Bay Area Council Blog

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2015 Bay Area Council Poll: Residents Say Soaring Economy May Be Plateauing; Drought, Housing and Crime Surface as Top Issues

Bay Area residents think the region’s super-heated economy may be reaching a plateau, according to results of the 2015 Bay Area Council Poll released today (June 23), although they are generally bullish about the overall direction the region is heading. And, there are some stark differences depending on how much residents make and where they live.

California’s historic drought easily topped residents’ list of concerns, followed closely by housing costs and overall cost of living. Only in San Francisco did the drought take second to housing costs as the leading problem, and residents in the East Bay counties of Alameda and Contra Costa identified crime and public safety high on their list of concerns. Detailed results on residents’ attitudes about the drought, housing, transportation and other issues will be released separately in the coming days. The results also examine attitudes based on age, county of residence, employment status and income level.

View the 2015 Bay Area Council Poll top issues, economic outlook>>

On the economic front, 46 percent of residents said the Bay Area is doing at least somewhat better than six months ago while 40 percent say things are about the same and 11 percent think things are worse. But looking ahead, confidence is somewhat weaker than the outlook only a year ago. Today, 39 percent think the Bay Area economy will be performing somewhat better in six months, a 12-point drop from 2014 when it was more than a majority.

“As hot as the Bay Area economy has been, residents may be thinking something has to give,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Intensifying concerns about the drought, housing crisis and growing traffic also may be coloring residents’ economic outlook, although they remain generally upbeat about the overall direction the Bay Area is heading. It’s imperative that to avoid eroding confidence we as a region continue to focus on the problems we can address.”

Lower income residents are decidedly less optimistic about the Bay Area economy. While 58 percent of residents from households making $125,000 or more per year think the economy is doing better today than six months ago, only 43 percent of residents from households making $75,000 or less annually think the economy is doing better. Looking ahead, the poll found that 48 percent of higher income residents think the economy will get better over the next six months while just 38 percent of lower income residents think the economy will continue its upward trajectory.

More broadly, the poll found that 55 percent of residents think the Bay Area overall is heading in the right direction. Millennials (18-33 years) are decidedly more upbeat, with 62 percent saying the region is on the right track and 20 percent saying it’s on the wrong track. Older residents (65 years and older) are less impressed with the direction of things, with only 49 percent saying we’re headed in the right direction and 34 percent saying we’re off track.

Residents are little happier with things close to home, with 59 percent saying their local community is headed in the right direction. They are less enamored of the state overall, with 51 percent agreeing California is headed in the right direction.

Gov. Jerry Brown gets very high marks from Bay Area residents, with 66 percent approving the job he is doing. His biggest fans are among the older set, with 77 percent of residents 65 years and older approving of the job the governor is doing. Among millennials, the governor’s approval rating dips to 56 percent. The normally beleaguered state Legislature gets some credit for decreasing their squabbling, with residents bumping their approval of lawmakers from 36 percent in 2014 to 48 percent in 2015.

Residents are unhappy about taxes. The Bay Area Council Poll found 73 percent of residents think the amount of taxes they pay is somewhat too high (41%) or much too high (32%). Another 22 percent said their taxes are about right. Attitudes towards taxes are fairly consistent across counties, with residents in Contra Costa (78%) and Alameda (76%) feeling most over-burdened.

The poll also explored residents’ use of smartphone technology, with 41 percent saying they rely a great deal on their device to accomplish day-to-day tasks, an increase of eight points from 2014. Another 29 percent have a moderate reliance on their smart phone and only 11 percent of Bay Area residents surveyed don’t have a smart phone. While 60 percent of residents say they currently have a landline telephone, 42 percent say it’s likely they’ll cut the cord in the five years.

The 2015 Bay Area Council Poll, which was conducted by Oakland-based public opinion research firm EMC Research, surveyed more than 1,000 residents online about a range of issues related to economic growth, housing and transportation, drought, education and workforce. The margin of error is 3.1 percent.

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COUNCIL’S ADVOCACY PAYS OFF FOR CA’S YOUNGEST LEARNERS

California will make an important investment in its economic future under a $115.4 billion budget that includes significant funding to expand access to vital early education and child care services for thousands of the state’s youngest and neediest learners. The Legislature was expected to OK the budget today (June 19). The budget will invest $265 million in creating almost 14,000 new pre-school and child care slots for low-income families. Along with many partners statewide, the Bay Area Council over the past several months has advocated vigorously for the Legislature and Gov. Brown to include increased investment in expanding early childhood education. Early childhood education has been among the Council’s signature policy areas. The research and science are unequivocal that investment in 0-5 year old learners is far and away the most cost-effective way to boost academic and career success of students and avoids a raft of budget-draining social, educational, economic and criminal costs. To engage in our early childhood education work, contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

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GOOD NEWS FOR REGIONAL HOUSING

The Bay Area Council this week (June 16) applauded the Alameda City Council’s unanimous approval of a project that will help address the region’s massive housing shortage. The favorable decision came just days after the Bay Area Council’s Housing and Sustainable Development Committee endorsed the project, which calls for building 800 new residential units at Alameda Point on 68 acres at a former U.S. Navy base. The development includes 600,000 square feet of commercial space.

Another project on which the Council’s Housing Committee weighed in also got some good news this week. A political deal (as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Matier & Ross) among numerous interests will likely mute opposition to a planned November ballot measure on the San Francisco Giants’ proposed Mission Rock project. The project across McCovey Cove from AT&T Park would create 1,500 units of housing and 1.5 million square feet of commercial space. The deal involves the Giants’ agreeing to set aside 40 percent of the housing as affordable and middle-class. The Giants are forced to go to the ballot because of a misguided 2012 law requiring voter approval for any project with buildings exceeding certain high limits. The Council’s Housing Committee last week endorsed the Giants’ plan for buildings taller than the current limits. To engage in our housing policy work, contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Expected To Increase 11 Percent From 2009

SEEKING TRAFFIC RELIEF ON CRUCIAL HIGHWAY 101 CORRIDOR

Next week is a big week for transportation. The Bay Area Council is driving ahead with its combination of strategies to deliver quick commute improvements in the economically important Highway 101 corridor, which include highway operational improvements, Caltrain electrification, corporate shuttle buses, and potentially introducing a north-south ferry route to serve Silicon Valley. On Monday (June 22), the Council is meeting with Water Emergency Transportation Authority Executive Director Nina Rannells to explore opportunities to speeding the expansion of ferry service on the bay and provide a new commute alternative in this severely congested corridor. Later in the week, the Council will meet with key regional and local transportation leaders to identify solutions for bringing widespread traffic relief to the badly congested 101 corridor. To learn more about the Council’s transportation initiatives, contact Policy Associate Emily Loper.

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Diplomacy and climate change converge at the Council

As politicians, negotiators and diplomats work on a new climate change agreement to be adopted in Paris in December 2015, on Wednesday (June 17) the Bay Area Council Economic Institute convened an important diplomacy event with the European Union, represented by the Italian and Dutch Consulates General on climate change, negotiations and setting of global targets. Economic Institute Senior Director Sean Randolph moderated a distinguished panel featuring Hugo von Meijenfeldt, the Dutch Consul General and former Climate Ambassador of the Netherlands; Vice Admiral Lee F. Gunn, US Navy (ret.); Matthew Rodriquez, Secretary for the Environment of the State of California; and the representatives of two very active non-governmental organizations, Noel Perry of Next10 and Michelle Passero of Nature Conservancy. Click here to read more about the discussion and event.

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HOUSING COMMITTEE MAKES KEY ENDORSEMENTS

The Bay Area Council Housing and Sustainable Development Committee on Tuesday (June 10) made key endorsements on two major projects in San Francisco and Alameda that propose to create thousands of new housing units at a time when the region is suffering from a crisis-level shortage.

Joe Ernst, Principal at srmErnst Development Partners, presented on his group’s exciting new waterfront development planned for Alameda Point. The project will bring 800 residential units and 600,000 square feet of commercial space to a portion of Alameda’s former Navy base. The project is being considered by the Alameda City Council on Tuesday, June 16. The committee voted to support the project in its entirety.

The committee also heard from Fran Weld, Vice President, Strategy and Development for the San Francisco Giants, on the team’s “Mission Rock” project, which proposes creating 1,500 units of housing (33% affordable) and 1.5 million square feet of commercial space on a parking lot across McCovey Cove from AT&T Park. The committee endorsed the Giants’ plan for buildings of up to 240 feet. Even though the Giants have spent the past eight years working with the local community to develop and refine the plan, it will now go to the voters of San Francisco in November, as required by the recent passage of Proposition B, adding huge delays, costs and uncertainties for this much needed housing. The Council opposed Prop. B.

The committee also received an eye-opening presentation by Denise Pinkston of TMG Partners on the true costs of building in the Bay Area, and heard an update on the Bay Area Council’s Regional Economic Strategy project. To engage in our housing policy work, contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

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COUNCIL VISIT HIGHLIGHTS THE IMPORTANCE OF MANUFACTURING IN CALIFORNIA

On Friday, June 5, Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman and senior staff were treated to a tour of the Siemens Mobility Division’s manufacturing plant in Sacramento. Siemens employs more than 800 employees at the 430,000 square foot facility and has 22 acres immediately ready for expansion if it is successful in securing the contract to build California’s high speed rail vehicles.

U.S. Rail Systems Division President Michael Cahill led the tour and showcased the various light rail vehicles, streetcars, locomotives and coaches that built from start to finish including designing, engineering, sub-assembly, final assembly and testing at the plant. The Siemens facility is a green manufacturing plant as it is powered almost exclusively by onsite solar panels. Soon 85 new Muni light trains will be manufactured at the plant in addition to Amtrak trains and light rail vehicles for cities throughout the country.

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KEEPING A CLOSE EYE ON REGIONAL HOUSING PLANNING

With the Bay Area confronting a major housing crisis, giving local communities a reason not to build housing would seem to be ill-advised. But a proposal advanced this week at the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) as part of the next round of Plan Bay Area could do just that. Plan Bay Area is the region’s long-range housing and transportation blueprint. The proposal floated by ABAG would create a new land use designation called priority industrial areas (PIAs).

On its face, this new designation looks good – designed to support industrial/manufacturing areas that provide thousands of jobs. The Bay Area Council supports continued study of PIAs, including ensuring they don’t have an unintended consequence of eliminating opportunities to create important infill housing for the promise of industrial/manufacturing uses that may never happen. As work on Plan Bay Area 2.0 advances over the next 18 months, the Council will be closely monitoring this and other proposals to ensure we keep our eye on the prize of more housing.

Elsewhere on housing, a proposal to impose a moratorium on new market-rate housing in San Francisco’s Mission District that the Council vigorously opposed was defeated Tuesday (June 2) in a 7-4 vote by the Board of Supervisors. Proponents of the ban now say they will work to place a moratorium on the November ballot.

To engage in our housing and regional planning work, contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

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A CAPITOL VIEW: COUNCIL SCORES LEGISLATIVE WINS

The Bay Area Council’s advocacy this week (June 1) helped kill a bill that had been identified as a job killer and win Assembly approval of another bill that will ensure all low-income children in California have an opportunity to attend preschool.

AB 357 would have required retailers, restaurants, and grocery stores to provide employees with at least two weeks’ notice of their work schedules. This is problematic for many reasons, not least of which is that it discourages employers from offering additional work to part-time employees because they will face penalties for not providing the notice of their work schedules imposed by this legislation. The union-backed bill was sidelined after it was clear there were not sufficient votes to move it forward.

On Wednesday (June 3), the Assembly passed AB 47, the Preschool for All Act of 2015. The bill recognizes the growing body of research showing that investing in quality early education is highly effective in promoting student academic success, leading to increased high school graduation rates and college attendance, decreased crime, and a stronger middle class. In sum, early education eliminates gaps in achievement before they arise. AB 47 will ensure California begins to address our overwhelming need for preschool. It now moves to the Senate for a vote.

In addition, the Council is staunchly opposed to SB 593. This bill requires hosting platforms that facilitate short-term rentals of residential housing, like Airbnb, to report detailed and sensitive data about rentals to local governments. SB 593’s reporting requirements place extreme administrative burdens on hosting platform operators that are unfair and detrimental to the innovation economy.

To engage in the Council’s government relations work, contact Policy Manager Cornelious Burke.

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GIANTS ACE SERGIO ROMO PITCHES DROUGHT MESSAGE; WATER COMMITTEE MULLS NEW APPROACH

The Bay Area Council helped pull together the San Francisco Giants and the state’s Save Our Water campaign to shoot a new drought awareness public service announcement with Giants All Star pitcher Sergio Romo. The PSAs, recorded in both English and Spanish, will air both during games at AT&T Park and across Northern California media markets due to a generous contribution of airtime from Bay Area Council member Comcast. The message? Let your lawn go brown. Learn other water saving tips.

Watch filming of Sergio Romo’s drought PSA>>

The following day, Karla Nemeth, Deputy Secretary for Water Policy at the California Natural Resources Agency, joined the Bay Area Council Water Committee to discuss recently proposed changes to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, now known as the California Water Fix http://www.californiawaterfix.com/. Following the presentation and Q&A, the committee voted to move forward developing a new draft emergency water plan. The Water Committee is co-chaired by Jim Levine, Managing Partner, Montezuma Wetlands, LLC, and Andy Ball, West Coast President, Suffolk Construction Company.

To engage in the Council’s water policy work, contact Policy Director Adrian Covert.