MOUNTAIN VIEW -- Santa Clara County's expensive housing and transportation woes will imperil the region's economic boom, several panelists at an economics conference warned Wednesday.

"The housing problem could really stall our economy," Matthew Mahood, president of the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, said at a conference sponsored by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.

High housing costs are making it tougher for local companies to hire workers, and the worsening traffic jams make the region less attractive to residents and employees, Mahood and others said.

"The innovative and entrepreneurial people here will always find a workaround to problems such as housing and transportation," Carl Guardino, president of the leadership group, said in an interview with this newspaper. "But even if these problems don't stall our economy, they will slow it down."

Transportation and housing have been raised as obstacles for the Silicon Valley economy for decades. But this time around, more than talk appears to be on the table. The Silicon Valley Leadership Group is eyeing a ballot measure for November that would raise the sales tax in Santa Clara County by a quarter cent to pay for BART extensions into San Jose, upgrades to all county expressways and improvements to multiple transit systems, Guardino said.


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"You can't isolate housing from transportation," Leah Toeniskoetter, director of SPUR San Jose, a nonprofit group of Bay Area business leaders and politicians, said in an interview with this newspaper. "We have to maximize land use in connection with transportation."

SPUR has released a study that suggests downtown San Jose can blossom as the urban heart of Silicon Valley if it clusters office, housing and retail development near future BART stations and other transit hubs that are slated for the central business district.

The high cost of living, coupled with the traffic difficulties, have made it tougher for local tech companies to recruit talent, some tech executives complained.

"We need to attract more qualified engineering talent to the Bay Area," Steve Milligan, CEO of Western Digital, which has major operations in San Jose, told the conference.

Contact George Avalos at 408-859-5167. Follow him at Twitter.com/georgeavalos.