Bay Area Council Blog


Critical Bay Area Transportation Projects Moving Ahead

By Michael Cunningham

Oakland Airport Connector Clears Final Hurdle
After decades of debate, the Oakland Airport Connector – a train system connecting BART to the Oakland Airport – cleared its final hurdle on Thursday when the BART Board of Directors voted to award $440 million in contracts to build and operate this unique public private partnership. The Connector – a landmark stimulus project receiving $70 million in federal funds – provides a critical missing link in the Bay Area’s transportation infrastructure system, taking cars off the road and creating 2,500 to 5,000 jobs starting in 2010 to construct the project. Jim Wunderman gave testimony at the hearing and the Bay Area Council is happy to see decades of work on the project come to fruition.

BART to San Jose Project Gets Boost
The long fought, Council supported BART to San Jose extension just got a huge shot in the arm when the Federal Transit Administration recommended it for federal “New Starts” funding. Once that federal funding (as much as $900 million) is approved, Santa Clara County will finalize the environmental document and can begin to collect a new 1/8 percent sales tax that County voters recently approved. Groundbreaking won’t be far behind. The first segment of the project is actually under construction, with the Shimmick/Skanska consortium hard at work building a tunnel on the leg from Fremont to Warm Springs. Thanks to Carl Guardino and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group for driving this important project.

Caldecott Tunnel Construction to Begin Next Month
Relief is coming to motorists in one of the Bay Area’s worst highway chokepoints, with a contract awarded in November to construct the new fourth bore of the Caldecott Tunnel. Long recognized as a necessary transportation improvement, the project faced a frustrating setback in early 2009, when the state announced that it would not be able to provide the promised funds from Proposition 1B. Supporters refused to accept another delay, and a healthy contribution of federal stimulus funds put the project back on track. Opening of the new tunnel to traffic is expected in mid-2013.

There’s also hundreds of millions of dollars of federal stimulus dollars that are creating jobs and improving transportation through smaller projects throughout the Bay Area. In all, there’s almost $1 billion of federal stimulus dollars approved for Bay Area transportation projects. Even more is on the horizon, with the US Department of Transportation expected to announce projects that will be funded from two pots of stimulus funds (TIGER, and High Speed Rail) under its control. The Bay Area Council is working hard in Washington, DC to make sure that the Bay Area gets a healthy share of these funds to create jobs and improve mobility.


Business Confidence Creeps into Positive Territory

By Jim Wunderman

This week the Bay Area Council released its quarterly Business Confidence Survey showing that business confidence has crept into positive territory for the first time since the summer of 2007. The business confidence index – the number that distills the survey findings – registered at 53 out of 100. A reading over 50 signals a positive economic direction and below 50 is negative. The results indicate that we may have finally hit bottom and are looking up. Unfortunately, the new found optimism doesn’t seem to be translating into new jobs. Layoffs still outweigh hires in almost every corner of the Bay Area, the Survey shows. Overall, 23 percent of respondents expect to see their workforce decrease over the next six months, while 18 percent expect an increase and 56 percent expect no change.

Business Confidence Press Release
Jobs Chart | Confidence Index | Data


Berkeley City Council Gets On Board Ferry

By George Broder

The Berkeley City Council adopted a resolution at a recent meeting to go on record in support of a planned terminal at the Berkeley Marina. The Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) is well into the environmental evaluation and permitting process, and official support from the City of Berkeley will help to smooth the remainder of the process.

WETA recently broke ground on construction of a new terminal in South San Francisco; the Berkeley terminal will be the first new terminal on the eastern shore of the Bay. Both terminals will provide not only new commute and recreation transportation but will also add critical transportation system redundancy and flexibility that will be available when bridges and highways are unexpectedly closed (and if you thought that the recent unplanned closure of the Bay Bridge was inconvenient, just wait until a 1906-scale earthquake hits).

The Council thanks Leamon Abrams, WETA’s new Community Relations Manager, for reaching out for our support. We look forward to working closely with Leamon – and Nina Rannells, WETA’s new Executive Director – to secure the funding and approvals needed to build out a true region wide ferry system.


Institute Report Shows Strong Ties with India

By Sean Randolph

This week the Bay Area Council Economic Institute released a new report, “Global Reach: Emerging Ties Between the Bay Area and India,” which assesses the unique ties linking the world’s innovation capital with the fastest growing major economy after China.

Once perceived primarily as a site for call centers and for low-cost off shoring, India has rapidly scaled the economic ladder to provide increasingly sophisticated services that are embedding its companies and workers into the fabric of the global economy. It is also developing dynamic markets that are attracting growing investment by Bay Area venture capital, technology and consumer-oriented companies.

The report is being released at two events – one today in Silicon Valley and one in San Francisco on Monday. You can download the Executive Summary here – or visit this webpage to download the full report. The Bay Area Council plans to build stronger ties with our counterparts in India and will keep you informed of our progress.


Meeting Discusses Business Case for Healthcare Reform

By Linda Galliher

Public option? Individual mandate? Universal coverage? The Bay Area Council, in partnership with the Committee for Economic Development, brought together the Bay Area business community to discuss the various components of the national health care debate.

Diving into the details, a panel of business leaders – Lloyd Dean, Catholic Healthcare West, Lenny Mendonca, McKinsey & Co., Greg Adams, Kaiser, and Wade Rose, Catholic Healthcare West – took pointed questions from Lynn Jimenez of KGO’s Morning News. This was a special meeting of the Council’s Healthcare Committee – and the first meeting with Greg Adams as the Committee Chair. We welcome Greg and look forward to his leadership on this important issue.

Also featured at the meeting was Ken Shachmut who gave a presentation on Safeway’s nationally recognized, innovative approach to health care – which is partially based on rewarding healthy behaviors. According to their research, 70% of healthcare costs are driven by behavior. They encourage prevention and wellness by linking healthy behaviors to financial incentives. You can download Ken’s presentation by clicking here. Thank you to all the members participated in this meeting– and if you are interested in getting involved contact Linda Galliher.


Persistence, Persuasion Pay Off with NOL

By George Broder

This week Congress passed – and this morning President Obama signed – a $24 billion bill to help the unemployed and support the housing market – with a Net Operating Loss (NOL) provision included as part of the deal – a major part of the Council’s 2009 legislative agenda.

The bill extends unemployment benefits that were due to expire for an additional 14-20 weeks. It also renews an $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers, while also expanding it to cover many other home purchases – another priority BAC members advocated for while in D.C. last month. The NOL provision allows businesses that had operating losses in 2008 and 2009 to seek refunds for taxes paid on profits over the past five years – extending it from two years.

NOL may not roll of the tongue, or come up often in conversation, but its more than just an accounting term – it’s about jobs and economic survival. An enlightened NOL tax policy allows businesses to weather tough times, maintain their payrolls and avoid layoffs.

A delegation of Bay Area Council members met with Congressman Richard Neal (D – Massachusetts), leader of the NOL fight in Congress, on our May trip to Washington D.C. – and again last month – to offer their support and expertise on the issue. In addition, it was a key issue while meeting with other members of Congress to support the extension. The Bay Area Council’s Urban Development Working Group has also been engaged on the issue and coordinated broader outreach to Congress by the Bay Area business community. The Bay Area Council is happy to have played a role in such a huge win for business.


Major Deal Overhauling State’s Water System Reached

By Andrew Michael

Today, after many days and a long night of debate in the Legislature, lawmakers passed a long awaited, comprehensive water package. We expect the Governor will sign off on this five-bill package – which will bring a much needed overhaul to the State’s antiquated water system. The package includes an $11.1 billion bond measure that will be up for voter approval in November 2010.

Our work in this area, with the leadership of Jim Levine, Chair of our Water Policy Committee and many members, in collaboration with over 15 major business associations from around the state, has led the effort to reform California’s water governance system. Thanks to those of you who recently urged the legislature to adopt a strong governance structure in the new water plan. Many of the reforms sought by the Bay Area Council are included in the bills that were passed this morning.

The Bay Area Council has been leading efforts to resolve water issues affecting the state and the Bay-Delta for many years. It was the Council’s leadership at the beginning of the millennium that sought to bring together all parties from the water, environmental, business, and agricultural community in the CalFed process.

In recent years, the Bay Area Council has worked with other business groups, and water agencies in northern and southern California, Delta representatives, and with major environmental groups to explore solutions to a water and ecological system in crisis. Through this new collaboration of leaders from Northern and Southern California, we found more in common than we had expected, and came together on a number of common sense strategies to resolve the difficult issues of water supply reliability and ecosystem recovery.

We are heartened by the water deal but there is much more work ahead. We plan to continue our work – with your help – on this very important issue. There is a case to be made that the package doesn’t go far enough – but given the complexities of the issues and the challenge of passing meaningful legislation – we think this package is a good outcome. We congratulate the Legislature for their work and the Governor for calling the special session.
Highlights of the water package include:

• Oversight: A new seven-member board to oversee the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The board would consist of gubernatorial and legislative appointees, along with the head of an existing delta commission. The board could approve a controversial peripheral canal to channel water around the delta.

• Conservation: A 20-percent conservation mandate for urban areas, with credits for cities that have made significant conservation efforts. Agricultural entities will have to follow best practices for water use.

• Groundwater Monitoring: New regulations to monitor groundwater levels throughout the state.

• Water Rights: Increased penalties for illegal water diversions, although the penalties and enforcement were significantly weakened from an earlier plan.

• Financing: A $11.1 billion bond to pay for the overhaul. Of the total, $3 billion would be set aside for new water storage, which could be reservoirs, and more than $2 billion would go toward restoration of the delta ecosystem. Other money in the bond would pay for water recycling, drought relief, conservation and watershed protection projects.


Important Victory for Education! – SB 19 Signed into Law

By Linda Galliher

California’s cash strapped and underperforming schools need help. Yet, without a comprehensive system to track student data and performance, the state was unlikely to qualify to compete for a large pot of money in the federal Race to the Top education funds. In frustration with his home state, Congressman George Miller, who chairs the House Committee on Education and Labor, ended a recent Bay Area Council meeting saying, “We cannot continue to throw education dollars at a broken system.” It was sobering to hear this given the Bay Area Council’s Education Committee’s continuing fight for a comprehensive education data system. Our hard work finally paid off when Governor Schwarzenegger signed SB 19 (Simitian), a bill that removes barriers to federal stimulus dollars – and strengthens the State’s ability to accurately track student performance.

State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) thanked our members for their work. “The signing into law of SB 19 is the culmination of several years’ hard work. Not only does the bill make California eligible to compete for $4.5 billion in federal education funding but it will put in place a data system that will benefit our children and their teachers. I thank the Bay Area Council for their support over those years.”

We, in turn, congratulate Senator Simitian. California lags in the tracking of student performance. We are working diligently to change that – and this bill is a huge step.

SB 19 will allow California to do the following:

* Use student data to evaluate teacher performance and to make teacher assignment decisions.
* Link the collection and flow of data, through a longitudinal system, from Pre-K, through K-12 and into higher education.
* Compete for federal Race to the Top stimulus funds that will be awarded to states that are innovative and reform minded.

For more information on California’s quest for federal grant monies, and suggested reform legislation from the Governor click here.


BAC Trip Initiates Sustainable Development Dialogue with D.C.

By Matt Regan

A delegation of California’s leading infill developers, architects and land use lawyers participated in a Bay Area Council sponsored trip to Washington D.C. last week to talk to the administration and members of Congress about the many roadblocks that currently impede the progress of sustainable dense, transit oriented development in our cities.

Led by Michael Covarrubais, Chair of the Land Use and Transportation Committee, Andrew Giacomini, Chair of Government Relations and Jeff Heller Co-Chair of our Climate Change Committee, and Jim Wunderman President & CEO of the Bay Area Council, seventeen delegates and five Bay Area Council staff made the trip back to lobby for smart growth policies and practices.

A recent directive from President Obama instructed the Department of Transportation, HUD, and the Environmental Protection Agency to work in a coordinated manner in order to make sustainable urban development and healthy livable communities the norm rather than the exception. We met with senior officials from all three agencies as well as Fannie Mae and told them in some frank and open discussions we told them what gaps needed to be bridged and roadblocks removed in order for the President’s vision to become a reality.

We also took our case to the Capitol where we met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Congressman George Miller, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Congressman Richard Neal and senior staff from Congressman Barney Frank’s Financial Oversight Committee.

If one common thread connected all our meetings it was that we were visiting at the right time and that our message and our leadership on this important issue was noted and valued. The follow up work is ongoing and we hope to report some tangible results in the very near future.

Special thanks to Brendan Dunnigan and HKS Architects our dinner sponsors, Andy Ball (Webcor) and Jeff Heller (Heller Manus Architects) or cocktail reception sponsors, and our full team of delegates;

Andy Ball, President & CEO, Webcor Builders
William E. Berry, President & CEO, University Associates
Margo Bradish, Partner, Cox, Castle & Nicholson LLP
Michael Covarrubais, Chairman & CEO TMG partners
Shelley Doran, Vice President, Webcor Builders
Brendan Dunnigan, HKS Architects Inc.
Jim Ghielmetti, CEO, Signature Properties Inc.
Andrew Giacomini, Managing Partner, Hanson Bridgett LLP
Jeffrey Heller, President, Heller Manus Architects
George Marcus, Co-Founder & Chairman, Marcus & Millichap
Chris Marlin, Vice President, Lennar Homes
Stephen Richardson, Senior Vice President, Alexandria REIT
John Stewart, Founder & Chairman, the John Stewart Company
Tom Sullivan, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Wilson Meany Sullivan
Nicholas Targ, Partner Holland & Knight
J.T. Wick, Principal Berg Holdings

And thanks to the Bay Area Council team, Jim Wunderman, Pearl Mazzini, George Broder, Scott Zengel and Matt Regan for their work on this very successful venture .


2009 Bay Area Council Scholars Announced

Congratulations to the 2009 Bay Area Council Scholars! The Bay Area Council Scholarship Program has had the benefit of receiving incredible and diverse applicants from every county of the Bay Area. We would like to thank our dedicated Scholarship Committee for their help in selecting the 10 most qualified students from an outstanding pool of applicants.

We are proud to present the 2009 class of Bay Area Council Scholars, another amazing group of students who have demonstrated strong potential to succeed despite the odds, and a passion for giving back to their communities. Click on their names or photos below to learn more about them.

Betty Kwan
College: U.C. Davis
Hometown: El Sobrante
High School: De Anza High School
Career Goal: Undecided
Jordan Potts
College: Stanford University
Hometown: Vallejo
High School: Mare Island Technology Academy
Career Goal: Forensic Psychology
Gayathri Ramanathan
College: U.C. Davis
Hometown: Fremont
High School: Irvington High School
Career Goal: Pediatrician
Norma Karina Rubio
College: U.C. Berkeley
Hometown: San Leandro
High School: Lionel Wilson College Preparatory Academy
Career Goal: Academic Counselor
Elisa Sunga
College: U.C. Berkeley
Hometown: Antioch
High School: Pittsburg High School
Career Goal: International Business/Foreign Exchange Specialist
Ka Yan (Michelle) Tam
College: U.C. Davis
Hometown: San Francisco
High School: Abraham Lincoln High School
Career Goal: Dentist, Orthodontist
Norman Yau
College: U.C. Berkeley
Hometown: Alameda
High School: Encinal High School
Career Goal: Business Administration, Entrepreneur, Financial Analyst
Alejandro Zepeda
College: University of San Francisco
Hometown: Oakland
High School: Lighthouse Community Charter High School
Career Goal: Financial Analyst, Strategic Consultant
Ina Zheng
College: U.C. Berkeley
High School: Berkeley High School
Career Goal: Medical Physician
Christopher Zhou
College: Santa Clara University
Hometown: San Jose
High School:
Career Goal: Public Administrator, Non-profit Management