Bay Area Council Blog


Drone Technologies Rapidly Advancing; Policies to Allow Them, Not So Much

With interest in the use of drones for commercial purposes taking flight, the Bay Area Council recently convened a policy roundtable with national policy expert Lisa Ellman, the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) practice leader at member firm McKenna Long and Aldridge. Ellman talked about the many exciting commercial applications for drones but said the U.S. is lagging the world in developing the policies necessary to allow industry to take full advantage of this exciting technology. “By 2025, it’s thought that UAS will have an economic impact of $82 billion and 100,000 new jobs created here in the U.S.,” Ellman said. “Drones are helpful for industrial uses like powerline inspection, pipeline inspection, flare stack inspection, and infrastructure inspection. Filmmaking, as well.” Commercial use of drones is technically illegal in the U.S., with companies only able to operate them after receiving special exemptions from the Federal Aviation Administration. “It is not too late to fix,” Ellman concludes. “It’s important that innovators come to the table and educate policymakers about the technology that is out there. There is crash avoidance technology that can prevent the drone from running into us, for example.”

Read a more detailed article on drones by Bay Area Council Economic Institute Senior Fellow Matt Gardner>>

Policy Priorities banner_blog


The Bay Area Council this week (Dec. 10) doubled down on its efforts to tackle the region’s most pressing challenges, unveiling a bold policy agenda for 2015 that prioritizes building workforce housing, creating the workforce of the future, securing water supply reliability, battling traffic and modernizing vital communications and energy infrastructure. The Council’s Executive Committee, under the leadership of Chair David Cush, President and CEO of Virgin America, approved a set of policy priorities that include:

Workforce Housing: The Bay Area’s inability to meet housing demand is creating a massive affordability crisis and threatening to hamper the region’s economic growth. The Housing Committee, Co-Chaired by TMG Partners Chairman & CEO Michael Covarrubias and Signature Development Group President Michael Ghielmetti, will focus on ways to ease regulatory barriers and speed new housing in so-called regional “priority development areas.” To engage in our housing work, contact policy Vice President Matt Regan.

21st Century Infrastructure: New energy and communications technologies are essential to building the “smart cities” of the future and driving economic growth. However, the regulatory powers are not keeping pace. Under the leadership of Co-Chairs PG&E Chairman, CEO & President Anthony F. Earley and AT&T California President Kenneth McNeely, the 21st Century Task Force is driving legislative and regulatory change that will enable the development and utilization of advanced energy and communications networks. To engage in the Council’s 21st Century Infrastructure work, contact policy Vice President Michael Cunningham.

Commute Improvement: Growing traffic indicates an expanding economy, but also reflects insufficient transportation capacity and outdated operations. Under the leadership of Arup Principal John Eddy, the Council’s Transportation Committee is focused on leveraging new technologies to boost highway capacity and efficiency, increasing investment in mass transit and identifying new reliable transportation funding sources. To engage in our commute improvement work, contact policy Vice President Michael Cunningham.

Water Supply and Security: With growing and often-conflicting demand and limited supply, ensuring that the Bay Area has sufficient water is vital to the region’s economic health. The Water Committee, Co-Chaired by Montezuma Wetlands Managing Partner Jim Levine and Suffolk Construction Company West Coast President Andrew Ball, will work to ensure Proposition 1 funds support best regional projects and continue to advance coequal goals of supply reliability and environmental preservation in the Bay Delta. To engage in the Council’s water policy work, contact Policy Manager Adrian Covert.

Workforce of the Future: The world of work is changing much faster than the education and training world. This mismatch creates “skills gaps” between what employers want and the skills job applicants possess. Students and educators need better information about the world of work and the skills that are needed for high demand jobs. Employers need strategies for engaging with and influencing the public sector talent/workforce supply chain. The Council will work to establish a regional model of public-private cooperation for the future workforce. To engage in our Workforce of the Future work, contact policy Vice President Linda Galliher.

The Bay Area Council extends its hearty thanks to Board member and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland President and CEO Bert Lubin and Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute Executive Director Janet King for generously hosting our Executive Committee and Board of Directors meeting. The Council has been honored to work with Dr. Lubin in our early childhood education work, including the launch earlier this year of our Talk Read Sing campaign in Oakland.



Oakland Mayor-Elect Libby Schaff received warm applause from the Council’s Board of Directors on Wednesday (Dec. 10) when she said she is committed to making Oakland “the least irritating government in America.” In an easy-flowing conversation with Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman in front of 75 top business executives, Schaff quipped that it was a relief to address an audience without having to compete for attention with the crowded field she bested on Nov. 4 to win Oakland’s top job. The Oakland native said she will be focused on making the city safe through better policing and more robust education and job-training services.

A number of the issues she highlighted as key to Oakland’s future are among those the Council will be most focused in 2015, including housing, workforce and infrastructure. Schaff talked about Oakland’s approach to pre-approving large housing plans that the Bay Area Council is looking to replicate elsewhere because it helps shield developers from costly and time-consuming environmental challenges. To the delight of fans of the Oakland A’s and Raiders, Schaff said she is determined to keep both teams in town. Among the first four phone calls Schaff said she made immediately after winning election were to her mother and the owners of the two teams.

The rapid convergence of technology and biosciences is creating what University of California San Francisco Chancellor Dr. Sam Hawgood called an “inflection point” in the world of medical research that will lead to dramatic and exciting breakthroughs in curing our most deadly, costly and intractable diseases. Hawgood, a featured speaker at the Board of Directors meeting, offered a glimpse of the trends and innovations driving change in the biomedical sciences. He described how UCSF and the Bay Area are perfectly positioned to lead the world in this field, and convert research into revenue-generating patents and start-up companies. He discussed the explosive growth occurring in San Francisco’s Mission Bay where UCSF is a leading presence and he highlighted the major economic contributions the university makes to the city as its second-largest employer.



With a decision expected next week (Dec. 16) on a possible U.S. bid for the 2024 Olympics, the Bay Area Council today (Dec. 12) briefed Bay Area legislative staffers on our efforts to bring the Games to the San Francisco Bay Area. Working with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, the Council is serving as interim fiscal agent in support of the effort.  George Broder, Senior Advisor to the Bay Area Council and a former deputy to Peter V. Ueberroth for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games Organizing Committee, delivered the briefing. The ’84 Games generated a $225 million surplus.

The presentation covered topics such as the International and US Olympic Committee bid process and rules, potential location of the Olympic Village, main stadium and other venues, along with transportation, housing and infrastructure benefits from hosting the event. Four U.S. cities are finalists to be chosen by the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) to go to the international bid stage — Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington D.C. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will accept bids in the fall of 2015 and award the 2024 Games in 2017.



Extreme weather could not hold back Oakland Mayor-Elect Libby Schaaf, Chinese Consulate Economic Counselor Xia Xiang, Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman and other regional leaders from welcoming Tsinghua University President Chen Jining to the Bay Area on Wednesday (Dec. 10). President Chen’s arrival was much anticipated: Tsinghua University is considered one of the world’s most prestigious universities, graduating many of China’s most powerful and influential leaders, including current Chinese President Xi Jinping.  The Bay Area is home to one of Tsinghua’s largest alumni bases in the world. In meetings the Bay Area Council arranged, President Chen spoke separately with Governor Jerry Brown and California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols about California’s efforts to address climate change.

President Chen and his delegates were received with fanfare at a warm and cheerful reception hosted by new Bay Area Council member Prologis, the leading owner, operator and developer of industrial real estate across Asia, Europe, and the Americas.  Prologis is one of Fortune Magazine’s most admired companies of 2014 and has been named one of the top 100 most sustainable companies in the world.  For more information about the Bay Area Council’s work in China, please contact Chief of Global Initiatives Del Christensen.



California’s once-visionary Master Plan for Higher Education has not kept pace with tectonic changes rumbling across the Golden State, according to a report the Bay Area Council Economic Institute released this week (Dec. 2) that calls for overhauling the blueprint to position the state’s three public university systems to better serve and respond to the demographic, economic and technological realities of the 21st Century. The report and recommendations come as the debate over state funding for the University of California and the California State University systems reaches a fever pitch. Among the report’s findings:

  • When the Master Plan was written, 11 percent of jobs were filled by workers with at least a bachelor’s degree – today it is over one-third and growing.
  • In 1960, 82 percent of high school graduates were non-Hispanic whites; today it is 28 percent.
  • In 1977, 18 percent of the state’s budget went to higher education; today, it is 11.6 percent.

Read the full report>>

See reaction from academic and business leaders>>

Read the press release>>

In addition to well-documented and dramatic declines in state funding for higher education, the report cites legislative and administrative mandates will allow them to experiment with new funding and academic approaches to meet the needs of individual institutions. As the 2015 legislative session moves forward and Gov. Jerry Brown unveils his proposed budget in January, the Bay Area Council will be actively engaged in seeking higher education reforms necessary to help meet California’s future workforce needs, grow middle-class jobs and compete globally. To engage in our workforce and higher education policy work, contact policy Vice President Linda Galliher.



With housing costs (and demand) soaring in San Francisco and elsewhere in the region, Oakland is poised to see a major surge in new residential real estate development. Rachel Flynn, Director of Oakland’s Planning and Building Development, told a packed house at the Housing and Sustainable Development Committee meeting on Tuesday (Nov. 25) that the city is ready to take advantage of this opportunity. Flynn talked about Oakland’s solid fundamentals – excellent location, extensive public transportation options, a rich cultural diversity, and competitive real estate pricing – and identified areas where environmental approvals are already in place that can help speed development. Flynn’s message was clear: Oakland wants to entice developers and residents, and it is becoming a better investment all the time.

The Committee also heard from Bay Area Council Board member Kristina Lawson, a partner with Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, on efforts to update the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and from Bay Area Council Vice President Matt Regan on the latest developments regarding the Regional Prosperity Plan being developed through the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). Thank you to Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP for hosting us. To engage in our housing policy work, contact Policy Associate Brianne Riley.

Bay Flooding by Michael Filippoff


A record turnout braved the Bay Area’s biggest storm in years to attend this Tuesday’s (Dec. 2) meeting of the Bay Area Council Water Committee. The meeting started, fittingly, with a preview of the results of a highly anticipated upcoming Bay Area Council Economic Institute report on the region’s physical and economic vulnerability to damage from extreme-weather events. According to the research, due to be released early 2015, billions of dollars are at risk today — a figure that will rise with future sea levels.

The committee, who was joined by top managers from the region’s largest water agencies, also heard from Karla Nemeth, Deputy Director of the California Natural Resources Agency. Nemeth provided hydrological, policy and political updates on the drought, BDCP, and future of water infrastructure finance. Under the leadership of Co-Chairs Andy Ball, West Coast President of Suffolk Construction, and Jim Levine, Managing Partner of Montezuma Wetlands LLC, the committee adopted its 2015 priorities that include funding for San Francisco Bay wetlands and flood defenses, increasing drought awareness, and improving water infrastructure financing. To engage with the Water Committee, please contact policy Manager Adrian Covert.


Big Step in Caltrain Modernization, Electrification

The electrification and modernization of one of the region’s critical mass transit systems, which has been among the Bay Area Council’s signature policy efforts, reached a major milestone this week with the release of a final environmental impact report. The Caltrain Modernization Project will expand capacity to accommodate future ridership growth, alleviate traffic congestion, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 176,000 metric tons annually.

The Council was instrumental in securing a state commitment of $720 million from Proposition 1A high speed rail bond funds to pay for the project, and has partnered the San Mateo County Economic Development Association (SAMCEDA) and Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG) to form the Caltrain Commuter Coalition (C3) to collectively advocate for these improvements. A 2013 Bay Area Council Economic Institute study found the project would generate $2.5 billion in economic benefits and support almost 10,000 jobs. The Caltrain Board of Directors is scheduled to review and approve the Final EIR on Jan. 8, 2015 and the Council will be voicing its support. To engage in our transportation policy work, contact Vice President Michael Cunningham.


Bay Area Council Announces First India Trade Mission

The Bay Area Council is excited to announce its first official trade and investment mission to India that will include high-level California executives and feature meetings with India’s top government ministers and business leaders. Over the last decade, India has emerged as one of the world’s leading economies, presenting lucrative and diverse opportunities for California businesses. Economic liberalization measures, including industrial deregulation, privatization of state-owned enterprises, and reduced controls on foreign trade and investment, have accelerated India’s recent growth.  California must be present in India today to leverage the country’s economic progress.

The delegation will travel to Mumbai, New Delhi, and Agra from February 21-28, 2015.  A tour of the majestic Taj Majal, privately led by the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, will wrap up this unforgettable experience.  To learn more about joining the Bay Area Council’s first ever trade and investment mission to India, please contact Suzanne Robinson.