Groups push to guarantee jobs for local residents in proposed Central SoMA plan

Unions and community advocates are pushing for a requirement to help local residents get some of the tens of thousands of new jobs the proposed Central SOMA plan will create through the development of hotels, office and retail space.

Groups like Jobs with Justice, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Unite Here Local 2 are pushing for a “Good Jobs Employment Plan” requirement for new large non-residential developments in the Central SoMa Plan area.

The proposal is intended to help SoMa residents and disadvantaged residents secure jobs like security guards and custodians but also even engineering and programming jobs with tech companies.

Gordon Mar, executive director of the Jobs with Justice, said The City has spent a lot of time focusing on the housing and development aspects of the plan but “we feel there’s a need to look at the job side of it and who is going to fill those jobs.”

The Central SoMa plan will rezone the neighborhood to create approximately 8,000 more homes and 33,000 jobs over the next two decades. The plan adds new fees and taxes to generate nearly $2.2 billion in funding over 25 years that would be reinvested in the area.

The draft jobs resolution was crafted in June and the debate over the proposal will resume in the fall, when the Board of Supervisors returns from its summer legislative recess. Before recess, concerns over the imbalance between the number of jobs that would be created compared to the number of housing units — a ratio that is blamed for the Bay Area’s housing crisis — prompted amendments to the plan to boost the amount of housing necessitating further hearings.

The jobs proposal remains a part of the discussions, but has not yet been introduced as an amendment.

It comes as The City is struggling with stark income inequality and examining various policies to combat gentrification while at the same time fostering economic and development growth.

For example, in 2016 the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector submitted an application for a $100 million grant to the MacArthur Foundation in partnership with New Haven and Detroit to pilot a universal basic income project where select low-income families with toddlers would receive $1,000 or $2,000 a month for two years. The application wasn’t successful, however, and the project was shelved.The San Francisco Examiner also previously reported on a proposal last week to create CityGrow, a government job training program for the cannabis industry accompanied by a mandate businesses hire the graduates.

“Despite low overall unemployment rates in San Francisco, the problem of chronic unemployment persists among vulnerable populations, including formerly incarcerated and homeless people,” the draft resolution says. “Community members and long term residents of the SoMa neighborhood should benefit from the economic development that will come to the area under the Central SoMa Plan; such benefits should include access to good jobs to allow them to stay in the neighborhood.”

Under the draft proposal, a projects would need to create a “Community Good Jobs Employment Plan” and provide a copy of it 20-days in advance of when their development is up for Planning Commission approval.

The “good jobs” plan would detail how the project would provide “permanent jobs at good living wages with benefits within the future development for ‘Target Communities,’” which is defined as low and moderate-income South of Market residents “and other individuals who face barriers to employment, including but not limited to formerly incarcerated people, homeless people, those who have been homeless in the past 10 years, immigrants, transgender people, veterans and people with disabilities.”

The jobs plan must include overall job projections of the project and the “projected percentage goal for how many Target Community members the project aims to hire into entry-level positions over a specified time period.” Reports on the hiring would also be required.

Mar, who is running for the Board of Supervisors in District 4, said that the policy could significantly advance local hiring efforts related to tech companies by creating clear pathways from training of local residents to actual meaningful employment in the tech companies. He said efforts around tech companies hiring local residents has been more talk or hype than a reality.

He also noted that the more local residents hired, the less pressure on housing is created by people relocating to the city to work those jobs.

The Central SoMA plan is expected to generate more than 30,000 jobs over two decades. Mar did not predict how many of those jobs would go to local residents should The City approve the jobs policy, but he said, “I think it’s going to vary depending on the type of business,” noting that a higher percentage is feasible in hotels.

Joshua Sabatini
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Joshua Sabatini

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