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New Data on MTC Website Identifies Trends Affecting Bay Area Land and People

OAKLAND, CADid you know that the Bay Area outpaced every one of the other Top 10 U.S. metro areas except Houston for job growth from 2010 through 2013? Or that more new housing units were permitted in San Francisco than in any other Bay Area city during these years? These are just some of the facts revealed today as the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) expanded its two-month-old Vital Signs website ( to include a Land and People section with information on the region’s population, jobs, housing growth and greenfield development.

The addition of the Land and People section marks the second phase of MTC’s four-part Vital Signs initiative. Visitors can consult the interactive website to track the Bay Area’s progress toward reaching key transportation, land use, environmental and economic policy goals, as well as to learn about historical trends, differences and similarities among the region’s communities, and how the nine-county Bay Area stacks up with other major U.S. metro areas. Phase 1, which debuted in January 2015, examines 14 different indicators by which the health of the Bay Area’s transportation systems can be monitored. Data for Phase 3, which will focus on the region’s economy, is due for release later this spring. The fourth and final phase will be unveiled this summer and will examine environmental and safety data. 

Dave Vautin, MTC’s Vital Signs project manager, says the website was designed to provide both access to data and a unique online experience. “This information is not just useful to researchers but genuinely interesting to the public at large. We’ve worked hard to develop customizable charts and maps, combined with high-quality graphics, that will allow all Bay Area residents to better understand what’s happening in their county, city and neighborhood.“ 

Among the key findings in the second set of Vital Signs data is the emergence of the Silicon Valley as the Bay Area’s undisputed employment capital. Though 2013 employment figures indicate there were still far more jobs in San Francisco (608,600) than in any other Bay Area city, the combination of jobs in San Jose (396,300) and other northern Santa Clara County cities (410,300) tops San Francisco by nearly a third. No other regional submarket even comes close to San Francisco or Silicon Valley. Northern Alameda County — which includes Oakland, Berkeley, Emeryville and other cities — ranked number four on the 2013 Bay Area list with 314,600 jobs.

The new Vital Signs data also show that despite the Bay Area’s economic resurgence, the region is growing at a much slower pace than it did in the 20th century. “Average population and housing growth through the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s was about double the rate of the 2000s and 2010s,” commented Vautin, who also observed that only in the past few years have the cities that ring San Francisco Bay seen more housing construction than outlying communities.

“This may signal the start of a shift away from the suburbanization trend that dominated the post-World War II era,” noted Vautin, “but it also reflects decades of environmental awareness in the region. Going back to the 1930s, vast sections of the Bay Area have been protected from development. So the inventory of land available for residential or commercial construction has been steadily shrinking. One result is that, in recent years, sprawl has been limited to very specific areas such as the Highway 4 corridor in eastern Contra Costa County.  This is a stark contrast to the development patterns in metro areas such as Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston.”

The comparative strength of housing activity in the inner Bay Area coincides with a growing trend toward multifamily construction that began around the mid-2000s. Apartments, condominiums and townhomes consistently have accounted for more than half the housing construction permits issued regionwide over the past decade. By 2013, seven of the nine Bay Area counties — all except Contra Costa and Solano — permitted a higher share of multifamily units than single-family homes.  Yet regional housing production continues to lag far behind the nation’s other large and economically vibrant metro areas. 

MTC is the transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.


John Goodwin: (415) 778-5262

Randy Rentschler: (415) 778-6780 

Vital Signs Land Use