Bay Area Council Blog


As Ferry Ridership Grows, a New Vessel Commissioned

There’s more good news in the push to accelerate the expansion of regional ferry service. The Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) this month approved $13 million in funding to construct a new 300-passenger ferry that is scheduled to hit the water in 2020. The Council, whose CEO Jim Wunderman serves on the WETA board, has been a leading proponent of expanding regional ferry service to help ease grinding traffic on Bay Area roads and highways and take some pressure off other congested transit systems. The new ferry will be the eighth vessel added to the fleet since 2017. WETA has added three 400-passenger boats since April 2017 with four more scheduled to start producing wakes in 2019. The water transit agency is also preparing to open new service to Richmond in January 2019 and to the San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood and Alameda’s Seaplane Lagoon in the next few years.

The expansion comes as WETA experiences record ridership growth. The agency’s 20-year strategic plan calls for operating at 16 terminals with 44 vessels by 2035. Today, they operate at nine terminals with 14 vessels. The Council helped lead the campaign for Regional Measure 3, which will provide significant funding to enable WETA to meet its expansion plans. To engage in the Council’s transportation policy work, please contact Chief Operating Officer John Grubb.


Supreme Court Rejects Bid to Dismantle Hetch Hetchy

The California Supreme Court on Wednesday (Oct. 17) pounded yet another nail in the coffin of a misguided effort to tear down the system that provides clean water and power to 2.7 million Bay Area residents and businesses. The Bay Area Council has been a leading champion of protecting and enhancing the Hetch Hetchy clean water and power system against a fringe Berkeley group that has fought for years to tear it down. The group vowed to take their fight to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Council led the campaign with Sen. Dianne Feinstein and then-Mayor Ed Lee against a 2012 ballot initiative in San Francisco that would have opened the door to removing the Hetch Hetchy system. Dismantling Hetch Hetchy would cost an estimated $10 billion, wreak untold environmental damage and threaten the reliability of the region’s main water source. To engage in the Council’s water policy work, please contact Vice President Adrian Covert.


Election 2018: Where the Council Stands

Political campaigns are heating up. Absentee ballots are arriving. Votes are being cast. There are critical issues on the November ballot that will significant implications for California, residents and businesses and the economy. The Bay Area Council Executive Committee has carefully studied many of the key state and local measures and propositions that voters will decide. We encourage you to get informed and consider the Council’s recommendations. And please, please make sure you vote!

See the Council’s ballot recommendations>>

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Trip Highlights Potential of Hovercraft on the Bay

The gate opened at the bow of the vessel, a black skirt draped around its hull. We boarded and took our seats. Within minutes, the boat rose quickly and effortlessly above the ground, the engines producing a dull thrumming sound and a cushion of air on which the boat gently hovered. The vessel glided smoothly away from the launch ramp, pivoted 180 degrees and accelerated. We were off.

You can be skeptical about hovercraft passenger service for the Bay Area, until you ride one. Then, you are changed. It was an awakening experience for a dozen water transit experts that the Bay Area Council and CEO Jim Wunderman led to Portsmouth, England, this week to do a deep-dive learning experience about hovercraft. The group rode a service that has 80-passenger crafts. They toured some recently retired hovercraft that carried 425 passengers and 60 cars across the English Channel. And, they heard from elected leaders and visited with hovercraft manufacturers.

Hovercraft offer a compelling opportunity to propel a dramatic expansion of regional water transit service that is already taking shape under the leadership of Council member Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA). Hovercraft could be a solution to accessing areas of the Bay where dredging costs, docks and environmental issues present obstacles to other vessels. The Council will be working with delegates from the trip, other officials in our region, with trip co-leader HOVR California, and many others to explore if next generation hovercraft have a place in the Bay Area. To engage in our water transit work, please contact Chief Operating Officer John Grubb.

One Year After Sonoma Complex Fires, Scars Remain In California Wine Country

Tracking Rebuilding Progress One Year after North Bay Fires

On the one-year anniversary of the horrible North Bay fires, Bay Area Council Economic Institute President Micah Weinberg joined KQED Forum this week for an in-depth discussion with local leaders on the progress being made to recover and rebuild. The Economic Institute has been working closely with leaders from Sonoma County and Santa Rosa to assemble data and analysis related to the fire that will guide new policies that can track and speed the rebuilding and provide greater resilience against future fires.

Weinberg was joined on stage during the live broadcast at the Luther Burbank Convention Center by host Michael Krasny, Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey, City Councilmember Julie Coombs and Santa Rosa Press Democrat reporter JD Morris. Much of the discussion focused on the urgent need for more housing. Even before the fire, which destroyed more than 4,600 homes, Sonoma County had the highest number of housing cost-burdened households in the Bay Area. City and county officials have set a goal of building 30,000 housing units to address the historic shortage and affordability crisis and replace the units lost to the blazes.

Listen to the full KQED Forum broadcast>>

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Career Fair Focuses on Highly Skilled Immigrants and Refugees

In the United States, two million skilled immigrants and refugees currently face under-employment or unemployment. In partnership with Upwardly Global, the Bay Area Council this week (Oct. 10) held a career fair connecting highly skilled immigrants and refugees with backgrounds in business operations and engineering to major employers in the Bay Area. The strategic hiring event was the last in series of 2018 Inclusive Economy Career Fairs facilitated by the Council’s Workforce of the Future initiative, which focuses on expanding workforce opportunity for underrepresented populations who experience barriers to employment.

Hosted by member company Wells Fargo, the event began with an educational session for employers to learn more about the vast array of backgrounds many immigrants and refugees have. An employer panel featuring Patty Dingle, Senior Director of Diversity and Inclusion at VISA, Daryl Graves, Diversity Talent Acquisition Evangelist at Workday, and Jason Schwartz, Senior Director at TetraTech, further highlighted what these companies are doing in the diversity and inclusion spaces.

The career fair that followed connected 50 highly qualified candidates with 14 employers—including Bay Area Council members Alaska Airlines, Chariot, San Francisco International Airport, VISA, and Wells Fargo. To engage in the Council’s Workforce of the Future initiative, please contact Senior Vice President Linda Bidrossian.


SF Business Times Names Its Most Admired CEOs of 2018

You’ll never guess who was named one of the San Francisco Business Times outstanding CEOs of 2018? That’s right.  We are thrilled to announce that Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman will be honored at the 2018 Most Admired CEOs Awards, which will be held on Thursday, November 8 from 5:30-9:00pm at the Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco. Since becoming CEO in 2004, Wunderman has tripled the size of the organization, elevated its influence, expanded the organization to Sacramento and China and honed the Council’s regionalist approach to advocacy in key areas that impact the Bay Area’s economy and competitiveness. With Wunderman at the helm, the Council has played a leading role on issues related to housing, transportation, water, climate change and energy, early education funding and healthcare reform. The event will also honor Council board members Jeff Hoopes, CEO of Swinerton, Rich Robbins, CEO of Wareham Development, and Jim Wallace, CEO of BPM.  Join us in celebrating some of our region’s most esteemed business leaders on Nov. 8>>


Member Spotlight: United Airlines Flexes Economic Muscle at SFO

United Airlines recently held its SFO Family Day to show off its United San Francisco maintenance facility that includes 15 buildings on 144 acres, where 2,144 United employees work. In the last two years, United added about 300 employees at the SFO maintenance base. United President Scott Kirby and United California Regional President Janet Lamkin, who serves on the Bay Area Council Executive Committee, headlined the event, which was attended by thousands of employees and their families.

“We have such an incredible future here ahead of us. This is going to be the No. 1 airline in the world,” Kirby said. “We’re making incredible progress on being a team that works together and fulfills the potential and opportunity that we all know that United Airlines has. Here in San Francisco, this is a crown jewel for United Airlines. It’s important not only to United Airlines. It’s important to the economy here in San Francisco. As strong and robust as this (Bay Area) economy is, being able to give people connections to 100 destinations around the world— over 30 international destinations — and having 14,000 people employed here in the local community, is critical to the underpinning and support for all the things happening in Silicon Valley and across the bay in San Francisco.”

“In serving the Bay Area’s largest companies, if we didn’t have the scale and abilities that we have to go to the places we go to, that would impact their ability to grow,” Lamkin said. She also highlighted United’s service initiatives in smaller California cities to provide greater air connections from Fresno, Santa Rosa and similar markets to United’s hub cities. The airline recently said it will begin flying from Santa Rosa to its hub in Denver, starting on March 8.

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Partner Spotlight: CA Competes Report Examines College Dropout Problem

California Competes today released its latest report, Back to College, Part One: California’s Imperative to Re-Engage Adults. The report illuminates the personal obstacles and systemic barriers faced by 4 million Californians between 25 and 64 years old who dropped out of college before completing their degree. Key findings highlight suppressed levels of economic prosperity and prevalence of employment in lower-wage occupations, disproportionate impacts on single mothers without a degree, and an analysis of the structural and policy barriers that hamper adult student success.

Taking a regional approach, the report demonstrates that educational patterns vary across the state and by occupation and provides nuanced arguments about what this means for state policy making. Back to College, Part One concludes that California needs to address a systemic lack of financial aid opportunities for returning adults, lower institutional and structural barriers, and provides practical incentives for stakeholder engagement—including private industry—in education-to-employment pathway building.


Dismal Grades for California’s Bridges, Roads and Transit

Good thing California’s bridges, roads and transit aren’t trying to get into a top tier college. More likely, they’d be placed on academic probation. That was largely the conclusion this week of the America Society of Civil Engineers, which released its annual Surface Transportation Infrastructure Report Card at a press conference that included Bay Area Council CEO Jim Wunderman. The report graded the condition of California’s roads a D, its bridges a C- and its transit systems a C-. California is home to 13 of the top 25 most traveled structurally deficient bridges in the nation, the ASCE found. The report said 44 percent of California’s roads are deficient, ranking it 49th in the country and costing the average motorist $843 in extra vehicle operating costs.

The report comes as voters prepare to cast their ballots on Proposition 6, a misguided initiative to repeal legislation the Council supported that invests $52 billion to fix the states roads, highways and bridges and improve transit. The Council opposes Prop. 6. Said Wunderman in an interview with KTVU following the press conference about the importance of investing in California’s aging transportation infrastructure: “If we don’t do this, we just keep increasing the backlog of work that needs to be done at tremendous cost to public safety and the quality of life for the people of our state.”