Turning Away Jobs in the Bay Area

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Bay Area Housing The Registry real estate

The grant money is to come from billions of dollars raised via a cap-and-trade auction system. State law caps emissions of heat-trapping fossil-fuel pollution from power plants, factories and oil refineries, with a goal of reducing them to 1990 levels by 2020. It requires industries to purchase permits to pollute, which can be bought and sold in a carbon market.

Regionally, the number of new jobs is projected to rise by a third, bringing the total to more than 4.5 million. Alameda, Contra Costa and Solano counties outpace the pack at 36 percent projected employment growth from 2010 to 2040. Marin lags badly.

Familiar demographics and economics drive the plan’s conception: vibrant growth in the tech sector; the graying of the baby boomer generation—those born from 1946 to 1964; and the coming of age of Generation Y, largely the babies of baby boomers.

These so-called Echo Boomers, unlike the generation that came before them, would just as soon not drive. In fact, they’d rather text than drive, according to a recent survey by car-sharing company Zipcar Inc. Four out of five said the high cost of gas, parking and maintenance is a deterrent—a big change from 1985, when people ages 21 to 34 bought nearly 40 percent of cars.

The University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute reported that fewer young people are even bothering to get a driver’s license.

“Young people are moving in increasing numbers to large cities with reasonable public transportation, such as New York and San Francisco,” researcher Michael Sivak told Traffic Injury Prevention, adding that the echo boomers are “on the forefront of concern” for the environment.

“Our employees already are heavy users of public transit and also bike to work in good numbers,” said Twitter Inc. spokeswoman Karen Wickre in an e-mail message.

Americans are making a beeline back to cities, according to the Urban Land Institute’s 2011 report, “What’s Next? Real Estate in the New Economy.”

“Increasingly our people come in from outside San Francisco,” said Marc Cowlin, spokesman for software company Meltwater Group, which opened its world headquarters at 225 Bush St. in June. “Anything that makes living easier and working easier is a good thing.”

Plan Bay Area will proceed regardless of the lawsuit, as has a similar plan with a CEQA challenge in San Diego, said Sam Tepperman-Gelfant, a senior land use attorney for nonprofit law firm Public Advocates Inc., which challenges “systemic causes of poverty and racial discrimination.” He specializes in “equitable development” for the San Francisco nonprofit. The federal transportation dollars will continue to flow, he said.

“This is not the end of suburbia by any means,” said Bena Chang, director of housing and transportation for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a public policy business trade organization representing more than 375 South Bay employers. “But we want to revitalize blighted areas.”

“I think it remains to be seen what impact will be on the ground,” she said. “There is still a lot of control at the local level. We have to ride herd to make sure the implementation happens.” The plan is up for review every four years. As soon as a year from now, “we’ll be ramping up” to prepare, Chang said.

Like all change, this one will take some time to get used to, said Lance Gorée, program manager for the Downtown Berkeley Association of businesses. “A new dynamic will have to be taught and learned,” he said. “I see some encroachment issues—residential is coming into commercial zones. You love residents as a business owner because they become consumers. But they’ll have opinions about how you do your business. Residents will have more say. There will be growing pains, but benefits could be high.” Chains will produce brands that suit mixed-use developments, he said: “Target has already come out with ‘Urban Target.’ They’ll cater more to residents. You’ll see more Pottery Barns.

“And as BART stretches down to San Jose, you’ll see the same thing in Fremont.”

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Photography by Laura Kudritzki

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