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March 31, 2018 – Real Estate Market Numbers

By Glen Bell   (510) 333-4460

Zillow_2.18

 

Here are some highlights for the 38 East Bay Cities that I track:

  • As anticipated, we repeated the dramatic drop off in inventory at year end, following our normal pattern for December, typically our low point. As expected, January through March began the normal trend of adding on new inventory. We increased our available housing inventory by 87% in three months. However, as early of a start as this has been and with such a large increase in supply, we’re still lagging behind where we were last year by 13.2%. We’re now sitting on an 24 day supply of homes. This makes for a very competitive market for many buyers that have started to come back into the market.
  • Our monthly supply is now 24 days. Last year, our months’ supply at this time was 27 days. As a reminder of what we mean by “months’ supply;” If no more homes come onto the market, and homes continue to sell at the same pace as they have been over the last 12 months, then the “months supply,” (in this case 24 days), tells us that’s how many days it would take to sell the remaining number of homes we currently have available for sale in any given market.
  • It’s hard to predict how much tax reform will play into this. That impact may not be felt until taxes are due. We are seeing interest rates starting to go up. Prices continue to rise, but at a slower pace. More and more, affordability, the high cost of living and our traffic woes are coming into play for those, especially in the “middle class,” who may now be considering leaving the Bay Area.
  • Typically, we see a steady increase on a month by month basis to occur before finally peaking in September.
  • The number of pendings, (homes that are in contract), increased as inventory levels began to rise. The pending active ratio increased to 1.62. This compares to last year at the same time of 1.42. This supply and demand ratio signals whether we’re in a sellers’ or buyers’ market. Typically, a number well above 1, (more inventory with less pending) favors sellers. A number below 1 favors buyers.
  • The percentage of homes “sitting” has slightly increased to 31% of the homes listed now remaining active for 30 days or longer, while only 14% have stayed on the market for 60 days or longer. This is similar to what what we saw last year at this time with 31% of the homes listed remained active for 30 days or longer, while 16% stayed on the market for 60 days or longer.
  • The “distressed” market, (foreclosures and short sales) are no longer a factor representing less than .05% of the market with only.

Months_Supply

 

  • The month’s supply for the combined 38 city area is 24 days. Historically, a 2 to 3 months supply is considered normal in the San Francisco East Bay Area. As you can see from the graph above, this is normally a repetitive pattern over the past four years. However, we are below supply levels compared to last year at this time, of 27 days.

Active_&_Pendings

 

  • Our inventory for the East Bay (the 39 cities tracked) is now at 1,623 homes actively for sale. This is below last year at this time of 1,870 or (13.2% lower). We’re used to seeing between 3,000 and 6,000 homes in a “normal” market in the San Francisco East Bay Area. Pending sales increased to 2,634, similar to what we saw last year at this time of 2,648.

Pending_Active_Ratio

 

  • Our Pending/Active Ratio is 1.62. Last year at this time it was 1.42.
  • Sales over the last 4 months, on average, are 5.3% over the asking price for this area, greater than what we saw last year at this time, 2.5% indicating a much stronger market for sellers.

 

Glen's Numbers Pg 1

Glen's Numbers Pg 2

 

Recent News

 

Bill pushing apartments and condos near public transit loses crucial vote

By Melody Gutierrez, San Francisco Chronicle, April 17, 2018

A San Francisco state senator’s bill to limit cities’ ability to block large apartment and condominium construction in residential neighborhoods near public transit lost a key legislative vote Tuesday, killing it for this year.

State Sen. Scott Wiener’s SB827 became one of the most hotly debated housing bills in the country, even before its first committee hearing. That hearing was Tuesday, and the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee— of which Wiener is a member — voted 5-4 to prevent the bill from moving forward.

“There will be a path in the future,” Wiener said when the vote appeared to be going against him. He promised to make changes in the measure and bring it back before the Legislature in 2019.

Wiener spent weeks lobbying to get the bill through its first committee, but conceded last week that it probably needed another year of work to build a coalition to support it.

The bill would have prevented cities from applying density and height limits to block apartments and condo buildings of up to five stories if they were within a half-mile of major transit hubs, such as a BART or Caltrain station. It would also have removed density restrictions on such buildings within a quarter-mile of highly used bus and light-rail stops.

Wiener’s measure achieved a kind of ideological symbolism as California struggles with soaring rents and home prices, caused in part by a shortage of available housing. Supporters, who included Democrats and Republicans, said it would counteract NIMBYs who refuse to entertain any development near where they live. Opponents, who also included partisans on both the left and right, called it a massive overreach by Sacramento that could destroy local neighborhoods.

Who caused the Bay Area’s housing shortage?

Hint: It’s not just tech

By Marisa Kendall, East Bay Times, April 8, 2018

EVERYONE HAS A THEORY about who’s to blame for the housing shortage that’s driving up prices and chasing Bay Area families out of the region.

A new poll offers surprising insights into where most of us point the finger: not at the government officials who control what homes are built where, but at the tech companies that have flooded this region with jobs and the real estate developers trying to maximize profits.

Experts say finding someone to blame is not that simple. The real answer, they say, lies entangled in a complicated web that implicates everyone involved, from businesses to local elected officials to your next door neighbor. And the stakes are high for policy makers trying to untangle that web as the housing crisis intensifies. To solve the problem, it’s crucial to understand the factors that turned the Bay Area’s real estate market into one of the country’s most dysfunctional.

“There isn’t one single sector to blame for the housing crisis,” said Pilar Lorenzana, deputy director of pro-affordable housing organization SV@Home, “and consequently there isn’t one single sector that’s responsible for fixing it.”

In a five-county poll conducted for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and this news organization, 48 percent of those surveyed pointed to tech companies as a major contributor to the region’s housing shortage. Only developers ranked higher, with 57 percent of residents saying they were a major factor.

Who is to Blame

“Before ‘Silicon Valley’ got here, it was more affordable,” said 46-year-old microbiologist Megan Moore, who has lived in La Honda her whole life. “It’s great that there are so many jobs available… but the lack of housing kind of unbalances it all.”

But some experts say city and state officials have far more control over the region’s supply of homes.

“People are not focused on the source of the problem when it comes to our housing shortage — if they’re blaming tech companies and developers, then they’re not showing up at our city council meetings,” said Ethan Elkind, director of UC Berkeley law school’s climate program and an expert in land use and infrastructure policy. “That’s where their attention should be focused.”

Just 38 percent of survey respondents said local governments opposing new construction played a major role in the problem, while 28 percent pointed to the state government adding burdensome taxes and regulations to residential projects, and 19 percent blamed environmental groups attempting to block development.

It’s city officials who permit and approve, or reject and delay, new housing projects — and new housing is what the Bay Area needs to pull itself out of this crisis, most observers agree. Santa Clara and San Mateo counties together added about 47,000 jobs in 2017, while permitting just 12,000 new residential units, according to the Silicon Valley Index, an annual report released by Joint Venture Silicon Valley’s Institute for Regional Studies.

But while tech leaders might disagree, it’s hard to argue that their industry — which accounted for 29 percent of new jobs from the second quarter of 2016 to the second quarter of 2017, according to the Silicon Valley Index — hasn’t also played a major role in the housing crisis.

Part of the problem, said 58-year-old Mark Himelstein, is that the tech industry for years grew unchecked in Silicon Valley.

“We didn’t have balance,” said Himelstein, a management consultant who owns a home in unincorporated San Mateo County and responded to the housing poll. “There was no relationship between the tech companies’ hiring practices and hiring goals and funding lower-income housing opportunities.”

Himelstein would like to see companies work more closely with local cities and counties to fix the problem. For starters, he said, large companies should release data on their hiring plans — including how many people they are hiring, and their pay ranges — and then work with officials to plan housing for the new employees.

Even the techies themselves are quick to blame their employers for the housing shortage: Of the tech workers polled, 47 percent said technology companies are a major reason for the shortage, compared to 49 percent of nontech workers.

More tech companies are stepping up as they realize the problem is impacting their bottom line, Lorenzana said. With the prohibitive cost of housing making it harder to recruit and retain workers, companies including Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Cisco are contributing money and clout to building more housing. Another 100 tech leaders recently signed a letter supporting SB 827, which would lead to more housing development near transit hubs.

There’s plenty more that tech companies can do, Lorenzana said, from donating money, to spearheading residential construction projects, to simply speaking out in favor of housing development.

“I think what you’re seeing right now is tech and the private sector are finally understanding that this is an issue that is affecting their consumer base, and it’s affecting their employees,” Lorenzana said. “And whether it’s their job or not, there is a role for them to play.”

But tech companies can’t conjure up more housing without city officials, who experts say can be reluctant to approve large-scale residential development projects, or can otherwise limit construction with rules that govern where projects can be built, how tall they can be and how much parking they must provide.

Brisbane city officials, for example, for years have resisted plans by Universal Paragon Corp. to build nearly 4,500 housing units on the Baylands former industrial site, only recently agreeing to consider allowing a fraction of that. In Cupertino, which approved Apple’s massive new campus for 12,000 employees without any additional homes, housing advocates recently criticized Mayor Darcy Paul for saying the region’s housing shortage was “not dire.” Fed up with Cupertino’s approval process, Sand Hill Property Company recently used a new law, Senate Bill 35, to go over city officials’ heads and propose a redevelopment plan for Vallco Mall that includes six times the number of housing units the city originally intended.

“They’ve been green-lighting office projects like crazy,” Elkind said of Bay Area cities, “but they don’t care about where those workers are supposed to live.”

Some cities are making an effort to build more housing. Mountain View recently approved a Google-backed plan to build 10,000 new homes in North Bayshore, and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has proposed a plan to build 25,000 homes over the next five years.

Cupertino Vice Mayor Rod Sinks says city officials shouldn’t shoulder all the blame for the Bay Area’s housing shortage.

“I recognize that the cities have a major responsibility for this, and we haven’t generated enough housing,” he said. “On the other hand … it takes two to tango.”

Once the city approves housing, it’s up to a developer to build it, Sinks said. And it can be challenging to find developers willing or able to step up. Housing projects are getting more expensive to build as construction costs rise, Sinks said, and it’s more lucrative for developers to build office space or market-rate housing instead of affordable housing.

It’s also important to remember that cities’ housing policies are largely a reflection of their constituents, including long-term residents with a “not in my backyard,” or NIMBY, attitude toward development, said Gary Painter, an economics professor at the University of Southern California who studies housing markets.

“Current residents are probably the source of a lot (of) blame,” Painter said. “They don’t want newcomers to come in and change their quality of life, because they’ve already been here and established that.”

In the poll, just 25 percent of respondents said NIMBY groups play a major role in the Bay Area’s housing shortage.

State regulations have a hand in the problem too, experts say, by creating incentives for cities to favor commercial development over residential.

Many developers also blame the California Environmental Quality Act, a statute that imposes strict requirements on real estate projects to limit their environmental impact. Developers say residents also use CEQA to file lawsuits purely to delay projects and jack up construction costs. In the poll, 19 percent of people said environmental groups play a major role in the Bay Area’s housing issues.

“CEQA has become an evil, five-headed, fire-breathing dragon with respect to housing production,” said Mark Rhoades, president and CEO of Bay Area real estate developer Rhoades Planning Group.

Environmentalists disagree. Lawsuits are filed in fewer than one out of every 100 projects covered by CEQA, with an average of 195 suits filed per year since 2002, according to a study commissioned by the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment.

As for the other major scapegoat — tech companies — Matt Regan, senior vice president of public policy for the business-backed Bay Area Council, points out that blaming them doesn’t solve the problem.

“Tech companies are not developers,” he said. “They build and design algorithms and technology and code and phones and computers.”

Homebuyers face ‘most competitive market in recorded history’

Low inventory, demographic shifts, and rising prices will cause frustration this spring and summer

By Patrick Sisson, Curbed, Apr 16, 2018

Rising real estate costs, demographics shifts, and low inventory have hamstrung homebuyers for years. But according to Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com, this spring buying season may bring buyer frustration to a boil.

“I think it’s fair to say this is the most competitive housing market we’ve seen in recorded history,” says Hale. “There’s record low inventory and strong interest from buyers in getting into the housing market. There are a lot of buyers, and not a lot of sellers.”

According to Hale and other economists and real estate industry observers, many factors have created this “imperfect storm” of high demand and low supply. Underbuilding had been a key factor, due to cost, labor shortages, and zoning and regulatory barriers to new construction.

“We’ve been paying the bill for underbuilding for some time, and every year, it gets worse,” she says. “We’re not only not keeping up, we’re falling further behind.”

This shortage—inventory has decreased for 42 consecutive months and is down 8.5 percent from last year, according to Realtor.com data—comes as demographic trends conspire to create even more competition.

Millennials are reaching prime homebuying age—in 2020, the greatest proportion of that generation will be turn 30—just as baby boomers are looking to downsize. This has created especially fierce competition for smaller homes, the type of starter homes that most first-time buyers desire.

This dynamic can be especially frustrating for young adults because they may be bidding for the same smaller home as someone from an older generation who can lean on the accumulated wealth of decades of homeownership.

Things are better further up the housing market. Hale says the high end of the housing market, above $450,000, has seen a 1 to 2 percent increase in inventory over the past year.

Realtors are seeing listings move off the market as “quickly as they’ve ever seen them,” Hale says. In March, homes stayed on the market an average of 63 days, a 7 percent drop year-over-year from 2017. Inventory is predicted to move even faster in the summer, as it usually does, and Hale expects many markets to set records.

She also expects aggressive tactics from buyers. A Realtor.com survey of potential buyers found that 40 percent plan to put more than 20 percent down, and 26 percent are willing to pay above asking price. A survey in early March by Toluna Research found that 40 percent of current buyers have been searching for more than seven months.

“Buyers right now are staying informed and signaling they’re serious, that’s how they’re staying competitive,” she says.

Recent mortgage data reinforces the difficulty in achieving affordable homeownership.

More borrowers with conventional home loans are spending a greater percentage of their income servicing these loans, according to data from CoreLogic. This December, more than 20 percent of borrowers were spending more than 45 percent of their income on mortgage payments each month, a percentage not seen since the buildup to the Great Recession.

Analysis from Arch Mortgage Insurance Company found that the size of a monthly mortgage payment needed to afford a home rose 5 percent in just the last three months, and may rise an additional 10 to 15 percent by year’s end. Mortgage rates hit 4.42 percent last week, according to Freddie Mac. That’s low compared to traditional rates, but an increase from the recent run or rock-bottom rates.

California Could Have Avoided a Housing Crisis—if It Had Built 3.4 Million More Homes

By Sissi Cao, Observer, 04/16/18

California’s housing shortage, primarily in the tech-centric San Francisco Bay Area, is believed to have contributed to the area’s skyrocketing home prices and an exodus of its top talent.

A new study by an urban planning industry coalition quantified the shortage for the first time: The Golden State has built 3.4 million too few homes between 2000 and 2015 to keep up with the area’s economic growth.

That’s nearly equal to the total housing shortage in the rest of the country combined, according to the study conducted by Up for Growth National Coalition, a cross-industry advocate group aiming to address urban planning issues. The study was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Over the 15-year period, the country should have built 7.3 million homes, or 5 percent of the current total housing inventory, to keep up with the growth in population and jobs over the time period, the study found. A majority of the shortage is concentrated in coastal areas and sunbelt states.

In particular, the alarming shortage in California is a result of the state’s complex environmental and land-use regulations, which date back to the 1970s, and a lack of political incentives to rewrite outdated rules to boost new home construction.

“There is no coordinated regional policy to push housing production to match job growth,” said Kim-Mai Cutler, a partner at Initialized Capital, a San Francisco-based venture capital fund, and a columnist for TechCrunch.

“There are a number of reasons behind California’s significant housing challenges, but the primary drivers are the uncertain approval processes and zoning restrictions that favor single-family homes over more dense, transit-oriented communities,” Mike Kingsella, executive director of Up for Growth National Coalition, told Observer. “Such requirements make it nearly impossible to build the type of walkable and vibrant communities required—and frankly, desired—in rapidly growing job centers in California.”

San Francisco, for example, has zoning laws that limit residential buildings to no taller than 40 feet, or four stories. (In some “sunset zones,” buildings are subject to stricter rules that require their height not to cast a shadow on any city parks or public squares for more than an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset.)

“It’s in the interest of individual municipal governments, which are all facing long-term structural liabilities like unfunded pension obligations and retirement health benefits, to continue to approve office spaces over housing, because it’s a net tax revenue generator,” Cutler told Observer.

“As an elected leader, you get to bump your tax collection upward [by favoring office spaces over residential housing] but don’t have to convince your constituents to pay for schools or services for additional residents,” she explained. “The existing voting constituents, many of whom are homeowners in the suburban jurisdictions, also like to see their property values—often the most significant part of their net worth—protected or enhanced.”

On top of that, California’s tax law encourage homeowners to hold on to their properties rather than putting them on the market, which exacerbate the housing shortage.

Unlike most states in the U.S., homeowners in California pay property taxes based on what they originally paid for their homes rather than a home’s current market value. As a result, due to the dramatic increase in property values in recent years, selling off a current home and moving to a new one means a significant rise in property tax for homeowners.

“A tax assessment can also be passed down to children, so one could pass a home valued at $2 million to $3 million in present value but only pays 1981-era tax rates to their kids,” Cutler said. “So basically, very few people sell their homes in California and the state only builds a fraction of what it needs to match existing population growth,”

 

Work in tech? Want to own a home? Here’s an idea

A playful billboard off Highway 101 has a message that hits close to home

By MARISA KENDALL, Bay Area News Group, March 30, 2018

For commuters sitting in traffic on Highway 101, heading home to tiny apartments that eat up most of their paychecks, a new bright-green billboard offers yet another reason to pack up and leave the Bay Area.

“Own a home. Work in tech. Move to Pittsburgh,” the ad teases.

The billboard was erected last week by Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based startup Duolingo — the maker of a popular online language-learning platform and mobile app — to lure tech talent away from Silicon Valley and into the Steel City. It’s a unique campaign that capitalizes both on the Bay Area’s notorious housing shortage, and the ongoing exodus of local residents searching for cheaper homes and a better quality of life.

And it appears to be working.

“There’s just significantly less traffic here,” Duolingo CEO Luis von Ahn said. “Being able to buy a home and actually walk to work, which is unheard of in Silicon Valley, is actually pretty common here.”

Half of Duolingo’s 110 employees walk or bike to work, von Ahn said, and about the same number own a home.

The median home value in Pittsburgh is $132,400 — compared to $1.3 million in San Francisco, $1.1 million in San Jose and $755,600 in Oakland, according to Zillow.

Those out-of-sight prices, unaffordable even for many Bay Area workers with high-paying jobs, seem to be playing a role in encouraging residents to leave in numbers higher than the region has seen in 10 years. Last year, for the second year in a row, the droves of people leaving the valley nearly equaled those moving in — 44,102 people left between July 2015 and July 2017, and 44,732 moved in, according to the 2018 Silicon Valley Index report published by Joint Venture Silicon Valley.

That’s because no one can afford to live here anymore — not even Google employees or doctors at Stanford, said Joint Venture president and CEO Russell Hancock.

“It used to be the California dream,” he said, “and now it’s turning into this Silicon Valley nightmare.”

Development without gentrification? Oakland’s Fruitvale is the model, report says

By ERIN BALDASSARI , Bay Area News Group, March 29, 2018

The cluster of shops, community service organizations and apartments at the Fruitvale BART station may not seem all that different from other commercial plazas, but to some economists and urban planners, it’s the grand prize of development — at least, for now.

Researchers from UCLA’s Latino Policy and Politics Initiative say the transit village has been a boon to the surrounding neighborhood without resulting in gentrification. As many low-income and working class residents across the state are forced to leave urban areas due to rising rents and home prices, the UCLA researchers said Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood has held onto its existing residents, along with its signature Mexican-American culture.

“It’s the holy grail of urban planning,” said Alexander Quinn, an economist with Hatch, who reviewed the study’s findings, “to say we improved the place and the people who live there are better off.”

But long-time residents, academics and elected officials question whether Oakland’s Mexican-American mecca can continue to withstand the pressure of the region’s booming economy.  And, to them, the tide may already be turning.

It’s often considered one of the country’s first “transit-oriented developments” — a catch phrase that’s become the gold standard for building in dense urban areas and is the subject of a new state bill to encourage these types of projects  across the state.

Today, the village is home to a charter high school, senior center, public library, pediatric clinic, union office and Clinica de la Raza, along with a number of restaurants and retailers. There’s also a weekly farmers market, vendors pushing carts who set up in and around the village daily and the annual Dia de los Muertos festival, which draws 70,000 visitors. By all accounts, the village is a success, luring urban planners and economists from across the globe to study and replicate it elsewhere, said Chris Iglesias, Unity Council’s CEO.

But, the researchers wanted to know if it was also a success for residents in the surrounding community.

To do that, they identified 12 other census tracts in the Bay Area and 12 elsewhere in California that had a similar demographic composition, household income and average rent in 2000, before the transit village was constructed. Then, using census data, they looked at how those neighborhoods changed in the subsequent 15 years.

Fruitvale saw higher growth in household incomes compared to similar neighborhoods in both the Bay Area and California, along with more residents graduating high school and going on to earn a bachelor’s degree. Across the state and the Bay Area, the proportion of residents buying their homes fell, while in Fruitvale, the number of home buyers actually increased.

At the same time, Fruitvale lost only 1 percent of its Latino population, 4 percent of its black residents, less than one percent of its white residents and gained 6 percent of new Asian residents. Similar Bay Area and California neighborhoods actually saw an increased concentration of its Latino populations, which grew 5 percent and 6 percent, respectively, while they lost less than one percent and 4 percent of their white residents.

“We were interested in whether or not residents of certain ethnic groups were able to stay,” said UCLA researcher Sonja Diaz. “It’s surprising … the community stayed Latino, even with all these benefits.”

But, the data also revealed higher rising rents in Fruitvale than in the Bay Area or across the state. Rents in Fruitvale rose a whopping 83 percent, compared to 71 percent in similar Bay Area neighborhoods and 66 percent in similar California neighborhoods outside the area. Carolina Reid, a faculty research adviser at UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation, cautioned that the data, which goes up to 2015, misses some of the recent years of growth, when the pressures on rents and home values only increased.

“Fruitvale is not immune to the larger forces impacting the Bay Area, and some of the results they are finding in this study might be partly a timing problem,” she said.

Nor is it clear the existing residents are the ones benefiting from higher incomes and better educational attainment, and not new, wealthier residents with a similar demographic profile, who are displacing their low-income counterparts, said Robert Cervero, professor emeritus of city and regional planning at UC Berkeley.

And, to many long-time Fruitvale residents, it does feel like their community is changing. Noel Gallo, an Oakland city councilmember whose district includes Fruitvale, sees affluent white and Asian families buying homes on his block.

A lot of us in the Fruitvale area … have left Oakland altogether” for cheaper rents in the Central Valley, he said. “Within the last 10 to 15 years, it’s changed a lot, and it’s quite evident and visible.”

That’s why affordable housing and tenant protections are all the more critical, Reid said. The Unity Council recently broke ground on a 94-unit affordable housing tower at the Fruitvale transit village with plans to construct another 181 market rate units and retail businesses in the near future, Iglesias said.

“Even though we’re making strides, we’re still playing catch-up” from decades of disinvestment in the neighborhood, he said. “Investments are starting to come in and stuff is starting to happen, but we’re still making up for lost time, and it’ll take time to see the fruits of some of this work.”

Bay Area’s air quality near nation’s worst, climate change to blame: Report

By Sophie Haigney, San FranciscoChronicle, April 17, 2018

California has some of the worst air quality in the nation, both in terms of ozone and particle pollution, and perhaps the biggest factor appears to be climate change, according to a new report.

The Bay Area ranked sixth worst in the nation from 2014 to 2016 in terms of short-term particle pollution in a new “State of the Air 2018” report, which the American Lung Association released Tuesday. The region ranked 13th worst in the country for ozone pollution, which scientists say is due to climate change and warming temperatures across the globe, and several Bay Area counties experienced more unhealthy ozone days than previous years.

“We are improving air quality, but the impacts of climate change are interfering with progress,” said Bonnie Holmes-Gen, senior director of air quality and climate change at the American Lung Association in California.

Poor air quality has been associated with numerous health risks, including asthma, lung cancer, and heart disease.

 

Though ozone pollution has generally been falling since 2000, it worsened in cities across the nation compared with the previous report.

“California retains its historic distinction with 11 of the 25 most polluted cites in that state,” the report said.

The metropolitan areas of San Jose-San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento, Redding-Red Bluff, Chico and Los Angeles all saw more unhealthy air days on average in this report than last year’s report. In addition to the nine counties traditionally considered to make up the Bay Area, the report also included San Joaquin, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties.

The report specifically attributed increasing ozone pollution to climate change, noting that in 2016 scientists measured “the second warmest temperatures on record in the United States.”

“Ozone doesn’t come out of tailpipes or smokestacks. The more heat, the more likely ozone is to form,” said Janice Nolen, assistant vice president of national policy for the American Lung Association.

Particle pollution, meanwhile, improved in most places nationally, including San Francisco. This reflects a long-term trend: California has seen an 80 percent drop in unhealthy particle pollution days since 2004.

“Particle pollution dropped, especially for year-round averages,” Nolen said. “There were lower averages during 2014 to 2016, fewer days when it spiked, and that has to do with cleaning up major sources of pollution, replacing old dirty diesel engines, and transitioning to zero-emission vehicles.”

This drop didn’t affect every location equally, though.

San Joaquin and Santa Cruz counties both got F grades for short-term particle pollution, while San Francisco, San Mateo, Sonoma and San Benito counties all received A grades.

“The coastal parts of the San Francisco Bay Area benefit from coastal breezes, but all the pollution created by freight traffic, daily gridlock and ports is reflected inland in Alameda, Contra Costa County, near Sacramento and in San Joaquin Valley,” said Holmes-Gen.

Natural disasters such as wildfires were noted as contributing factors to poor air quality, but the report released Tuesday did not include data from 2017, when wildfires in the North Bay resulted in “extremely high levels of particulate matter, levels that were comparable to those you might experience in Beijing,” said Jack Broadbent, chief executive officer of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

“The fires and the resulting pollution point to an ongoing theme in our national and California state of the year report,” Holmes-Gen said. “Climate change represents a significant challenge to air quality, and the public needs to understand climate impacts are happening now.”

 

Glen Bell – (510) 333-4460   jazzlines@sbcglobal.net

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