The East Bay’s Tri-Valley region saw jobs grow 35 percent between 2006 and 2016, outpacing San Francisco and Silicon Valley, according to a new report.
During the same period, San Francisco had 31 percent job growth, Silicon Valley had 19 percent and California overall had 8 percent.
The Tri-Valley cities of Danville, Dublin, Livermore, Pleasanton and San Ramon benefited from the presence of two federal laboratories, along with less expensive housing and office costs compared to the Bay Area’s urban centers, the report said. At the same time, the Tri-Valley and the rest of the Bay Area continue grappling with low housing supply and traffic congestion.
The business-backed Bay Area Council Economic Institute and Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group released the report.
“We’re not a bedroom community. We’ve got an urban-suburban meld,” said Dale Kaye, CEO of Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group. “It’s easier to recruit a workforce because of that.”
otal employment in the Tri-Valley surpassed 194,000 jobs in mid-2017. Around 19 percent of the jobs are in the tech sector, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Local companies have grown alongside Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a research and development agency that works on nuclear weapons, bio-security and other defense projects with 6,500 employees and an annual budget of $1.7 billion, along with Sandia National Laboratory and its 1,200 employees.
Lawrence Livermore partners include Metal Improvement Co. and electron microscope maker IDES.
“Livermore is an epicenter of an ecosystem,” Kaye said.
The Tri-Valley is more educated than its neighbors, with 60 percent of residents holding a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2016, compared to half of Silicon Valley residents, according to the report.
Office space in the Tri-Valley is less than half as expensive as San Francisco, with average annual rents of $32 per square foot.
The Tri-Valley’s two major business parks, Bishop Ranch in San Ramon and Hacienda in Pleasanton, have seen growing tenants including SAP, Rodan + Fields and Roche Molecular. Bishop Ranch is also adding a 300,000-square-foot retail center designed by prominent architect Renzo Piano. The project will feature a movie theater, Equinox gym and new restaurants including Slanted Door.
People in the area “want to live in a place that supports and complements their active lifestyle,” said Josh Hitchcock, senior vice president at Sunset Development, which owns Bishop Ranch. “San Ramon and the East Bay are at the top of the list in terms of overall quality of life, top-ranked school districts, low crime rate, cost of living and availability of housing.”
Housing is also relatively affordable, with the Tri-Valley’s median home value below $1 million, compared to San Francisco’s $1.2 million. But the region is still expensive.
“It’s not like they’re affordable when you look at the rest of the country,” Kaye said. “There’s always an inventory problem.”
The report said traffic congestion is a major barrier to further growth in the Tri-Valley.
Interstate 580, which cuts through the Tri-Valley, saw the Bay Area’s highest increase in vehicle traffic in the past two years, and Interstate 680 also saw congestion increase, according to transit agencies. Bishop Ranch and other major employers have started running shuttles to BART in response, and Bishop Ranch is testing autonomous vehicles.
Micah Weinberg, president of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, said building more housing near public transit is critical for the region’s future.
“These things go hand in hand. There’s really a need to build transit-oriented development and walkable communities,” Weinberg said. “I think Tri-Valley will remain relatively affordable, (but) no region in the Bay Area can rest on its home-building laurels.”