Collaboration a key building block of infrastructure for California cities

November 21, 2014

Greater collaboration among California cities can speed up badly needed infrastructure projects, including widening freeways and expanding mass transit systems. Too often, cities work alone without recognizing that they and their neighbors have common interests, according to Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, an association of communities in the region around San Francisco. 

Collaboration would give each a stronger voice. “We’re in a global competition, and what’s good for Los Angeles is good for the San Francisco Bay area,” Wunderman added during the “Bay to Basin: Cities Make a Comeback” panel. “We have a very big state with very diverse needs, and that kind of leadership is necessary to address these needs.”

The panel, moderated by Kevin Klowden, director of the Milken Institute’s California Center, highlighted recent successes, such as the renovation of downtown Riverside and plans to restore the Los Angeles River. The expert speakers also discussed ways to fund new projects aimed at making California cities more attractive to tourists and potential employers.

Private investors are interested in taking a larger role in California’s infrastructure projects, said Dale Bonner, a senior advisor to the Milken Institute and executive chairman of Plenary Concessions. From Bonner’s point of view, the hurdles include a restrictive regulatory environment and a shortage of people in local government who understand investors.

“This is a very exciting market. You have a very clear need,” he said. “There’s a lot of opportunity, but we’re not quite there yet.”