The MTC approved a plan Wednesday to require large employers to have at least 60 percent of employees working from home in order to reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Bay Area’s future could include a lot more remote work

Regional planning agency approved long-term work-from-home strategy to reduce emissions

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission approved a long-term vision for the Bay Area Wednesday that includes a push for certain employers to require many of their employees to work from home.

Large employers — defined as any company with more than 25 employees — would be required to have at least 60 percent of their employees telecommuting on any given work day in an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions and reduce traffic congestion by 2035.

Companies would be given the freedom to meet the target using any variety of “alternative work options,” such as compressed work weeks, flexible work schedules, or remote work policies.

Architects of Plan Bay Area Blueprint 2050, the regional planning strategy used to guide policy-making and funding efforts in the coming years, say this strategy is critical to achieving the Blueprint’s goals of reducing current emissions by 19 percent in the next 15 years.

But some MTC commissioners raised major concerns about stifling in-office work, as large employers and their commuters are foundational to The City’s economic vitality.

Nick Josefowitz, who was appointed to the regional planning agency by Mayor London Breed, challenged the notion that forced work-from-home policies were the most effective way to reduce emissions, and told a cautionary tale of the impact a blanket mandate could have on downtowns.

“Our whole city budget relies on workers coming to downtown San Francisco,” he said, adding a rule such as this one would discourage companies from locating in the Bay Area.

Though employers where in-person work is required would be exempted, a 60 percent work-from-home requirement would still disproportionately hurt individuals living in crowded apartments with roommates or those who currently emit little to no carbon when they walk, bike or take public transit to work, he argued.

Hillary Ronen, a San Francisco MTC Commissioner, left a statement for the commission asking this part of the Blueprint receive more extensive review before being included in the final version.

The aggressive goal of a 19 percent reduction in carbon emissions arose as a result of feedback during the public comment period earlier this summer, during which many of the 3,6000 comments received asked for more proactive measures to combat climate change.

The Draft Blueprint seen by MTC before the summer round of public engagement originally projected 14 percent of the workforce would be remote. With the mandate, that number could go up to 25 percent.

Josefowitz, who is also the policy director at urban think tank SPUR, proposed an amendment that would have replaced the stringent 60 percent telecommute mandate with a requirement that a combination of remote work, sustainable transit and other tools be used by employers to to collectively achieve the same emissions goals.

The commission rejected the resolution 9-4, despite lengthy public comment during which many individuals testified against the strict telecommute policy in favor of a more flexible but equally effectual approach to combating climate change.

Alex Sweet from the mayor’s office said a blanket mandate could gut The City budget and jeopardize the services critical to economic recovery. She recommended the Blueprint focus on individual car trips instead of the roughly 70 percent of people who walk, bike, carpool or take public transit to work.

MTC Executive Director Therese McMillan said passage of the Final Blueprint didn’t mean there wasn’t room for flexibility in encouraging sustainable modes of transportation alongside telecommuting, and she encouraged concerned commissioners to voice ideas for “layered refinements” during the implementation phase of this process at local levels.

The telecommute requirement is just one of 35 strategies included in the Plan Bay Area 2050 Final Blueprint, which was approved by the MTC 12-1 and aims to create a more affordable, sustainable and diverse region.

Next steps include an environmental impact report that is scheduled to be released by the end of the year, followed by a five-year plan to work with local agencies and nonprofits to determine how to implement the strategies and achieve these goals. There will also a third and final opportunity for public engagement.

Bay Area NewsPlanningsan francisco newstransportation

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, a former school board member, said it was ‘ridiculous’ that the school district did not yet have a plan to reopen. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Supervisors demand SFUSD set a timeline for reopening

Pressure grows on district to resume in-person learning as The City’s COVID-19 case count goes down

School board members Gabriela Lopez (left) and Alison Collins (right) say they have been the subject of frequent hateful, racist and sexist attacks during their time on the school board. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F Examiner)
Angered by Lowell decision, SFUSD grad targets school board members with violent imagery

Facebook page depicts two women of color on board with swastikas and x-marks on their faces

The San Francisco International Arts Festival will present performances this weekend outdoors at Fort Mason, including on the Parade Ground, Eucalyptus Grove and Black Point Battery. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF International Arts Festival wins health department approval for weekend performances

Rules allow no more than 50 people at outdoor Fort Mason performances

In this handout image provided by the California Department of Corrections, convicted murderer Scott Peterson poses for a mug shot March 17, 2005 in San Quentin, California. Judge Alfred A. Delucchi sentenced Peterson to death March 16 for murdering his wife, Laci Peterson, and their unborn child. (California Department of Corrections via Getty Images/TNS)
Prosecutors to retry penalty phase of Scott Peterson trial

2003 discovery of Laci Peterson’s body led to sensational high-profile murder trial of husband

Most Read