Bay Area Council Blog


Finalists in the Bay Area Council’s Holiday Art Competition

Thank you to all the 4th graders from the Oakland Achieve Academy who participated in our 2nd Annual Holiday Art Competition. The top three finalists will have their artwork printed on the Bay Area Council’s holiday cards and the winners will receive their own cards to send to friends and family.


By Bryant Barrera

By Fernanda Cabrera

By Kenton Pham


By Vianney Jimenez

By Cindy Tajtaj

By Ferlandy

By Maria Padilla Estrada

By Darlene Chao

By Cesar Hernandez

By Antionio Martinez

By Bryan

By Abraham Gonzalez

By Jesus Espinoza

By Bryan

By Juan Delgado

By Lara Ramirez

By Luis Hernandez

By Juan C.

By Alejandra Quintero

By Isaias Rosales

By Briseryda-Pablo Calmo

By Olivia Aualos


Sacramento Bee: Effort to overhaul California governance at a crossroads

From voters to top policymakers, almost everyone believes California’s government isn’t working. What’s less clear is how to make the system whole again.

The budget is perpetually late and out of balance. The state’s once-celebrated schools and infrastructure have degenerated into some of the lowest-ranked in the country. Polls show public confidence in state government has plummeted.

Fundamental reforms are clearly needed, say leaders of both major parties, to revamp a state constitution that’s been transformed by legislative restrictions and voter mandates into a collection of piecemeal rules.

Amid the clamor, three high-profile efforts have launched over the past three years to reorder California’s governance system. The idea of a constitutional convention to rewrite the rule book has lost momentum, but there is hope that new players on the scene – an obscure billionaire and a new (and former) governor – can breathe life into the effort.

“You can’t underestimate the level of problems we have, and the government as currently situated does not have the tools it needs to make the reforms,” said Jim Wunderman, CEO of the business group the Bay Area Council, which this year tried to change state law to let voters call a constitutional convention.

“In the end, we have to convince people it’s better to hold a convention and fix the problem than watch this bad movie that is California.”

The latest group, the Think Long Committee, formed by billionaire Nicolas Berggruen, brings an important advantage: the money to take its ideas to voters. He has put together a bipartisan group of high-powered players for an effort he acknowledges will take years.

Berggruen said he initially considered organizing a constitutional convention, but opted against one because “it could get out of control very quickly.”

With a new administration coming in, reform backers could find an ally in Gov.-elect Jerry Brown, who has talked of a “design change” for the state and has shown a taste for out-of-the-box solutions during his 40-year career.

But Brown has echoed concerns about a constitutional convention, telling a Marin County audience it would amount to solving “a difficult problem by an even more difficult process.”

Wunderman said members of his business group who saw the need for change balked at funding a constitutional convention that might result in a document they wouldn’t like.

“You couldn’t look them in the face and guarantee the outcome,” Wunderman said.

Read the story…



SAN FRANCISCO, CA — The Bay Area Council today released its fall Business Confidence Survey, and the results show that Bay Area CEO’s and executives are feeling more positive about the Bay Area economy, however, they expect the current status quo of slow growth and recovery to continue.  The business confidence index – the number that distills the survey findings – registered at 58 out of 100, up 2 points from the last survey, but still down 4 points from May.

A reading over 50 signals positive economic times, while below 50 is negative.  Last quarter’s Survey showed the index reading at 56 – making this the fifth positive reading in a row since the summer of 2009.  One year ago, the reading registered 53, and in January 2009, the index reached its all-time low of 31.

“Increases in the stock market, actions by the Fed, and our slow, but continued recovery are providing confidence that things are getting better, more than they are getting worse,” said Jim Wunderman, President & CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Small and medium sized companies are still very reluctant to hire new workers, but larger corporations are showing signs that they might be expanding their workforces over the next couple of months.”

The responses of the 473 CEO’s and top executives in the nine Bay Area counties surveyed between November 10th and November 30th, show that overall, 47% think Bay Area economic conditions are better than 6 months ago, up 6 points from last quarter’s survey.  In addition, 53% said they expect a better Bay Area economy 6 months from now, up 9 points from last quarter.

The Survey indicates that a majority of executives, 56%, expect their workforces to remain the same over the next 6 months.  However, 27% of executives stated they planned to increase their workforce.  41% of executives in San Francisco County and 37% of executives in San Mateo County expect to increase their workforces over the next 6 months. Additionally, the Survey showed that 50% of Bay Area companies with over 10,000 employees expect to increase their workforce over the next six months, an increase of 41 points since last quarter’s survey.

In certain industries, there is much optimism that things will be better in 6 months. 52% of executives in professional and business services, and 94% of leisure and hospitality executives expect their industry conditions to improve.  Entering the holiday season, 22% of retail executives expect their industry to improve. Other noteworthy areas expecting better industry conditions in 6 months include: manufacturing (47%), information technology (47%), and financial services (46%).

Finally, when asked, “Which of the following issues is having the biggest impact on your business at this time,” 74% of executives listed the overall economy, out of choices that included: financial regulation (7%), healthcare reform (6%), the tax rate (6%) and debt and deficits (4%).

“While there is still a large degree of uncertainty in executives’ outlook, the most promising news in this quarter’s survey is big corporations’ intent to start hiring in the next six months.  If that comes true, it will be welcome news for the recovery,” said Lenny Mendonca, Director at McKinsey & Company.

PDF Press Release

Jerry Brown

San Francisco Chronicle: Business must help Jerry Brown succeed

By Jim Wunderman

Jerry Brown has one of the toughest assignments ever given to an American political leader. California’s government and the services it provides are in a profound hole. At a time when we need to rebuild and reform, he enters a political arena governed by fear, interest groups fiercely protecting the small turf they still hold, and a system that allows any well-organized force to stop change. The business community – a large portion of which I am honored to represent – faces a choice: Do we gear up for battle or do we sincerely try to help Jerry Brown succeed? I argue we must help him succeed.

Let’s look at what’s at stake. Our schools need help. California’s students’ ability to read is ranked 49th in the country by the U.S. Department of Education. Compared globally, the United States is ranked 29th in science and 35th in math out of the top 35 industrial nations. Your neighborhood school might be good by California standards, but that is a very low bar indeed.

California’s water system faces a 60 percent chance of catastrophic failure in the next 20 years, according to the state Department of Water Resources, and is now considered one of the top 10 threats facing the United States, a list that includes a terrorist attack and a nuclear bombing.

California has the third-highest unemployment rate in the country, and a jaw-dropping 2.25 million people face the heartbreak of being unable to provide for themselves or their family.

Our state’s ability to deal with these problems is hamstrung by a looming $28.1 billion deficit on an approximately $90 billion general fund state budget. Californians have rejected nine of the nine past tax proposals. That means more service cuts are on the way.

Many other states are not suffering our fate. And, if you love California, let me say it … you should be angry. I know members of the business community are. Yet having reached bottom, we can and we must fix this.

We need jobs, and in this global economy that means more exports and more foreign investment. We can work with Gov. Brown on increasing exports by better connecting our companies with U.S. Commerce Department services and trade promotion offices run by organizations like the Bay Area Council. A foreign direct-investment program and structured programs for visiting trade delegations can quickly increase foreign investment in our state. In California, trade means jobs.

We must get job-producing projects moving faster. Many regulations are essential, but the process of getting through the regulatory hoops takes far too long – and everybody knows it. We can bring real manufacturing jobs back to California by making the approval process more certain.

We need to end the political battles that hold our education system hostage. Let’s agree our schools need both reform and more money. A network of local business groups can help school districts follow the lead of the seven that bravely pursued the second round of Race to The Top, and reward these districts by leading local campaigns for more funding.

Finally, Brown frequently spoke of a vast civic education campaign to enable an honest conversation about government and fiscal realities. The Bay Area Council, which led the most successful charge yet for a constitutional convention to fix our broken state government, is eager to help that conversation.

All is not lost, but we do have great challenges, and the business community wants to be part of the solution.

Jim Wunderman is the president of the Bay Area Council.

Read the story…



SAN FRANCISCO, CA — The U.S. Department of Transportation today redirected $1.2 billion in high-speed rail funds from Ohio and Wisconsin to 14 other states, including California, which will now receive an additional $624 million for high-speed rail.

In response to this news, Bay Area Council President & CEO Jim Wunderman released the following statement:

“These additional funds will keep California high-speed rail on the fast track.  The infusion of new federal money will help to extend the first segment of high-speed rail to another urban center in the Central Valley, quelling concerns that California is building a ‘train to nowhere’.  Today’s news also means more jobs for California at a time when we are still facing 12.4% unemployment.

High-speed rail will re-establish California’s leadership across the nation and around the globe, provide an environmentally sound alternative to the country’s busiest air route (SFO to LAX) and take nearly 70 million auto trips off the road every year.

The Bay Area Council applauds the Obama administration and Department of Transportation for supporting high-speed rail in California.”

PDF Statement



SAN FRANCISCO, CA — The 2010 USC Ross Program in Real Estate, presented by the Bay Area Council, will hold a case competition and graduation ceremony at 4:00 PM on Thursday, December 9 at the CitiGroup Center, 1 Sansome St., San Francisco.

The three-week program, taught by faculty from the University of Southern California (USC), as well as over fifty local industry experts and professionals from the Bay Area, helps participants gain technical expertise and expand their understanding of real estate development and investment, while building the networks necessary to succeed in urban renewal.  Each year, the program culminates in a case competition in which participants present their solutions for a local development issue.

“The depth of knowledge that this year’s students bring to the table is quite remarkable,” said Jim Wunderman, President & CEO of the Bay Area Council.  “We are proud to offer training and resources to such talented real estate professionals through the Ross Program and I am confident that these participants will positively impact future development in the Bay Area.”

This year, the case competition focuses on redevelopment of the Midway Village and an adjacent site in the Bayshore neighborhood on the border between San Francisco and Daly City.  Ross Program participants will present their proposed plans for the site in front of a panel of judges, including representatives from the City of San Mateo Housing Authority and the City of Daly City, the two organizations that control the site. Judges include: Greg Vilkin, MacFarlane Partners; Michael Barker, Barker Pacific Group; Michael Johnson, UrbanCore, LLC; Margo Bradish, Cox Castle Nicholson; Libby Seifel, Seifel Consulting; Vince Gibbs, Intequity LLC.

Participants in this year’s program include Benjamin Brandin, a Green Project Analyst with Eden Housing; Catherine Etzel, Assistant Project Manager at BRIDGE Housing Corporation; Daryl Thomas, Managing Director, NID Housing Counseling Agency; and Lena Robinson, Regional Manager of Community Development for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

A pdf overview of the program can be downloaded at:

PDF Press Release

Doyle Drive Public-Private Partnership Prompts Lawsuit From State Public Engineers Union

The state engineers union is suing to stop the Doyle Drive rebuild because it is partially financed through a public-private partnership (P3) with international investors. The Council is currently exploring ways to get involved so that the project isn’t stopped.  We can’t afford to let this project be derailed because of the seismic risk of not repairing the span, but also because the lawsuit may affect P3 investments all across the country if the union prevails.  With the state and nation facing huge deficits for the conceivable future, P3 investments will be the only way to get major infrastructure projects financed and completed.

Rendering of Doyle Drive after construction.


Article of the Week

The Brookings Institution has released a new report highlighting the importance of metro areas in the global economy. The world’s top 150 metro areas contribute 46% of all goods and services, though they account for just 12% of the population. Thanks to Alan Berube, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, for recognizing the Bay Area Council as “one of the most active groups nationwide in terms of promoting economic growth on a regional basis.”

Santa Rosa Press Democrat: China strengthens ties to Zap electric carmaker

Santa Rosa’s electric vehicle retailer Zap has signed a memorandum of understanding with Chinese officials to promote electric cars on the streets of Shanghai.

The company separately announced that it has completed a $10 million down payment for a majority share in Chinese car maker Jonway Automotive. The payment is part of a $29 million purchase agreement first announced in July.

The two developments are part of Zap’s efforts to become a manufacturer and retailer of electric vehicles in China, now the world’s largest auto market.

The memorandum is “the first big deal of its kind,” the result of growing ties between business and government leaders from the Bay Area and Shanghai regions, said Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, a business advocacy group. It was fostered in part by a state delegation that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Council led to China in September.

The deal, Wunderman said, signals that both Zap and local Chinese officials understand that neither party can by itself build the charging and battery-swap stations needed to make electric vehicles a practical means of transportation in Yangpu, a district of Shanghai.

“Whether you’re building electric vehicles in the Bay Area or China, it’s going to require a public/private partnership to get it done,” Wunderman said.

Read the story…