Silicon Valley’s economic ‘paradox’ is scrutinized at conference
By George Avalos
Bay Area News Group
The Mercury News
9 February 2018
Photo courtesy of George Avalos
Image: Carol Galante, a UC Berkeley housing expert (L), Steve Heminger, a Metropolitan Transportation Commission official (C) and Russell Hancock, (R) president of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, engage in a panel discussion about the Bay Area housing and transportation problems at the 2018 State of the Valley Conference.
At the 2018 State of the Valley Conference, which took place in San Jose on February 9, 2018, attendees examined the Silicon Valley's job boom, venture financing surge, housing crisis and traffic dilemma.
Quizzically, although job growth and economic gains have been booming for the last eight years, housing and transportation have failed to progress simultaneously.
“The paradox of our prosperity is we are the envy of the nation in our economic growth and job creation,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said during an interview, after speaking at the annual State of the Valley Conference organized by Joint Venture Silicon Valley. “At the same time we have this boom, thousands of families are struggling to survive in a Valley with rapidly rising rents and housing costs. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Carol Galante (MCP ‘78), the I. Donald Terner Distinguished Professor of Affordable Housing and Urban Policy and Director of UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation, is especially concerned about the Silicon Valley’s growing housing crisis.
“We’ve gotten to the point where we have a disaster on our hands,” said Galante. “We are not building enough housing and we are not building the housing in the right places.”
During a panel discussion, Galante urged that residents in any given neighborhood must allow a greater pace and density of housing near where they live.
“We have to make room,” said Steve Heminger, executive director with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. “We have to say yes in my backyard.”
Heminger is also particularly concerned with Bay Area transportation lags. He believes that variable pricing should be implemented on popular roads and bridges during peak hours.
Galante and Heminger suggested that a regional financing pool could be instituted as a way to pay for affordable housing.
The Silicon Valley is currently in a vicious cycle of stagnation. Heminger states that local governments want control; labor leaders demand higher wages, which can raise construction costs; and environmentalists demand strict curbs on where residential and commercial development can occur.
Despite the obstacles, the experts insisted that the housing woes must be tackled even more aggressively than they are now.
“We are at risk, we are at an inflection point, and we ignore the housing problem at our peril,” Galante said during the conference.