As a Peninsula assemblyman takes a fight over San Francisco’s local-hiring ordinance to Sacramento, a San Mateo County leader said she wants to negotiate changes to the law.
Several dozen construction workers and local elected leaders flanked Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, Friday as he introduced a new bill that would scale back the local hiring legislation, requiring contractors to hire city residents to work on public projects.
Hill’s bill would block any city statewide from enforcing a local hiring ordinance on projects that get state funding or that are outside the jurisdiction’s boundaries.
Hill and other officials said the local-hire law would limit opportunities for Peninsula construction workers to work on San Francisco projects such as the San Francisco International Airport or Hetch Hetchy water system improvements.
“We all want to reduce unemployment and get people back to work, but we can’t just focus on our own county and forget about our neighbors in this regional economy,” Hill said at a news conference at Bayfront Park in Burlingame, overlooking SFO.
Carole Groom, president of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, said she wants “have a conversation” with her San Francisco counterparts about potentially amending the ordinance, though she didn’t say how.
Groom said she recently talked to San Francisco board President David Chiu about the issue and hopes to meet with ordinance author San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos. Avalos could not be reached for comment.
“They’re protecting their workers. Well, we want to protect ours too,” said Groom, adding the Peninsula construction industry has a 25 percent unemployment rate.
Supporters of the local-hire law came to the news conference to support the ordinance and protest Hill’s legislation, saying it would be a “job killer.”
“We’re not excluding anyone from working, we just want to be included in the process,” said Ashley Rhodes, a representative for Aboriginal Blackmen United and a painter who lives in Bayview-Hunters Point.
The local-hiring law requires San Francisco residents to be employed for 20 percent of a project’s hours, a mandate that climbs to 50 percent by 2016.
Supporters argue that the ordinance has exemptions for projects outside San Francisco so workers in the project area would be included, but Hill said he believes those exemptions would end if the labor agreements for a local-hire project are changed.
The law also applies only to city-funded work, not federal or state money, but Hill said that the local hiring ordinance is projected to add to the cost of construction projects, representing an extra cost to state taxpayers.
San Francisco’s local-hiring ordinance wasn’t the only neighborly issue that caused controversy this week on the Peninsula.
San Mateo County supervisors shot down a proposal Tuesday that would have allowed highly sought-after job candidates to buy property outside the county’s borders, including in San Francisco, using the county’s low-interest home loan program.
The loan program has been in place since 2007 to give candidates for high-level or hard-to-fill county positions up to a $1 million loan, but they must buy within county borders. The proposed change came because a finance manager wanted to buy a home in San Francisco, officials said.
Supervisors deadlocked on a 2-2 vote, with board President Carole Groom and Supervisor Don Horsley opposed, so the motion died.
“It’s San Mateo County taxpayer money, and I think that money should stay in San Mateo County,” Groom said Thursday.
“For some positions, I think you really should live in San Mateo County because I think you need to know more about the community,” added Supervisor Don Horsley, mentioning department heads as an example.
But Horsley said he might be willing to reconsider his vote as a gesture of cooperation with San Francisco in light of the flap over the local-hiring ordinance, which Horsley called “parochial.”
“If it helps just to demonstrate we are looking at things on a more regional basis, I’d be willing to revisit [the home-loan] issue,” Horsley said.
Six Bay Area counties have unemployment rates higher than San Francisco’s:
Solano: 12.1 percent
Contra Costa: 10.9 percent
Alameda: 10.8 percent
Napa: 10.6 percent
Santa Clara: 10.4 percent
Sonoma: 10.0 percent
San Francisco: 9.2 percent
San Mateo: 8.3 percent
Marin: 7.9 percent
Source: California Employment Development Department