Bay Area Council Blog

Shankar, India visit

Council Hosts India’s Technology Minister

On August 28 the Bay Area Council hosted a private dinner in Palo Alto with the Hon. Ravi Shankar Prasad, India’s Minister of Electronics, IT, Law and Justice and top Silicon Valley executives. Discussion covered a range of topics including infrastructure, data policy, and India’s accelerating digital transformation. Part of the Council’s growing focus on India, the dinner was supported by Council Executive Committee member Bill Ruh, CEO of GE Digital, and Dr. Nandini Tandon, CEO Of Tenacity Global. Together, they co-chair the Council’s ongoing India project. In his remarks, Prasad said the Bay Area Council “should be the bridge between the Bay Area and India.”

The Council is working to better connect Bay Area companies with opportunities in India, which has the highest growth rate (7.7 percent) of any major country and now boasts the world’s fifth largest economy. A centerpiece of the Council’s current work is a report being prepared by the Economic Institute on economic reforms instituted under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as well as business sectors that connect most strongly with the Bay Area and offer the largest opportunities. For more information on the Council’s India work, please contact Senior Director Sean Randolph.


Flawed Plan Would Decimate Bay Area Water Reliability

(This opinion piece ran in the San Francisco Chronicle on Aug. 28, 2018)

By Jim Wunderman

Apart from a famous Mark Twain quote involving whiskey and fighting, no cliché about California water is more abused than the phrase “water wars.” However, in the instance of the State Water Board’s plan to restore the San Joaquin River, the label fits. War has been declared on the Bay Area’s largest source of freshwater, with grave implications for residents and businesses that go way beyond letting your lawn go brown.

At issue is a proposal to increase freshwater flows on the San Joaquin River. The plan targets the San Joaquin’s three major tributaries—the Stanislaus, Merced, and Tuolumne Rivers—and would require the farms and cities that divert water from those rivers to scale back their diversions to leave more water for the environment.

The Bay Area has a big dog in this fight. The Tuolumne River is the region’s single largest source of freshwater, used by 2.7 million people in 33 cities across Alameda, San Francisco, Santa Clara, and San Mateo counties.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which manages the Bay Area’s Tuolumne River supplies, estimates the Bay Area could be required to provide as much as 52 percent of any new flows mandated by the State Water Board’s plan, even though the region only diverts about 14 percent of the river’s water. Central Valley farmers, meanwhile, divert more than three times that volume.

Under this scenario, huge portions of the Bay Area would immediately face water rationing on the order of 20-30 percent beyond the conservation rates achieved during the recent drought. Since the Bay Area’s Tuolumne River water users are already among the most frugal in California (residents use just 54 gallons per capita per day compared to the statewide average of 82 gallons), some communities would be forced to achieve water use rates unseen anywhere in the developed world. Daly City, Hayward, Millbrae, Palo Alto, Redwood City, and even San Francisco could all be forced to impose emergency moratoria on building everything from schools and parks, to hospitals and housing.

The State Water Board has dismissed these concerns with the extraordinary argument that these very hardships would force the Bay Area to invest in creating alternative water supplies. Assuming developing alternative supplies at this scale is even possible or affordable, the Water Board plan is slated to go into effect in 2022. The Bay Area could be forced to operate under severe water rationing for possibly decades.

There’s a huge irony in the state using environmentalism to push policies that will inhibit growth in some of California’s most sustainable locales while promoting sprawl elsewhere. Perhaps most troubling, the plan provides no guarantees that water left in the Tuolumne River wouldn’t merely be diverted at downstream pumps operated by Central Valley farmers and Southern California users.

Since the Gold Rush, California has awarded legal rights to about five times more water than nature delivers. It’s no surprise that water policy decisions are rife with legal conflict, and rivers that once sustained hundreds of thousands of salmon have been reduced to tepid puddles. Without some sort of grand bargain that connects conservation and new environmental water with major new investments in storage, habitat, recycling, and conveyance, piecemeal efforts like the State Water Board’s plan are likely doomed to wallow for decades in fruitless litigation. Bay Area residents and businesses should contact California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird and urge him to reject the current Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan.


Stupski Foundation Grant Propels Occupational Councils

Innovative Occupational Councils (OCs) the Bay Area Council launched this year to address workforce gaps in key industries have exceeded expectations in just the first eight months, thanks in large part to funding from the Stupski Foundation Learning Grant. Operated by the Council’s Workforce of the Future Committee under the leadership of Co-Chairs Teresa Briggs of Deloitte, Glenn Shannon of Shorenstein Properties and Julius Robinson of Union Bank, the OCs have convened employers, educators, nonprofits and other stakeholders to address severe regional workforce shortages in the aviation, construction, healthcare and manufacturing industries. The program has included regular meetings of key stakeholders to identify ways to increase the talent pipeline for jobs in these industries, conducting in-classroom employer visits and organizing several curated job fairs. The Committee has also begun identifying best practices for scaling up the OCs and ensuring they can be sustained.

The Workforce of the Future team is always looking for additional employers to lend valuable industry insight and expertise to the Occupational Councils. For more information, please contact Senior Vice President Linda Bidrossian.


Key Council-Backed Housing Legislation Advances

Legislation (SB 1227, Skinner) the Bay Area Council sponsored to address a critical statewide shortage of affordable student housing is headed to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for his signature, along with another bill (AB 2923, Chiu and Grayson) the Council supported that could produce an estimated 20,000 units of new housing ideally situated near the BART mass transit system. The bills were among a handful the Council either sponsored or supported this year to address California’s historic housing shortage and affordability crisis. Another important housing bill (SB 828) by Sen. Scott Wiener that the Council co-sponsored also appeared poised for the Governor’s signature following an Assembly vote today that sends it to the Senate for concurrence.

“It’s starting to sink in that California has a devastating housing crisis,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “We applaud the legislature for approving these bills and we strongly encourage Gov. Brown to sign them. While this represents a good step forward in addressing a problem that is hurting millions of Californians and threatening our economy, we really need a big leap forward to remove the myriad regulatory and other barriers that are a huge obstacle to building the millions of new housing units we need. We’re not done, yet.”

SB 1227 authored by Sen. Nancy Skinner allows housing built for students to receive a 35 percent density bonus as long as 100 percent of the units are dedicated to students, a minimum 20 percent of the units are reserved for very low-income students, and students experiencing homelessness get priority. The legislation is aimed at bringing relief for the estimated 800,000 college students statewide that recent studies have found are either homeless or housing insecure.

“College students are increasingly priced out of California’s extraordinary housing prices, threatening the Golden Goose of our economy,” said Matt Regan, Senior Vice President in charge of housing policy for the Bay Area Council. “If the world’s most promising students can’t afford to study here, they’ll go someplace else. This bill gives colleges and universities new tools to build affordable off-campus housing. We want than Sen. Skinner for her leadership in addressing our housing crisis.”

“SB 1227 will encourage the construction of more housing and more affordable housing for college students up and down the state,” said Senator Skinner. “Students deserve to focus on learning instead of worrying about whether they have a place to live.”

The Council also hailed the passage of AB 2923 by Assemblymember David Chiu (San Francisco) that would require the elected BART Board of Directors to establish guidelines for transit-oriented development for BART-owned land at or around BART stations. Cities would then update their local zoning to be consistent with these standards while retaining control over community design standards and final permitting authority. It’s estimated that BART-owned land could support as much as 20,000 new housing units. The Council made passing AB 2923 a major priority during this legislative session.

“This bill kills two birds with one stone, producing badly needed housing near transit that encourages commuters to leave their cars behind,” said Wunderman.

With the legislative session coming to a close, the Council was still working to win passage of SB 828 (Wiener), which would reform the state’s housing allocation system and hold cities more accountable for meeting their local housing obligations. Another bill (SB 831, Wieckowski) the Council sponsored this year to promote construction of accessory dwelling units, also known as granny or in-law units, previously fell short of the votes needed for passage.

The Council on Tuesday also cheered the passage of AB 2596 (Cooley). The bill, which the Council co-sponsored with the Greater Sacramento Economic Council, would authorize the creation of a statewide economic development strategy. It would help improve the state’s economic competitiveness, bolster California’s resilience to an economic downturn and expand economic opportunity.

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About the Bay Area Council

The Bay Area Council is a business-sponsored, public-policy advocacy organization for the nine-county Bay Area. The Council proactively advocates for a strong economy, a vital business environment, and a better quality of life for everyone who lives here. Founded in 1945, the Bay Area Council is widely respected by elected officials, policy makers and other civic leaders as the voice of Bay Area business. Today, more than 300 of the largest employers in the region support the Bay Area Council and offer their CEO or top executive as a member. Our members employ more than 4.43 million workers and have revenues of $1.94 trillion, worldwide. Learn more at

BART housing

Council-Backed BART Housing Bill Clears Senate

Legislation the Bay Area Council is supporting that would usher in tens of thousands of new housing units near BART stations passed the Senate this week and appears headed for approval in the Assembly. Authored by Assembly members David Chiu (San Francisco) and Tim Grayson (Concord), the bill is a high priority for the Council, which is focused on expanding new housing near mass transit to provide commuters and others with an alternative to steering their automobiles onto the region’s already congested roads and highways. The bill, which San Francisco BART Director Nick Josefowitz has championed, now heads to the Assembly, where it is expected to get quick approval before heading to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.

Specifically, the bill would require the elected BART Board of Directors to establish guidelines for transit-oriented development for BART-owned land at or around BART stations. Cities would then update their local zoning to be consistent with these standards while retaining control over community design standards and final permitting authority. Meanwhile, the Assembly on Monday (Aug. 27) is scheduled to vote on legislation (SB 1227-Skinner) the Council is sponsoring to expand student housing.


Pushing Back on Business, Jobs Taxes

A number of Bay Area cities are teeing up new taxes on the November ballot aimed at jobs and business that will hurt the region’s economic competitiveness and make it vulnerable when the next recession rolls around. Bay Area Council CEO Jim Wunderman joined KQED Forum this morning (Aug. 24) to talk about why specialized, local taxes are the wrong answer for addressing problems like housing, traffic and homelessness whose scale and complexity require regional solutions. Taxing jobs will only discourage new investment in the Bay Area, drive companies to look elsewhere when they are expanding and make it far more difficult for the region to recover when the economy inevitably takes a turn for the worst. Wunderman also argued that none of the proposed taxes come with reforms aimed at regulatory barriers and other obstacles that often drive up the cost of addressing problems.

Listen to the KQED Forum discussion on jobs taxes>>



Member Spotlight: UC Merced Celebrates Completion of First Phase of ‘2020 Project’

The University of California, Merced — the newest campus in the 10-school University of California system — last week unveiled the first three structures arising from its unprecedented expansion effort, the Merced 2020 Project. The $1.3 billion plan, once completed, will add a total of 13 buildings and 1.2 million gross square feet of teaching, research, residential, and student-support facilities to accommodate up to 10,000 students.

The centerpiece of the project, and the site of last week’s unveiling, is the Pavilion – an iconic 600-seat dining facility overlooking Little Lake. The Pavilion is complemented by two new residence halls that have been strategically designed to form a pedestrian-friendly corridor that blends housing with classrooms, study lounges, and student activities.

“The capacity we are building right now will enable our future,” said UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland, a member of the Bay Area Council’s Board of Directors. “We will provide world-class education to more of the best and brightest students from California and beyond. We will grow our faculty thoughtfully and strategically to have the greatest possible impact in our areas of research excellence. We will become a powerhouse of innovation and transformation for the San Joaquin Valley.”

UC Merced is leveraging the power of public private partnerships (P3) to realize its Merced 2020 vision, and the Bay Area Council’s Economic Institute has provided ongoing research that has served as foundation for the university’s P3 approach.

The UC Merced campus first opened its doors in 2005 to a class of 875 students. Designed as a gateway to a world-class University of California education in a region that has long been underserved, UC Merced is now the fastest-growing public university in the nation, and boasts a student population of nearly 8,000. The university excels in cognitive science, unmanned aircraft research and biological engineering studies, and its proximity to Yosemite National Park provides opportunities for student leadership development and environmental research. It remains the only campus to host a research station in the park.

“We believe in the power of education to change lives and change the world for the better,” UC President Janet Napolitano said. “There is no better example of that than UC Merced, and this step marks a new chapter in the expansion of that opportunity.”

Developed by Plenary Properties Merced and constructed by Webcor Builders — comprising a world-class team of architects, planners, engineers, and construction professionals — the 2020 Project is the largest public-private partnership of its kind in the U.S. higher education sector. Earlier this month, the project was featured prominently in the Bay Area Council Economic Institute’s report, “Public-Private Partnerships in California.”

“We are well on our way to meeting our delivery and sustainability goals for the UC Merced 2020 Project, and this milestone marks a tremendous occasion for the university and our PPM team,” said Dale Bonner, Executive Chairman of Plenary Concessions. “We are incredibly proud to see this project setting the standard for P3 partnerships in the higher education sector.”

In keeping with UC Merced’s ambitious sustainability objectives, each building will achieve at least LEED Gold certification for energy efficiency. This groundbreaking undertaking serves as a model for expanding public research universities to meet 21st-century challenges, and is the first — and, to date, only — $1 billion social infrastructure public-private partnership project in the U.S.

The unique partnership has garnered numerous awards and recognition from across the country, including being named Social Infrastructure Project of the year at last year’s P3 Awards. The agreement provides UC Merced with contractual assurance that the buildings will be well-maintained for decades. With 600 employees on site every day, the project is expected to generate a total of $1.9 billion in regional economic impact and $2.4 billion in statewide impact through its completion.

“This momentous milestone for UC Merced brings to light the unwavering efforts of the design-build team and the success and innovation a true P3 partnership can bring,” Webcor President and CEO Jes Pedersen said. “This project is also a great example of how Webcor seeks to improve communities and local economies. We’ve made it our mission to utilize the regional subcontracting community, provide education and on-the-job training for UC Merced students, and assist local nonprofits with various projects and support throughout the region.”


JP Morgan Chase Grant Fuels Innovative Workforce Program

JPMorgan Chase & Co. continues its commitment to the Bay Area Council’s Workforce of the Future program with a $100,000 grant. These funds will help accelerate programs already underway through our Occupational Councils and our Inclusive Economy work, which is focused on serving under-represented populations in the Bay Area. In addition, the funds will drive regional collaboration with workforce stakeholders across California, leveraging best practices from different regions to maximize results at large scale.

Corporate philanthropy dollars are the engine for workforce programs run by the Council and other non-governmental organizations serving under-represented populations. JPMorgan Chase & Co. funding over the years has supported the growth of the Occupational Councils in aviation, healthcare, and construction.  These employer-driven programs are systematically removing barriers to entry for our local diverse talent.  Curated career fairs, targeting youth of color, veterans, emigrants and refugees, through the Inclusive Economy work where the Council leverages the expertise of talent training partners Work2Future, Swords to Plowshares and Upwardly Global. The regional efforts have already started with partnerships across the megaregion and Southern California. To participate and benefit from the Workforce of the Future programs, please contact Senior Vice President Linda Bidrossian.

42 silicon valley

Partner Spotlight: 42 Silicon Valley

The Bay Area Council’s Workforce of the Future Committee is always looking for organizations to partner with that are committed to expanding access to education and career opportunities for local talent. One such example is 42 Silicon Valley. With a campus in Fremont, 42 Silicon Valley is a software engineering school that offers a revolutionary way of approaching education. The Bay Area Council is developing a partnership with 42 Silicon Valley that will help create a pipeline of talent for meeting the needs of our member companies in a range of technical, coding and software positions.

The demand for people with tech skills is on the rise and our educational system is struggling to keep pace with changing technology and industry demands. ​Recently, the school received a WISE Award that recognizes projects for innovative solutions to urgent education challenges. 42’s tuition-free, peer-to-peer learning structure and project-based curriculum is based on new access to knowledge, the future of the workplace and today’s digital world.

Just this month, 42 and Council member the SF 49ers partnered on a free-of-charge, innovative high school summer camp for experienced and beginning coders that gave students an opportunity to learn valuable coding skills with a focus on data science and sports.

Learn more about 42 Silicon Valley>>


Council Partners on Leading Tech Industry Conference

The Bay Area Council is partnering with TechCrunch on its biggest, most-anticipated event of the year. Disrupt SF 2018 will be held September 5-7 in San Francisco and you can expect the content on the main stage to represent emerging trends in the business of technology and bring the headlines of to life. Featured speakers include Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and Greylock Partner Reid Hoffman, among others. See the lineup>>

The Council will be hosting a workshop, Solving The Crisis – How Our Business Community is Addressing the Bay Area’s Regional Challenges,” on Thursday, Sept. 6 from 9:30am – 10:30am. Bay Area Council Economic Institute President Dr. Micah Weinberg will present on the Regional Economic Profile, which will be followed by a discussion with industry leaders moderated by Council CEO Jim Wunderman that will address regional policy challenges and the innovative solutions we are driving to solve them.

Disrupt SF 2018 will feature conversations with TechCrunch editors the top players in the startup and technology world. Guests will enjoy programming across four stages, interactive workshops, networking and companies featured in Startup Alley from all aspects of tech.

Secure your spot today>>