Make Remote Work Permanent? No Way, Say Bay Area Leaders

Last month a regional government agency in the San Francisco Bay Area voted “to move forward” with a proposal to eventually require people at large, office-based companies to work from home three days a week “as a way to slash greenhouse gas emissions from car commutes,” according to NBC News.

But today local newspapers report “Bay Area leaders are already saying, no way.” [Shorter, non-paywalled article here.]

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission is drawing heavy fire from lawmakers, the business commmunity and transit supporters for a proposal that would require big companies to have their employees work from home at least 60 percent of the time by 2035.

The proposal is aimed at reducing vehicle commuters and greenhouse gas emissions, but Bay Area politicians and business leaders say it would encourage Silicon Valley companies to pick up and leave. “This will spur a flight of large employers from the Bay Area,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, comparing the idea to paving lanes directly from Silicon Valley to Texas. After recovering from the pandemic-caused recession, Liccardo said, “we’re going to miss those jobs.” Liccardo and San Francisco Mayor London Breed this week urged MTC leaders to find a better solution to hit the region’s long-term clean air goals…

Rebecca Saltzman, a BART director, is introducing a resolution asking MTC to re-examine the requirement, which was added late in the process. It would drive down transit use with no clear proof it would reduce greenhouse gases, she said. “We know we would lose riders,” she said. Bay Area lawmakers said a work-from-home mandate would hurt small businesses located around large employers, drain vitality from downtowns and diminish transit use. The requirements would also fall heavily on low-wage workers who typically must report to work to cook, clean, build or serve customers. San Jose and San Francisco both have tech giants — Google and Salesforce — spending billions of dollars to design and develop new campuses with a higher density of homes and apartments near transit. A work-from-home mandate could disrupt those plans, Liccardo said.

“I’m concerned about a parade of unintended consequences,” he said. “This undermines the incentives to live near work.”

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