From episode: Jim Wunderman - Bay Area Council - EPISODE 12 hosted by Jared Asch
We've been talking to a lot of elected officials recently in the East Bay, but today we're going to take a different look at what's going on out here. We're joined by Jim Wonderman of the Bay Area Council. Welcome, Jim, and thanks for joining us. Thanks, Jared. Thanks for having me aboard.
What is the Bay Area Council?
The Bay Area Council was formed at the end of World War II by government and business leaders of the time, Governor Earl Warren and mayors of the major cities and the Bechtel's, the Kaiser's, the kind of industrialists who made the Bay Area economically successful during the war. The war was coming to an end and they said, OK, what's next? The Bay Area Council was formed with that "what's next" kind of question.
This blog was written by AI based on a transcript from the Podcast and contains errors.
The first major, major project that I think your audience would be familiar with was the idea of thinking about the Bay Area as a region. Back in 1945, people didn't think about the Bay Area as a region. I don't even think there was a Bay Area. It was these separate cities and there was a lot of farmland and pasture grazing area. The Bay Area Council helped people think about this place as a region and how it could develop as one. One thing we did was we said a region needs a mass transit system. So we created BART. That was a committee of the Bay Area Council that said, let's make a mass transit system. We made BART, legislated it, conceived it, mapped it out, and funded it in a three-county ballot measure at the time. We created the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in the 1950s because we had a lot of pollution in the Bay Area. So the Bay Area Council was always about looking at things from a regional perspective. Regional economy, people traveling about, needing to move about, how does one part of the Bay Area affect the other parts of the Bay Area? Kind of looking at the Bay Area holistically. We created the ferry system which I chair called WETA, Water Emergency Transportation Authority, that serves the East Bay to the West Bay and is now kind of heading south. With the notion that we want to give people a very different kind of choice transit option, but at the same time also see the waterfront as an opportunity for economic and housing development, not just protection. We are we're on a mission to expand that system. We've been very successful at it so far. We plan to do more terminals, more locations, more frequent interconnecting service, and things like that.
Housing being a really big issue in any region, we've pushed through, I don't know how many housing bills we've sponsored, but it's a lot even in this last session, several. Getting at what cities are required to do to meet the housing demand that exists in the region and their cities. Some of the mayors listening to this will say, oh, isn't that great? And others will say, oh, so it's your fault, Wunderman, that they're pushing this stuff on us. Because typically cities have pushed against growth. The people who live there already live there, so they're not demanding to live there again. It's people outside who want to get in and there's not enough supply. There are hundreds of thousands of units behind and supplied. Up until around 1980, we built a lot of housing after World War Two to about 1980 or so. Then we stopped building housing. We made it very laborious, expensive, and difficult. We're paying a price for that because our kids can't afford to live here. We're thinking our kids won't be able to stay. We're going to leave California. They're going to leave the Bay Area. It's just too expensive.
The Bay Area Council looks for complex problems like that, modern day, urban -ish problems. Not that the whole Bay Area is urban by any means. We're not an urbanist group. We have as much respect for the suburban areas and the needs of people who live in the communities along the 680 corridor, for example, as we do folks in San Francisco.