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Northern California “megaproblems” require megaregional planning

New Bay Area Council report will “open doors,” Pacific economist says
Jun 30, 2016

A new report from the influential Bay Area Council Economic Institute adds an important voice to calls for a megaregional approach to planning in Northern California, according to Jeff Michael, director of the Center for Business and Policy Research at University of the Pacific.

The report, "The Northern California Megaregion: Innovative, Connected, Growing," was released today and includes two years of data collected by Michael and his team of economics researchers.

"The Bay Area Council is a major Bay Area thought leader and influential messenger for the concept of megaregional planning," Michael said. "Having the Bay Area Council embrace this concept will help open some doors to planning efforts and conversations that need to take place on a larger scale."

Northern California is recognized as one of 10 megaregions in the United States. It encompasses the Bay Area, Monterey Bay Area, and the Sacramento and northern San Joaquin valleys.

The 12.2 million residents who call the NorCal megaregion home represent nearly one-third of California's population, with 1.5 million moving into the area since 2000 and another 1.9 million expected by 2030. Moreover, the megaregion's 2014 gross regional product of $875 billion accounted for 5 percent of the nation's GDP and was the highest per capita in the country, according to the report.

Michael said the report underscores the increasingly close and symbiotic ties between northern San Joaquin County and the Bay Area.

"In northern San JoaquinValley, the connections to the Bay Area are stronger and growing faster than they are with the southern San Joaquin Valley," Michael said. "Our planning and policy efforts need to reorient themselves around this economic reality."

The report's specific recommendations include:

  • Make a substantial investment in education outside the Bay Area to spread businesses and workforce talent across a broader geography
  • Create economic development structures that cross county lines.
  • Prioritize improved and expanded service of megaregional rail lines.
  • Streamline housing approval processes across the megaregion, especially those that are served by transit. Institute statewide tax credits to incentivize new business development and job creation in inland areas.

University of the Pacific Provost Maria Pallavicini made welcoming remarks at a Sacramento event today (Thursday, June 30) where the report was unveiled.

"The Northern California megaregion is both an important part of our past and pivotal to our future," Pallavicini said, noting that Pacific plays a key role in the megaregion with its main undergraduate campus in Stockton and newly expanded offerings in Sacramento and San Francisco.

"Our decision to expand our campuses in San Francisco and Sacramento was in recognition of the interrelated nature of the Northern California megaregion and the responsibility and opportunity we have to provide high-quality education to students across three dynamic economic hubs within the megaregion," Pallavicini said.

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