Bay Area leaders consider merging region

  • The San Jose skyline is seen from City Hall in San Jose, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013. The Silicon Valley is leading the rest of the country out of the recession with increased jobs, income and initial public offerings last year, according to a new regional report. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

SAN JOSE — Hundreds of business and political leaders gathered in San Jose to consider the advantages of merging the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley into a single region, sharing everything from city dumps to water treatment plants as communities sprawl across borders.

Leaders attending the State of the Valley conference Friday noted that Bay Area residents, businesses and local governments face the same challenges, from gridlock and earthquakes to steep housing prices and climate change.

They said the region, which amounts to the world's 13th-largest economy, should continue to boom if they coordinate their planning and consider merging transit systems, police and fire services and even city governments.

Technology forecaster Paul Saffo told conference participants that sharing everything from landfills to police helicopters could make the entire area more efficient, save money and help businesses remain competitive.

"Powerful regions are the new basic unit of governments in the 21st century," said Saffo, pointing to Singapore and Hong Kong. "City states are the powerful nexus of power, commerce, culture and identity."

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