Not that Bay Area residents need a reminder of how urgently we need to invest big on regional traffic relief, but a ranking released this week by congestion research firm INRIX put some jaw-dropping numbers to the problem. The Bay Area ranked third in the U.S. as the most congested urban area, with traffic costing each driver $2,250 a year and costing the region $10.6 billion. Among cities, San Francisco ranked fifth worldwide for snarled roads and highways. The report comes as the Bay Area Council partners with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and SPUR to win voter approval in June 2018 for a ballot measure—Regional Measure 3—that would invest $4.5 billion on key projects to ease gridlock, including improving critical highway interchanges where our worst bottlenecks occur, closing gaps in carpool lanes, improving BART service, expanding regional ferry service and other vital mass transit systems, improving connections between local and regional transit and enhancing bicycle and pedestrian corridors. Polling shows that RM3 can win with a strong campaign. To support our RM3 campaign and help move the Bay Area far down on the INRIX ranking, please contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.
The Bay Area’s top business and political leaders converged at Facebook today (Feb. 9) to recommit themselves to addressing California’s housing crisis. The summit, cohosted by the Bay Area Council and Silicon Valley Leadership Group, featured state legislators David Chui, Jim Beall and Scott Wiener, who urged support for the upcoming state housing bond (SB3), a bill to increase density near transit (Wiener, SB827), and creating a cap and trade system for housing permitting. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf urged companies to invest in local affordable housing projects by working with cities to provide low-interest capital.
Led by Council CEO Jim Wunderman and Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino, a veritable who’s who of housing and company leaders, including Andy Ball (RAD Urban) and Denise Pinkston (TMG Partners), among others, discussed the economics of housing construction, while Council Housing Committee Chair Carla Boragno from Genentech and Elliott Schrage from Facebook discussed how the shortage is hurting communities and the Bay Area economy. Participants, which included some of the region’s top c-suite executives, also talked about the solutions they plan to support at state and local levels. To engage in the Council’s housing policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.
In the ongoing immigration debate, the Bay Area Council places special importance on the issues surrounding skilled immigration – H-1B visas, the entrepreneur visa, and green cards. This week Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced his long-anticipated bill—the Immigration Act of 2018 (I-Squared)—which offers the most promising vehicle for addressing the concerns of many Bay Area companies. The issues covered Hatch’s bill are separate from those being debated about the fate of so-called Dreamers under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Hatch’s bill does several things: increases be base allocations of H-1Bs from 65,000 to 85,000; creates a market-based escalator that allows the supply of visas to meet demand; prioritizes petitions for holders of a U.S. master’s degree or higher, holders of foreign PhDs, and holders of U.S. STEM bachelor degrees; prohibits an employer from hiring an H-1B visa holder with the purpose and intent to replace a U.S. worker; provides work authorization for spouses of H-1B holders; increases H-1B worker job mobility; raises from $60,000 to $100,000 the salary level above which employers are exempt from certain recruitment and non-displacement requirements; eliminates the annual per-country limit for employment-based green cards; increases worker mobility for individuals on the path to a green card; creates a new conditional green card category to allow employers to sponsor university-educated foreign professionals through a separate path from H-1B; enables F-1 student visa holders to seek permanent residence status while a student or during Optional Practical Training (OPT); and increases fees for H-1B visas and employment-based green cards and directs those fees toward state-administered grants to promote STEM education and worker training.
The Council plans to work with Senator Hatch’s office, industry groups, and the Bay Area’s legislative delegation to advance the bill’s proposals, which return the H-1B program to its original intent by ensuring that recipients are high-skilled, precluding the replacement of U.S. workers by H-1B holders, and ensuring that employers have access to the skills and talent they need to be remain competitive.
Seeking to find solutions to their growing technical talent needs, Bay Area Council members Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, and San Francisco International Airport (SFO) joined forces with the Workforce of the Future Committee to envision, create and host an aviation career exploration event, “Working at SFO: An Insight Event for Local Educators & Community Partners,” last Thursday (1/18). A direct result of the Workforce of the Future Committee’s Aviation Maintenance Occupational Council, the impetus for the event came from employers’ needs to expand their talent pipelines into technical and non-technical roles. The event featured a career expo, career speakers and tours, and allowed local educators, workforce development staff and other career guidance experts to interact directly with employers and learn about the amazing career pathways offered in the aviation industry.
SFO International Airport and the Bay Area Council will host another event on May 16 for students, parents, community members, and interested workers. For more information, please contact Senior Vice President Linda Bidrossian.
The Bay Area Council today (Jan. 24) loudly cheered a decision by the Bay Area Toll Authority to seek voter approval in June 2018 for Regional Measure 3 (RM3), a comprehensive plan to invest $4.5 billion to attack the region’s record traffic by fixing bottlenecks along key freeway corridors and improving and expanding transit services. The Bay Area Council is partnering with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and SPUR to lead a campaign to pass RM3, which requires majority voter approval of all nine Bay Area counties.
“RM3 gives us a fighting chance to get a handle on Bay Area traffic,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “The significant investments RM3 will make in all nine counties will hit directly at our worst congestion problems and add major capacity to existing mass transit systems like BART, ferries and Caltrain. We applaud the Toll Authority for giving voters the chance to take control of their transportation future. Traffic and overcrowded transit systems are costing commuters hundreds of dollars a year in lost time and fuel and robbing them of time better spent with family and other activities. The fixes that RM3 will make to ease traffic and improve transit will also help ensure we maintain our strong economy.”
Legislation by state Sen. Jim Beall last year authorized the Toll Authority to place RM3 on the ballot. RM3 would increase tolls on state-owned bridges by $3, with $1 increases made over six years. A recent poll by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission found sufficient support to pass RM3, but that an aggressive campaign would be necessary to educate and inform voters about the many benefits it would bring.
A bold plan to invest $4.5 billion across the region to ease traffic and improve mass transit for millions of commuters took an important step forward this week (Jan. 10) when the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA)’s Oversight Committee recommended placing Regional Measure 3 (RM3) on the June ballot. The Bay Area Council, partnering with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, SPUR and the California Alliance for Jobs, gave input into the legislation by Sen. Jim Beall that authorizes the vote on RM3 and is preparing to lead the campaign for RM3’s passage. RM3 would make important investments to unclog traffic chokepoints on key major freeways in the East Bay, Silicon Valley and the North Bay, help complete the extension of BART to San Jose and replace its aging fleet, expand regional ferry service and make significant improvements to other key local and regional mass transit systems.
A recent poll by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) showed support for RM3 reaches as high as 60 percent, well above the majority threshold needed for passage. But polls are no guarantee of success and passing RM3 will require a concerted regional campaign to inform voters about the many benefits they will enjoy. To pay for the improvements, RM3 proposes raising tolls on seven state-owned bridges by phasing in three $1 increases over the next six years. BATA’s Oversight Committee recommendation to move forward with RM3 now goes to full MTC-BATA for final approval on Jan. 24. To help support the RM3 campaign, please contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.
The Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge entered its final phase on Thursday (Jan. 11), with each of the 10 world-class design teams being assigned a specific location on the San Francisco Bay shoreline to prepare for sea level rise. State officials estimate there’s a 67 percent likelihood that sea levels at the Golden Gate will rise by 1.1 feet by 2050. Those troubling figures build off of a 2015 study by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute that estimated the Bay Area could suffer more than $10 billion in economic damages due to flooding from a 150-year storm event under present-day sea levels.
The final Resilient by Design sites were the result of months of research and interaction between design teams, community members, and experts in government, industry, and academia. The final designs will be unveiled this spring. The Bay Area was awarded financial support to host Resilient by Design by the Rockefeller Foundation shortly after Bay Area voters approved the Bay Area Council-backed Measure AA campaign for a $12 parcel tax to fund multi-benefit flood protection/wetland restoration projects along the Bay shoreline. To learn more about Resilient by Design, contact Bay Area Council Vice President, and Resilient by Design Executive Board Member, Adrian Covert.
Read the San Francisco Chronicle’s story on Resilient by Design>>
There hasn’t been a lot of rain so far this winter, but Gov. Jerry Brown had the wet stuff on his mind this week (Jan. 11) when he released a $190 billion budget proposal that ups the state’s “Rainy Day Fund” by $5 billion to $13.5 billion. The reserve is designed to protect California against future economic downturns, which Brown believes is coming sooner rather than later. Still, the budget represents a record for California and includes a $7 billion increase over the previous spending plan. The Bay Area Council applauded many of the spending priorities, which include $4.6 billion for commute improvement projects from last year’s SB1 (Beall) legislation that the Council supported.
The plan invests $245 million to expand and protect affordable housing under SB2 (Atkins), another bill the Council supported last year. Brown proposed another $277 million for housing in anticipation of the passage of a statewide housing bond measure expected to appear on the November 2018 ballot. The spending plan also continues the Governor’s efforts to pay down the overall state debt and makes a small dent in the state’s massive pension liability shortfall. The Council is continuing to analyze the plan and will be weighing in directly as it now moves to the legislature, which has a June deadline to approve it.
Many folks in Sacramento called 2017 the Year of Housing for the 15 bills (many of which the Bay Area Council supported) that Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law that in various ways responded to the state’s awful housing crisis. Despite the volume of new laws designed to ease barriers and provide new funding for housing, the gains were modest compared to the immense scale of a problem that has been decades in the making. Many acknowledged that much more needed to be done, and now it’s starting to look like 2018 may be the main course compared to the appetizer served last year. That’s great news. Senator Scott Wiener was first out of the gate with a package of reform bills that aim to open a floodgate of new housing near transit and put more pressure on cities to meet their commitments for housing. The Council met with Sen. Wiener in December as he was developing his legislation, and many of the changes he is looking to make reflect long-standing reforms to the Regional Housing Needs Allocation process for which we have advocated. We have it on good authority that more reform ideas are soon to come from other members of the Bay Area Caucus.
The Council is also working with state Sen. Bob Wieckowski on a new bill, SB 831, that would build on legislation (SB 1069) we sponsored in 2016 that has unleashed a statewide surge in applications for accessory dwelling units, aka granny or in-law units. And, we are working on legislation to make the construction of student housing near college campuses easier to achieve. At a local level, the Council this week testified at the Alameda City Council in support of a project by member company Carmel Partners that will convert almost 150 units of vacant former military housing into three- and four-bedroom townhomes near the Alameda ferry terminal. The project won approval. Not a bad start to 2018. To engage in the Council’s housing policy, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.
Expanding regional ferry service in the Bay Area continues to be a top priority for the Bay Area Council, and we have been inspired by the ambitious work that New York is doing to build out its own system. The Big Apple’s embrace of ferries was artfully depicted on the most recent cover of New Yorker magazine in an image by artist Jorge Colombo who said riding the East River Ferry “can be a refuge, a secret hideaway, a sanctuary” from the intense traffic onshore.” Ferry riders, he said, can be a great inspiration. “From where I live, in Brooklyn Heights, it’s a much better way to get to Williamsburg and Greenpoint, or to Thirty-fourth Street in Manhattan, than the subways. It’s a mini boat adventure, an endless trip of a few minutes.”
Council CEO Jim Wunderman in a 2015 San Francisco Chronicle OpEd envisioned a future where expanded ferry service could be a game changer in easing traffic gridlock. The Chronicle also recently featured ferries on the front cover of its pages in a story by reporter JK Dineen that examined the work the Water Emergency Transportation Authority is doing now to build out a robust regional ferry system in the Bay Area. That work would get a big boost from the proposed Regional Measure 3 (RM3) that is expected to go on the ballot in June 2018. The Council was a chief proponent of including ferry funding in RM3 and we will be urging the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to place RM3 on the June ballot when it meets on January 24. Read the Chronicle’s “SF Bay ferry service on brink of major expansion”>>
To engage in the Council’s ferry work, please contact Policy Director Emily Loper.