As we near the end of 2021, we are celebrating a year of legislative wins for our members and our region. Our policy work on behalf of our members embodies the overarching values and principles of our community, which include accountability, equity, inclusion, and environmental stewardship. We are working hard to reinvest in our community and its livability, to ensure that we continue to attract and retain the world’s best talent. As part of our efforts to foster business competitiveness and create shared value together, we engaged on a significant number of bills during the 2021 Legislative Session in Sacramento. We supported many measures that were ultimately signed by the Governor, and we helped to shape policy discussions around proposed legislation that could have curtailed innovation. Here are a few examples of our work on behalf of our members in 2021.
To help provide the equitable and affordable housing supply that Silicon Valley needs to remain competitive, the Legislature put forward and the Governor signed into law a series of bills that will cut bureaucratic red tape and accelerate housing production. Notable amongst these is SB 7 (Atkins), which provides expedited CEQA review and streamlining for projects like Google’s Downtown West project, the largest single development deal in San Jose history. The project will transform downtown San Jose, with up to 7.3 million square feet of office space and up to 4,000 homes (of which 1,000 will be affordable housing units), as part of a mixed-use development that will also include parks, trails and community, retail and restaurant space. Other housing bills we supported include AB 215, AB 787, AB 1174 (Grayson), SB 8 (Skinner), SB 9 (Atkins), and SB 10 (Weiner).
With over one million California students currently lacking internet connectivity, addressing the #DigitalDivide is critical to equity and inclusion as well as developing and maintaining a competitive workforce. That is why SVLG worked to support and help pass AB 537 (Quirk), which will streamline and modernize the Golden State’s broadband permitting process and SB 378 (Gonzalez), which will allow for more innovative broadband construction procedures to ensure all Californians have access to high-speed internet. This move will strengthen the backbone for new and emerging technologies like autonomous vehicles, smart cities, financial technology, and the Internet of Things, among others.
Protecting the environment for the good of our members and all Bay Area residents is at the core of SVLG’s mission. Well over one million residents and up to $50 billion (in 2000 dollars) in infrastructure in the Bay Area are directly at risk over the next 20 years due to rising waters brought on by a rapidly warming climate. As part of our ongoing efforts with a host of other organizations to protect the San Francisco Bay and help make Silicon Valley more resilient to the impacts of climate change, we were proud to once again work with Senator Atkins to support the passage of SB 1, which provides critical resources to address sea level rise.
Education is at the core of equity, and keeping track of student paths helps keep our education system accountable. California is one of only eight states without a cradle-to-career data system—as a result, stakeholders lack the ability to assess how students fare during key transition points, such as from K-12 to post-secondary. That is why we were so pleased with the passage and signing into law of AB 132, the higher education trailer bill, which establishes the Cradle-to-Career Data System and makes a number of historic investments in higher education in California. Alongside a dedicated group of social justice, educational equity, and workforce development organizations, SVLG has been working on the issue for years. With this investment, students, parents, and policymakers finally will have the kind of information needed to successfully track pathways from cradle to career.
Racial Justice and Equity
In line with SVLG’s focus on racial justice and equity, our team supported SB 2 (Bradford), which bridges accountability standards and processes around law enforcement officer eligibility and how serious claims of officer misconduct are investigated and remedied. Previous to the passage of this legislation, California had been one of only four states that could not revoke a police officer’s certification for violating the public trust. SB2 garnered national attention and helps further position the Silicon Valley business community as a leader on public safety for all.
Supporting the development of electric vehicles (EVs) will ensure cleaner air and more efficient transit for Silicon Valley, California and the nation. California will need to significantly increase its rate of installation to meet its ambitious goal of having 250,000 EV chargers statewide by 2025, but the lengthy permitting and approval process poses one of the largest barriers to doing so. AB 970 (McCarty), which SVLG worked on and supported, helps alleviate the problem by establishing a specific time frame for cities and counties to approve permits. This will reduce waiting times for developers or property owners looking to construct more charging infrastructure, and help speed EVs along.
We’re pleased with what we’ve been able to do for our members in 2021, but there is so much more to come! With 2022 around the corner, SVLG policy teams are gearing up to continue supporting innovation, entrepreneurship, equity, and a more competitive business environment for our region and state.