By Lauren Boyd, Water Resources Associate, Silicon Valley Leadership Group Foundation
Alongside access to skilled labor and entrepreneurial mindset, Silicon Valley Leadership Group member company CEOs consistently recognize climate and the natural environment as a key Silicon Valley strengths, when asked to identify the competitive advantages that keep Silicon Valley at the center of the innovation economy. These strengths are not typically associated with what is key to maintaining companies' bottom lines, but it clearly demonstrates the importance of maintaining the region's natural beauty and quality of life.
At the heart of this natural beauty and quality of life is the San Francisco Bay and its surrounding wetlands. Beyond the natural beauty they provide to the region, healthy wetlands provide communities with natural flood protection benefits by absorbing and diminishing the effects of floodwaters, and naturally adjusting to sea level rise over time. These natural benefits will be important as climate change causes sea level rise and extreme weather events, and thus increases the risk of flooding and damage to infrastructure in the Bay Area. These are damages in excess of the Bay Area's reported risk of up to $10.4 billion in infrastructure damage during the next major storm, including risk to airports, hospitals, water treatment plants and to more than 80 Leadership Group member companies.
The nearly 200,000 acres of wetlands that once lined the SF Bay have been lost to over a century of agricultural production and development, but scientists, public officials and communities are now realizing the many benefits that wetlands provide communities. Measure AA, the Clean and Healthy Bay Measure, is a $12 per year ($1/month) parcel tax that will raise $500 million over 20 years to fund the 35,000 acres of wetlands awaiting restoration around the Bay, and is sponsored by a wide-range of business, community and environmental organizations, including the Leadership Group.
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It's no secret that the housing crisis in Silicon Valley is at an all time high. The cost and scarcity of housing continues to be the top concern for business growth and for quality of life for employees and families. The Silicon Valley Leadership Group's 2016 CEO Business Climate Survey underscores the issue:
- 92 percent cited 'housing costs' as the top cost of living challenge in Silicon Valley for workers and families, the highest percentage since 2009.
- 86 percent identified 'housing costs for employees' as the number one business challenge in Silicon Valley, up 14 percent from 2014.
Recognizing the crippling effects related to housing affordability in the region, the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) took an important step forward in April by approving a strong system-wide affordable housing goal of 35 percent in Santa Clara County, a policy for which the Leadership Group advocated. As it is well known that lower-income households use public transit at a much higher rate, VTA's new Affordable Housing Policy will help ensure that the transit dependent in Santa Clara County have better access to transportation.
Silicon Valley is at a prime time to plan for higher density, transit oriented and affordable housing developments that will shape the region's future. Join the Leadership Group in our 2016 Housing Tour on Saturday, May 14, to learn more about transit orientated developments and how to build thriving communities.
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