture International Inc. explained the challenges that China faces in modernizing its agriculture industry – with an small average farm size of 1.5 acres and an aging rural demographic, the world’s second largest economy has been searching for ways to increase its agricultural productivity. This creates a big opportunity for Californian companies and funds looking to do business in China. While global venture capital investments decreased in 2016, the central government invested $450 billion to redesign its agriculture capabilities. For these reasons, the Council has focused on assisting agtech companies’ access to Chinese markets for the past three years and is leading a delegation in agtech and clean energy this coming June. To engage in the Council’s China work, please contact Chief of Global Business Development Del Christensen at