Bay Area Council

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For the local council of the Boy Scouts of America, see Bay Area Council (Texas).
Bay Area Council
Founded 1945 (1945) in San Francisco, California
Headquarters San Francisco, California, United States
Area served
San Francisco Bay Area
Key people

Jim Wunderman, CEO

Michael Covarrubias, Chairman

The Bay Area Council is a regional, CEO-led business and economic policy association in San Francisco, founded in 1945, and dedicated to growing the San Francisco Bay Area economy and solving the region's most difficult challenges.[1][2] At its inception in the post WWII years, members included Wells Fargo, Bank of America, the Transamerica Corporation, Standard Oil of California, Pacific Gas and Electric, Bechtel, Kaiser Industries, Clorox and others. By the late 1940s, the Council was an early environmental watchdog. In the 1950s, the Council promoted a regional mass transit system that eventually became BART.

In 1965, the Council sponsored legislation creating the Bay Conservation and Development Commission. In 1970, they helped to create the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.[3]


The Bay Area Council aims to create a competitive and sustainable Bay Area through collaboration with regional businesses and civil leaders. Through research and analysis, the organization educates its members and other stakeholders on a variety of issues and implements strategic policy using its relationships with business, civil, and political leaders across the state of California and across the nation. Because the Bay Area is an expansive region with nine counties, the Bay Area Council acts as a liaison between different local bodies and pushes for a region-wide agenda that will assist the Bay's economic viability and maintain its high standard of living.



The first meeting of what California State Reconstruction and Re-Employment Commission Chairman, Alexander R. Heron, called his “Bay Area Team” took place in Berkeley on August 9, 1944. At this meeting, Colonel Heron and his deputy, the renowned builder David Bohannon, addressed a group of business leaders, mayors, city managers, and county supervisors. Representing Governor Earl Warren, Heron and Bohannon urged that “the whole Bay Area pull together to seize on post-war opportunities.”

Not quite everyone was on board with what the press had already dubbed the “Bay Area Council.” During the Council’s formation, ambivalence to regional aspirations was faintly but persistently heard. The issue concerned whether South Bay counties considered themselves – or felt themselves considered – an integral part of a unified Bay Area. Capturing that hesitance was a letter from the editor of the San Jose Mercury News who averred “while I cannot subscribe wholeheartedly to the outline of your plan, I would like the opportunity of sitting in.” Thus was reflected the delicate, decades-long minuet over which counties should and should not be included in a greater Bay Area in terms of transportation, census data, Federal aid, housing, water, air, and open-space policies.


At war’s end, the Bay Area regional puzzle seemed to be fitting nicely together. This was particularly true in regards to industrial policies to help avoid the feared – and some economists felt, inevitable – postwar recession. These policies, it turned out, were identical to the economic goals embodied in the new Bay Area Council, chartered in August 1945, “to develop cooperation and unified action in commercial,industrial, civic and cultural fields in the Bay Area.”

Confidence was the predominating note sounded by the Bay Area Council at its start, an optimism mirroring the tenor of propitious times: With a World War won and the entire planet assembled in San Francisco for the creation of the United Nations, what could possibly stand in the way of a more unified Bay Area?

Striking this note of ebullience was Frank E. Marsh, named the Bay Area Council’s first President & CEO on September 1, 1946. Marsh, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce’s Washington rep, possessed both impeccable New Deal credentials and the backing of the Bay Area’s most powerful business leaders, many of them already on the Council’s Executive Committee. The roster was a Bay Area Business Who’s Who and included top officers of Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Transamerica, Standard Oil of California, Pacific Gas and Electric, Bechtel, Kaiser Industries, Clorox and others. Together, the Council’s directors quickly raised the $100,000 annual budget dedicated, Frank Marsh declared, “to the proposition that the economic opportunities of all counties and municipalities in the Bay Area are not only interrelated, but interdependent.”

The bottom half of the Bay Area’s forties was a heady time. The economy prospered, so much so that in June 1947, the Christian Science Monitor ran a special report garishly headlined, “San Francisco Bay Area Forges Postwar Era of Industrial Might.” Reporting on the thousands of new industrial plants ringing the Bay, the Monitor suggested that a new gold rush was on, a westward dash by manufacturers intent on gaining their share of millions of new Pacific Coast customers. With this widespread and burgeoning growth, it was evident to Council leaders that San Francisco could no longer claim to be both the Bay region’s corporate head and its industrial heart. Frank Marsh even suggested that given a choice, he would establish Bay Area Council headquarters “in the middle of the Bay on Treasure Island.”

Under Marsh, the Bay Area Council was becoming a newsmaker, with the peripatetic CEO popping up all over the region to give his talk, “Bay Area Unlimited,” a call for regional cooperation and labor/management comity.

As the fateful forties drew to their close, the Council issued a series of “meaty” reports on post-war issues including the reuse of Federal property in the region, an analysis of port and trade issues, and an early call for the creation of a regional transportation authority. The Council under Marsh also produced a series of artful brochures plugging regional life and commerce. Underlying all of these projects was the strategic goal of strengthening the shared cultural, economic, and social experiences of the region’s citizens.

According to its charter, the Council’s primary mission was to coordinate regional economic development. As the forties progressed, however, the organization found itself increasingly drawn into issues related to the unhealthy fallout from badly planned or too-rapid growth. Earlier than most peer organizations, the Council recognized that rapid industrialization could bring with it challenges, including housing shortages, traffic gridlock, and air and water pollution. By the late ’40s, the Council was acting as one of the very first regional environmental watchdogs. It issued, for example, a warning about the reuse of substandard “temporary” wartime housing around the Richmond and Vallejo shipyards. These developments, the Council report warned, could – and in fact did – create low opportunity enclaves.

Nascent slums were a byproduct of what was shaping up as a full-tilt, post-war regional boom. Another was the rapid increase in auto use in the Bay Area in the late ’40s, bringing with it Los Angeles-scale traffic congestion. The Bay Area Council played a leading – and ultimately successful – role in the push for new Bay spans, including the Dumbarton and Richmond/San Rafael bridges.

In a highly prescient study, the Council proposed building an electric rail tunnel on the Bay floor between San Francisco and Oakland. In lieu of a new “Southern Span” Bay Bridge, this would enable the removal of trains from the existing Bay Bridge’s lower deck, which could then be dedicated to auto traffic. This early transit report was the precursor to the Bay Area Rapid Transit Study of the early ‘50s, a subject that would become an important Council focus.


A man-made disaster in Pennsylvania steel country was an ironic stage-setter for the Bay Area Council’s early ‘50s civic agenda. A killer-smog, enveloping the town of Donora, sickened thousands and spurred a regional environmental movement in which the Bay Area Council played a foundational role. The national uproar over Denora convinced San Francisco Mayor Elmer Robinson to inaugurate a local anti-smog campaign. Recognizing that polluted air paid little attention to political boundaries, the mayor asked the Council to convene a meeting of regional leaders. The Council responded by forming the Bay Area Air Pollution Committee, the precursor of today’s powerful Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Scrutinizing air quality led inevitably to pioneering Council water and land use campaigns. In 1955, the Council issued a report warning that a decade’s worth of haphazard development had already destroyed nearly 50,000 acres of productive regional farmland with worse to come. In 1957, the Council followed up with a public airing over the issue of Bay land reclamation. In this, the era of tail fins and virtually unregulated growth, filling in the Bay was generally seen as a way to increase real estate volume in a land-starved region. It was only one aspect of regional thinking that would be turned on its head over the next five decades.

The Bay Area Council helped raise the regional consciousness about land use by conducting a 1957 conference called “Industry and Your Community.” At the event, according to the Oakland Tribune, speakers warned “California’s economy will rise or fall ... on the quality of the planning utilized to settle the increasing claims for land of urban, suburban, agricultural and industrial interests.”

Transportation was another issue in the ‘fifties upon which hung the regional quality of life, a factor long recognized as central to the Bay Area’s prosperity. In 1951, with regional traffic arteries hardening by the day, the Bay Area Council financed a study, wrote legislation, and then mustered its membership to lobby Sacramento for the creation of a Bay Area Rapid Transit Commission. Throughout the ‘fifties, the Council continued to take the lead in trying to find a fair and balanced route and timetable for the regional mass transit system that rapidly became part of the regional lexicon under the personable acronym “BART.”

Rail was not the only mode of transit explored by the Council. One of the most spectacular of these experiments was a 1957 appearance by Serge Sikorsky, flying one of his father, Igor’s, new S-58B passenger helicopters. The visit, to drum up support for a network of commuter heliports included a media-pleasing day of whirly-bird hopscotching across the region. The following year, an even more significant technology presented itself at the doorstep of the Bay Area Council. In 1958, IBM took over space in San Francisco’s Ferry Building-based World Trade Center, administered since 1956 by the Bay Area Council. The Council helped promote IBM’s plan to open a service bureau where it would offer data processing utilizing what promotional material quaintly referred to as “electronic brain units.”

The boldest Bay Area Council initiative of the 1950s presaged the hard slog for regional governance that would occupy the organization in the coming decades. At issue was Council-sponsored legislation to create a “Golden Gate Authority,” a single body to consolidate control and development of the Bay Area’s airports, seaports, and bridges. The plan was to create an organization along the lines of the New York Port Authority. In an interview, Council Chairman, Edgar F. Kaiser explained the rationale. “The point is that each Bay Area port is today working for its own particular interest. In doing so they are breaking the progress of the whole.”

In December 1958, the San Francisco Chronicle breathlessly reported on the “dramatic move by influential Bay Area leaders to end the economic Balkanization of the region.” In a speech before what one reporter characterized as “a Who's Who of Bay Area business, industry and labor,” Council Chairman Kaiser unveiled the Golden Gate Authority plan. In his speech, Kaiser announced, “With this plan, the Bay Area can sweep away its cobwebs and boldly move towards the prosperity and well-being of the entire State.”


In April 1960, the Council celebrated its fifteenth anniversary at a dinner at the Saint Francis Hotel. Edgar Kaiser presided over a sober appraisal of the Council’s present status and future direction. Kaiser was not bashful in singling out the previous year’s Golden Gate Authority fight as a setback for regionalism. “We discovered how difficult decisions are when they must be made both on sectional levels and on Bay Area levels,” he told members. Kaiser’s native optimism returned as he outlined the role he felt the organization must play. Golden Gate Authority or not, Kaiser concluded, “there is a far greater need today for the fulfillment of the Council’s purpose, than when it was founded.”

In the early ‘60s, the fresh Kennedy breeze was airing out the nation. At the Bay Area Council, change was similarly in the wind. After a decade-and-a-half at the helm, Executive Director Frank Marsh announced his resignation. Similarly, in 1961, Edgar Kaiser, who had served an unprecedented three terms as Council Chairman, turned the gavel over to Stephen D. Bechtel, CEO of the international construction firm bearing his name.

The Golden Gate Authority fight taught an important lesson. The Council, under Bechtel and Marsh’s successors, Colonel John S. Harnett, and Stanley McCaffery, would spend the sixties taking a more “bite-sized” approach, which aimed nonetheless at creating a regional authority. The new strategy was to support the empowerment of “special purpose” bodies. These would address specific regional issues without setting off the warning bells of Bay Area regionalism’s parochial opponents. When the time was right, these bodies could then be combined into that full-blown regional authority.

As a part of this retooled “Trojan Horse” stratagem, in 1961, the Council supported the creation of the Association of Bay Area Governments, a research and planning organization of the region’s nine counties and 101 cities. In 1963, the Council successfully fought for legislation to create the Bay Area Transportation Study Commission (BATSC). In 1965, this Commission undertook a $5 million study, the most extensive – and expensive – of its kind, that produced the region’s first omnibus surface transportation plan. A later University of California report credited the Bay Area Council “with convincing a hesitant legislature to establish BATSC in the face of fierce opposition by local interests.”

That same year, the Council sponsored legislation creating the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) and in 1970, promoted legislation to create the Metropolitan Transportation Committee (MTC). Throughout the sixties and into the seventies, Steve Bechtel continued to be a driving force at the Council moving BART from sketch to integral regional rail service. Throughout the upcoming decades, the Council would continue to be a central mover in the expansion and extension of BART to SFO and beyond.

Real, effective regionalism was a constant in the collective thoughts of the Bay Area Council; in 1962, for example, the organization held its first “Bay Area Outlook Conference” which through the sixties became an anticipated annual event. In the late sixties, the Council strengthened its regional environmental presence by establishing the Bay Area Environmental Award. The goal of the award was to “recognize significant contributions to the preservation or enhancement of the Bay Area environment.”

This commitment to a healthier environment is a theme that still resonates. Under the leadership of Board members like the Gap’s Donald Fisher, the Council has worked to inculcate a strong corporate commitment to a sustainable environment and economy. “We have saved a lot of trees through more efficient heating, lighting, and other environmental programs,” says Fisher about his own corporate environmental programs. “We thought it was a good idea to disseminate our best practices through the Bay Area Council’s broad reach of regional companies.”

1970s and 1980s[edit]

1970 marked the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Bay Area Council. If comprehensive regional governance was not fully realized, there were important wins the organization could point to as the new decade began. The MTC was “open for business;” in September 1972, BART began service on a 26-mile stretch between Oakland and Fremont; air and water quality were being managed at a regional level; the recommendations of the Bay Area Transportation Study Commission had been implemented.

By the early ‘70s, the Council was executing its new mission statement, “Building a Better Bay Area,” and under the taut leadership of new President, Angelo Siracusa, the organization was zeroing in on two big political concerns, regional planning and the growing housing shortage. Throughout the ‘70s, under the chairmanships of the Bank of America’s, A.W. “Tom” Clausen, Kaiser Industries’, Eugene Trefethen, Jr., and Arjay Miller, Dean of the Stanford Business School, the Council would play a crucial role in the day-to-day workings of the region. The organization was counted on to develop and pass legislation, lobby state and local officials, and act as a key member of important regional agencies. As vice chairman of both the BCDC and MTC, Council President Siracusa remained a powerful and consistent vote and voice for a Bay Area Authority “with teeth,” and ultimately tagged by the nickname, “the Godfather of Regionalism.”

By 1973, the Council was beginning a new effort to move its regional agenda forward in Sacramento. The strategy was to pass legislation to begin to combine the single-purpose agencies that were, thanks in large measure to the Council, already setting and enforcing air and water quality standards, deciding transportation policy, and enforcing aspects of land use. The “big idea,” Siracusa believed, was “to integrate areas such as transportation and land use, the interrelated functions of which made coordination a far more efficient solution.”

If success is marked by the company kept, then by the mid-seventies, the achievements of the Bay Area Council were self-evident. In 1974, for example, the keynote speaker at the Annual Dinner was Governor Ronald Reagan. Reagan spent an ironic evening delivering what had become known as “The Speech” warning about “a large bureaucracy not elected by the voters.” The previous year, then-Council Chairman, Tom Clausen, had approached the Governor to listen to a pitch for Bay Area regionalism. It was clear to Angelo Siracusa, who attended the meeting in Sacramento, that “regional planning was not on the Governor’s radar screen.” At the ’74 Bay Area Council Dinner, although Reagan received wild applause, the membership reaffirmed support for John Knox’s Assembly Bill 2040, designed to consolidate the Bay Area’s governmental agencies into a single, powerful – and what Reagan would surely have accused of being, a bureaucratic – entity.

If possible, the 1975 Annual Dinner was even more eventful, with no less a keynote speaker than President Gerald R. Ford. Introduced by Council Chairman, Eugene E. Trefethen and San Francisco’s charismatic Mayor, Joe Alioto, the President gave an encomium. “You are a consistent, constructive force,” Ford said about the Council, “acting not as self-interested individuals, but as a community seeking the improvement and progress of a region that is a great source of America’s pride...”

Throughout the seventies and on to today, the Bay Area Council has been able to attract the nation’s most accomplished: Alan Greenspan, Bill Gates, George Shultz, Larry Ellison, Henry Kissinger, Craig Barrett, David Rockefeller, Lee Iacocca, Helmut Schmidt, Ross Perot, Sandra Day O’Conner, Milton Friedman, Carly Fiorina, Dick Cheney, Terry Semel, and many other leaders have addressed the Council and taken part in its programs.

During these decades, the Bay Area Council backed its advocacy work with well-grounded, highly respected research and studies. These included the 1979 release of the first “Bay Area Economic Profile” created in tandem with the Association of Bay Area Governments. In 1981, the Bay Area Council released the first edition of what would become another signature product: “The Bay Area Poll.” Conducted in association with the Field Research mind” and bottom line issues of regional interest. The Poll gave the Council a consistent gauge for the relevancy of its work in terms of the concerns of Bay Area businesses and residents.

Beginning in the mid-seventies, the epochal surge in regional technology development that came to be known as “Silicon Valley” was both intellectually and physically altering the face of the Bay Area. Plowed under were thousands of acres of orchards to make way for “technology parks” where a new kind of industrial development could incubate. Recognizing that the locus of regional economic gravity was shifting southwards, the Bay Area Council accommodated itself to several different roles. It was one of the midwives to the birth of the Santa Clara County Manufacturers Group (now the Silicon Valley Leadership Group) in 1977, as well as a leader in the effort to bring BART into the South Bay. Throughout the seventies and eighties, the Council lobbied and legislated for important South Bay land use programs including building high-density housing along South Bay commercial corridors and helping form the San Jose Housing Coalition. By 1989, the amazing reconfiguration of the region was confirmed when San Jose overtook San Francisco as the Bay Area’s largest city. At the Bay Area Council, the growing clout of technology in the region was affirmed by the elections, in 1987-88 and 1995 respectively of Valley technologists, Gilbert Amelio and Paul Cook as Council Chairmen.

As the ‘eighties progressed, the shortage of housing, and the consequent inability of business to attract quality employees, was an increasingly crucial issue both in the Bay Area and for the Council. The reasons were evident in a July 1981 front-pageWall Street Journal story which used the term “Land War” to describe the bitter opposition to new development among upscale cities in Contra Costa and other suburban Bay Area counties. The Bay Area Council took the lead in tracking the growing shortage of available housing and in late 1980, published a report “Housing, the Bay Area Challenge of the ‘80s”, which laid out the causes of the crisis, placing the majority of blame at the doorstep of local government and its resistance to residential development.

In 1981, the Council under Angelo Siracusa reported that there was a 300,000 unit regional housing shortage, with housing starts falling behind need by over 5,000 units per year. Siracusa was an early opponent of the Bay Area-invented syndrome known as “Not In My Back Yard.” He criticized “NIMBY” opposition to dense, infill housing as “blind and selfish,” and attempted to counter it by forming the Bay Area Council’s Housing Action Task Force (HATF). The HATF focused on what became a decade-long effort to increase the density of housing construction, bring more land into residential development, stimulate the creation of rental units, and streamline the torturous process of local land use decision-making. Around this time, the Council also helped create Bridge Housing Corporation. Under its founder, Don Turner, and with the zealous encouragement of Council Chairman, Chevron CEO, George Keller, Bridge Housing became among the nation’s largest and most successful affordable housing-related non-profits.

1990s and Beyond[edit]

As the Bay Area entered the ‘90s, it found itself in the midst of what was little less than a social and economic golden age. In no small part, this unprecedented renaissance was in motion because for five decades, the Bay Area Council, as one of its critics had written, “had made the decisions no one else thought of making.” Neither 1989’s Loma Prieta earthquake, nor the 1992 Oakland firestorm could slow what was shaping up to be an historic decade of innovation and growth. Indeed, it could be argued that by the ‘90s, the Bay Area Council had achieved its historic goal: smoothing the political carpet for what was a half-century of post-War economic expansion. With a Bay Area population that had more than tripled since the War, a world-renowned economic engine, and the fourth largest consumer and media market in the nation, the Bay Area had achieved much of what the founders of the Bay Area Council had envisioned.

The rising tide of Bay Area prosperity had not necessarily raised all economic and social boats, however. As it moved towards its 50th anniversary in 1995, the Bay Area Council was still identifying and finding solutions to the inevitable “collateral damage” of economic prosperity: housing shortages; transportation inadequacies; as well as the continued existence of regional pockets of poverty and the concomitant lack of opportunity. By addressing these key challenges, the Council would continue to play a central role throughout the ‘nineties in helping maintain the underpinnings of the unprecedented economic strength of the region and the success of its corporate clients. In 1990, the Council helped found Bay Vision 2020, to produce an urban master plan that ultimately proposed both bottom-up and top-down approaches to Bay Area regional growth management. Ultimately, the Bay Vision 2020 Plan called for the use of devices like “land zone classification” and “greenbelt lines” to limit urban sprawl and protect agricultural and other undeveloped lands. There was another, less materialistic but highly important result of the Council’s work: to help leading Bay Area companies be the enlightened corporate citizens envisioned by public-spirited member-executives like T. Gary Rogers, CEO of Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream. Rogers, who had joined the Council in 1985, believed like many of his fellow CEOs, that “when you have a business located in a community, you also have a responsibility to be attuned to the major issues in that community.” Rogers felt strongly that the Council helped him both understand and address many of these important community issues as well as work with fellow, similarly concerned, regional corporate leaders who were also Bay Area Council members. In 1995, to recognize inspirational Bay Area Business leadership, the Council, under Chairman, Richard Rosenberg created the Bay Area Business Hall of Fame. In its inaugural year, the Hall of Fame inducted such regional legends of business philanthropy as the Bechtel, Kaiser, and Haas families, Bank of Americas’ Tom Clausen, H-P’s William Hewlett and David Packard, winemaker Robert Mondavi, Intel founder, Gordon Moore and venture capitalist, Arthur Rock. As of today, the Bay Area Business Hall of Fame has inducted over thirty of the region’s leading businessmen, women and families.

After a quarter-century herding these regional corporate top-cats, President Angelo Siracusa retired from the Bay Area Council in 1996. His successor was Sunne Wright McPeak, the ex-Contra Costa County Supervisor who had traded a rocketing political career to work in the private sector. By the mid¬90s, McPeak was heading the Council-sponsored Bay Area Economic Forum.

When called to lead the Council, McPeak was able to bring along a Forum-developed “economic blueprint” for long-term Bay Area prosperity rooted, she said, “in a very disciplined understanding of regional economics.” That master plan had been developed alongside leading consultants and Council leaders such as Lenny Mendonca of McKinsey & Company. McPeak utilized it along with other studies to integrate existing Council work into the critical new contexts of “smart growth” and “sustainable development.” The idea, according to McPeak, was to “take the ‘segregated’ work the Council did in areas such as housing, transportation, infrastructure and the environment, and integrate it much more fully.”

It was this kind of integrated thinking that led the Council in 1997 to capitalize on public discomfiture at traffic gridlock and unhappiness with a recent BART strike. The result was to transform the consequent political angst into a program to radically increase fast ferry service around the Bay. The rationale, Council Vice President Russell Hancock suggested in a San Jose Mercury News interview, was that, “Somehow the Bay has to stop being a chasm and become a corridor and mode of transportation.”

McPeak persuaded the mayors of the Bay Area’s three largest cities, as well as a number of regional legislators, to attend the 1998 kick-off announcement in support of the new Water Transit Authority. In an example of regional comity, the three mayors also agreed to serve as vice-chairs of what proved to be a successful Council-led legislative effort to develop a robust, region-wide water transportation network, a system that is now in the works.

Under McPeak’s leadership, the Bay Area Council redoubled and intensified regional civic leadership to address transportation and housing challenges, launching the Regional Transportation Initiative. Co-chaired by Alex Mehran, Peter Magowan, John Trefethen, Rick Kniss, Keith Kennedy, and Frank Herringer, the Initiative team developed a 21st-century mobility plan for the Bay Area. McPeak also co-chaired, with the California Chamber of Commerce, a statewide Job-Center Housing Coalition that made significant progress in advancing legislative reforms for housing. The Bay Area Council also negotiated with the region’s cities and counties, the Compact for a Sustainable Bay Area to guide the Bay Area in a smarter way to grow. In the end the Council secured approval of all nine counties and 67 of 101 Bay Area cities. This work established as core Bay Area Council principle, the need to integrate and pursue “3Es” of smart growth: Prosperous Economy, Quality Environment, and Social Equity.

In 2000 and 2001, energy issues surged like an electric storm through the regional economy. By summer 2001, the California power crisis was dominating the headlines and the Bay Area Council was warning that unless solved, energy shortages could cost the region “billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.” The Council responded with a successful statewide effort to get the business community to lead a conservation effort, eventually dialing down power usage 20 percent during energy alerts.

With the high tech industry sinking into near coma in late 2001, the 21st annual Bay Area Poll showed, not surprisingly, that economic growth once again topped the list as the Bay Area issue of primary concern. Unemployment and poverty were on the rise in the region. This ran counter to one of Sunne McPeak’s bottom line beliefs about the “3-E’s” of smart growth that, bursting tech bubble aside, it was no longer acceptable to leave regional communities behind in terms of their access to education, business investment, or environmentally sound redevelopment. Under McPeak’s leadership, the Bay Area Council strove to bring legislators and other State officials onto the sustainable development bandwagon.

By mid-2002, McPeak and the Council were working to animate one of the nation’s most challenging and innovative programs to propagate smart growth and assist communities with persistent poverty: the Bay Family of Funds. These three separate pools of investment capital – together, the Bay Area Smart Growth Fund, the California Environmental Redevelopment Fund, and the Community Equity Fund – were designed to attract private investment into low and moderate income communities to respectively promote smart growth, clean up contaminated sites, address poverty and support local businesses.

The Funds were developed to deliver what McPeak referred to as a “double bottom-line.” This meant not only enabling real measurable social and economic benefit to "at risk" communities, but also paying real market rates or return for investors. By 2005, with participation by leading Bay Area Council members, including the PMI Group, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, CalFed, Greater Bay Bancorp, and others, the Bay Area Family of Funds was on its way to full subscription, raising $175 million and investing $114 million of that in at-risk communities around the region.

In late 2003, newly elected Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, in the throes of creating a new roadmap for California government, also changed the course of the Bay Area Council, by choosing Sunne McPeak as the new State Secretary of Business, Transportation and Housing. It was thus that on April 15, 2004, the Bay Area Council, about to enter its sixth decade, named Jim Wunderman its sixth chief executive officer. A respected former aide to Mayor and Senator Dianne Feinstein as well as chief-of-staff to San Francisco Mayor, Frank Jordan, Wunderman was well known for his ability to create consensus among diverse Bay Area and statewide constituencies, as well as design programs that transformed debate into political action. As Senator Feinstein said at the time of his hire, “I have known Jim for more than 20 years and have great respect for him. He has a reputation as a person who gets things done, someone to turn to for the really difficult jobs.”

One of Wunderman’s first acts was to begin shoring up the Bay Area’s threatened influence in Sacramento. Wunderman revved up the Council’s powerful political engine to muster support that helped preserve a 30-year string of Bay Area leadership in the state legislature. The first result was to elect Oakland’s Don Perata as the President pro tempore of the State Senate. To further restore the Bay Area’s clout in Sacramento, the Council returned to its roots, organizing monthly meetings of leading Bay Area business associations that enabled them to collectively weigh-in, in a more focused way, on specific issues and legislation. To further strengthen these shared regional bonds, Wunderman also organized monthly meetings between key Bay Area legislators and select groups of Council members.

Wunderman also kicked off a series of major legislative efforts. His goal was to leverage the region’s increased prominence on the global stage – due in part to the dot com boom – to secure some long-sought-after Council goals: more funding for transportation, better control of the region’s future housing development, a more unified effort to secure new industries, and more regional governance. “The Council has a proud history of achievement, and may now be in its most potent position ever,” Wunderman explained. “We have recognized the most critical problems, have well-researched plans to fix them, and powerful coalitions ready to drive those solutions through. This will enable us to make the Bay Area a world-wide example how to use innovation to do the right things the right way.”

In the critical area of transportation, the Council under Wunderman, strove to secure new funding for transit and roads so cash-starved that the California Transportation Commission warned the system was “in crisis and on the verge collapse.” The Council got moving, co-chairing a three-county electoral campaign to raise almost $1 billion for BART’s seismic safety improvements. The Council also drove support for five countywide transportation sales tax measures, four of which passed by the necessary two-thirds margin. This win guaranteed $5 billion for future projects.

In spring 2005, the Bay Area Council led a successful campaign to convince Sacramento to return gas tax revenues dedicated by 2001’s Proposition 42 to transportation, but instead diverted to the general fund. In a strongly worded editorial in the San Jose Mercury News, Wunderman warned that if the legislature didn’t act, the Council would lead a drive to cancel the tax altogether. This show of force, coupled with other campaign elements, did the trick, helping free up $1.3 billion of Prop 42 money statewide. Of this, $260 million was reallocated to the Bay Area. The Council also executed a successful campaign driving BART to erase its 4-year, $100 million deficit without cutting service or raising rider fares. This sensible fiscal reorganization put BART in a financial position to seriously plan for the South Bay/San Jose expansion advocated by the Council since the ‘50s.

In July of 2005, the Bay Area Council’s efforts to reassert control over the region’s housing future began to bear fruit. Thanks in part to the advocacy of members who sent in a storm of faxes and e-mails to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, commissioners unanimously agreed to put millions of transportation dollars behind the concept of “transit villages” in the Bay Area. The Council pushed for housing near transit as the most cost-effective and ridership-generating way to accommodate impending Bay Area population growth without increasing sprawl, pollution and highway congestion. Also in 2005, Wunderman and the Bay Area Council played a critical role in gaining regional support for the Bay Area’s bid to “home-port” the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Because biotechnology had become one of the region’s key growth industries, the choice would help crown the Bay Area as the world leader in stem-cell and related research. In a region still reeling from the dot-com collapse, the positive psychological boost of winning the statewide contest for the headquarters was not lost on Wunderman. As the choice came down to the wire, the Council began a campaign to enlist its powerful network of regional allies and supporters for the San Francisco site. The avalanche of support from a wide range of business associations as well as from more than 60 supervisors, mayors, and council members from all nine Bay Area counties, proved decisive in the final choice.

Today, as the Bay Area Council celebrates its sixtieth anniversary, a glance backwards frames a graph of growth and accomplishment that, with a few exceptions, rises continuously upwards. In the middle of the first decade of the 21st Century, the Bay Area is renowned as one of the world centers of innovation with an economy that is second only to New York as the headquarters of Fortune 500 companies. The region excels in an astonishingly wide range of fields including science, medicine, education, art, technology, wine, food, and others, and the “Made in the Bay Area” label is proudly worn and widely welcomed.

In this and in a spectrum of its regional achievements, the Bay Area Council can take justifiable pride in the central role it has played. Which is not to say that everything in the region, circa 2005, is coming up roses. Problems that dogged the Bay Area in its post-war transition six decades ago, in areas like transportation, housing, the environment, and social inequality, still top the list of concerns. Despite, or perhaps because of, the major contributions the Bay Area Council has made to the development of the region, its sponsors, executives, and supporters emphasize repeatedly that there is more that the Council needs to accomplish.

In emphasizing the Council’s activist role, CEO Jim Wunderman is completing an elegant sixty-year circle that represents how one of the Bay Area Council’s oldest ideals has become its newest. Under Wunderman, the Council is launching a campaign to strengthen and unify the region’s planning and operating authorities, an achievement that has, after all is said and done, been the 60-year holy grail of Bay Area regionalism and thus, naturally, of the Bay Area Council.

Policy Priorities[edit]

Each year, the Bay Area Council selects a core set of issues to focus on. For the year of 2016, the focus items deal with the California drought crisis; workforce housing, which is in short supply and increasingly unaffordable; the workforce of the future, specifically growing the supply of middle skilled workers to keep up with growing demand; and commute improvement, easing the congestion on the roads and making it easier for workers to get to their places of work. Along with these key issues, the Bay Area Council engages with gender equity, education, healthcare, and other important concerns. For a complete and up-to-date list of policy priorties, visit the Bay Area Council website at

The Economic Institute[edit]

Since 1990, the Bay Area Council Economic Institute has been the leading think tank focused on the economic and policy issues facing the San Francisco/Silicon Valley Bay Area, one of the most dynamic regions in the United States and the world’s leading center for technology and innovation. A valued forum for stakeholder engagement and a respected source of information and fact-based analysis, the Institute is a trusted partner and adviser to both business leaders and government officials. Through its economic and policy research and its many partnerships, the Institute addresses major factors impacting the competitiveness, economic development and quality of life of the region and the state, including infrastructure, globalization, science and technology, and health policy. It is guided by a Board of Trustees drawn from influential leaders in the corporate, academic, non-profit, and government sectors. The Institute is housed at and supported by the Bay Area Council, a public policy organization that includes hundreds of the region’s largest employers and is committed to keeping the Bay Area the world’s most competitive economy and best place to live. The Institute also supports and manages the Bay Area Science and Innovation Consortium (BASIC), a partnership of Northern California’s leading scientific research laboratories and thinkers.

Projects and Reports[edit]

Below are just a few of the most recent projects and reports produced by the Economic Institute. For a complete list of projects and reports, please visit the Economic Institute's website at

A Roadmap for Economic Resilience[4][edit]

"In order to ensure the Bay Area’s economic vitality and resilience despite increasing boom and bust cycles, public and private sector leaders must come together around pragmatic solutions to persistent issues and barriers to success. The purpose of the Regional Economic Strategy Roadmap is to offer concrete actions for growing regional prosperity and a flexible framework for developing actions going forward. Its proposals are evergreen agents of economic resilience, strategies wise in both expansion and downturn, necessary to accelerate the former and dampen the latter. It is a recipe for a robust and enduring regional economy."

21st Century Infrastructure[5][edit]

"As California moves deeper into the 21st century, new technologies have changed the way that people interact with infrastructure—especially in the fields of communications and energy. The infrastructure of the future requires the development of connectivity across a resilient, flexible, and diverse electricity grid, which will need to support a clean energy future while also powering a growing number of advanced communication demands. To capture the full economic benefits of 21st century infrastructure investments, the state will need forward-looking planning and a regulatory structure that can adapt to rapidly changing technologies and consumer demands."

Surviving the Storm[6][edit]

"While the Bay Area is not exposed to hurricanes, it is vulnerable to prolonged periods of heavy rainfall, elevated tides and gale force winds known as “atmospheric rivers”. These “rivers,” so nicknamed for the long, ribbon-like bands of moisture that stretch across the Pacific Ocean, can be enormous. This report outlines the potential economic consequences of a hypothetical atmospheric river that contains the moisture equivalent of 10 Mississippi Rivers. In this storm event, daily life slows to a crawl as the region is pummeled by 12 inches of rain over seven days, causing widespread flooding and disruption to road and air travel."

Public-Private Partnerships[7][edit]

"At a time when public finances are severely constrained but demand for improved infrastructure is growing, public-private partnerships (P3) offer an attractive alternative for financing and operating California infrastructure. While P3 methods won’t be appropriate for all projects, and clear rules and supervision are necessary, they have been extensively and successfully used by a variety of other jurisdictions in the U.S. and around the world. Several Economic Institute studies assess the potential for P3 projects in California and the conditions under which the state is likely to attract investors."

In the Fast Lane[8][edit]

"Alameda County has proposed a 2014 Transportation Expenditure Plan (TEP) that addresses the county’s desire to expand transit services, keep fares affordable, provide traffic relief, improve air quality, and create jobs. This document lays out the fundamentals of public transportation spending, illustrates signals of the future of transportation systems, and highlights the role of transportation infrastructure in an advanced economy in enhancing quality of life and securing global competitiveness. This report also provides an overview of the proposed TEP and how it addresses the region’s current and future needs."

Reforming California Public Higher Education for the 21st Century[9][edit]

"The Master Plan for Higher Education in California, produced in 1960, provided a forward-looking strategy for handling the challenges then facing the state. Today, California is at another critical juncture with respect to higher education, particularly in terms of workforce skills and the state's budget. The Master Plan was a visionary document for its time, but must be updated to reflect the changed economic, demographic and financial environment of the current century. California’s economic future will depend on the outcome."

Tri-Valley Rising[10][edit]

"Situated on the east side of the Bay Area, the Tri-Valley is an integral component of the Bay Area economy. With its robust research and development infrastructure and growing entrepreneurial environment, the Tri-Valley region has become a vital node in the Bay Area innovation system. But physical constraints that impede the movement of people and goods pose a threat to the Tri-Valley’s ability to maximize its economic contribution to the larger region. Improving transportation systems between the Tri-Valley and the broader region will support growing economic activity and strengthen the Bay Area's competitiveness."

Europe and the Bay Area[11][edit]

"Europe’s economic ties to the Bay Area run extraordinarily deep. Current ties date back to California’s Gold Rush and the founding of San Francisco through the present day development of the region as a global epicenter of technology and innovation. The Bay Area’s European ties have evolved throughout this period, and despite the attention that Asia naturally receives as a dynamic and growing region, Europe continues to be an essential partner. Trade is strong, and despite the recent global recession and Europe’s slow recovery, it is also growing."

The Bay Area Innovation System[12][edit]

"The Bay Area has been the world’s leading innovation center for the past 60 years. Its impact on the economy and how it operates, from enterprise productivity to health and communications, has been immense. The region’s ability to play a role in the creation of entirely new business paradigms and spaces of social activity—including personal computers and smart phones, semiconductors, cleantech, biotechnology and personalized medicine, relational databases, magnetic storage and most recently cloud computing—is unrivaled, producing world-leading companies and jobs in the Bay Area, nationally and around the world on a large scale. It has also impacted the lives of hundreds of millions of people who use and benefit from the technology and services it generates."

Ties that Bind[13][edit]

"China and the San Francisco Bay region enjoy a 160-year relationship dating back to the first arrival of immigrants during the Gold Rush. New arrivals came in the tens of thousands, built railroads, panned for gold, fished the Bay, worked as servants, started businesses and built thriving communities in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento and the Delta."

The Affordable Care Act[14][edit]

"As with any piece of federal lawmaking, the ACA was the product of political compromise among parties and interests. Hence, it is not the dramatic change its supporters had hoped for, and it goes much further than its detractors would prefer. The focus of this analysis, though, is not on the policies embedded in the ACA, but rather on their cumulative economic impact."

Bay Area Water Resources[15][edit]

"A functioning regional economy requires a secure water supply. The Bay Area Water Resources project analyzes the San Francisco Public Utility Commission's Hetch Hetchy water system, water use by major sectors of the regional economy, and the regional economic implications of a potential system failure due to earthquake or another catastrophic event."

Bay Area Business Hall of Fame Awards[edit]

The Bay Area Business Hall of Fame recognizes the extraordinary achievements of individuals and families who have advanced Bay Area businesses to positions of national and international prominence, and who have enriched the civic life of the Bay Area community. It was established in 1995 to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Bay Area Council.

Criteria for Selection[edit]

  • Led a Bay Area-based business to a position of national/international prominence
  • Pioneered an industry or business innovation that has had a significant impact on the regional economy
  • Enriched the civic leadership of the Bay Area and improved the overall quality of life and well being of the region
  • Exemplifies excellence in business leadership and corporate citizenship
  • Respected and admired by industry peers

Bay Area Business Hall of Fame Inductees[edit]

Those inducted are as follows:



















  • Walter Shorenstein, Founder, Shorenstein Co. L.P.
  • L.W. “Bill” Lane, Jr., & Melvin B. Lane, Publishers, Sunset Magazine & Books



Past Chairs of the Board[edit]


The Bay Area Council has a broad membership base of many influential firms interested in the advancement and sustainability of the Bay Area. Member companies include brand names like Facebook, Apple, and Bank of America. For a complete list, visit the Bay Area Council website at


External links[edit]