In April, Mayor Ed Lee told the 41 residents enrolled in an intensive job training program funded by the Warriors development team that one day they will attend a concert, a basketball game or a convention at the Mission Bay arena and be able to tell their friends and family, “I helped build this thing. I am really proud of this.”
But five months after training concluded, just six will be able to say that.
That’s because of the 41 enrollees, 33 graduated, and of those 33 just six were hired to help work on the Chase Center arena, which is being built by Clark Construction Group and Mortenson Construction on an 11-acre site at 16th and Third streets in Mission Bay.
The nine-week job training, which was called the Chase Training Center, was funded by JPMorgan Chase through a $150,000 grant to further the project’s local hire efforts. The training was run by the Office of Economic and Workforce Developments’ CityBuild program, which works with nonprofits, labor unions and contractors to train a pipeline of local hires for construction projects.
The arena’s contractors are under the requirement to make “good faith efforts” to hire San Francisco residents for 50 percent of the total construction hours.
Since breaking ground in January, residents have worked 14.6 percent of total job hours to date and 27.1 percent of apprentice hours, according to data provided Oct. 16 by the Office of Economic and Workforce Development.
Warriors spokesperson P.J. Johnston defended the outcome of the training program and the overall local hiring percentages.
“This is just a point in time – an early point in time,” Johnston said. “Construction on Chase Center broke ground earlier this year, and the work is still ramping up. In fact, we’re only through about 15 percent of the projected labor hours on the project.”
He said the numbers have increased monthly and should improve as construction progresses and creates more jobs for carpenters, ironworkers and laborers.
As for the outcomes of the nine-week training course, Johnston said, “While one of its goals is to expand the pool of work-ready local hires for our own project, Chase Center Training’s fundamental purpose is much bigger than that.”
He said the program sought residents who had “significant challenges” to employment, such as no college degree or a criminal record, with the intent “to get them job-ready for placement in any trade union and at any construction project in The City.”
Johnston said there are plans underway to fund another round of the training program and improve on the number of graduates who end up working on the arena.
“We hope and expect the next cycle of this innovative pilot program will build on that success, and as more construction jobs come online at Chase Center, we expect to place more Chase Center graduates on our own project.”
The Mayor’s Office is making no apologies for the training outcomes, even though during the April address Lee stated good-humoredly: “I think all 41 of you know in your hearts you want your name on this center. I know you’re going to find a place to put your name someplace.”
“The program did exactly what it was intended to do, give people a skilled trade that will lead to a career,” Ellen Canale, the mayor’s spokesperson, said Friday.
WORKING ON THE ARENA
Elias Rosas, 39, was one of the six Chase Training Center graduates who landed work on the arena.
When starting out, he was told there were two kinds of carpenters — good ones, and those who just show up for a paycheck. He decided he wanted to become a good carpenter.
Good decisions are all Rosas said he wants to make these days. In the past, he made a lot of bad decisions.
Those “bad decisions,” as he calls them, led to his involvement in gangs, spending time in jail and dropping out of high school when he was living in Merced County. But he said he has matured and is doing everything he can to keep those troubled days far behind him.
The commitment is paying off. Rosas credits becoming a Christian and finding God for having not only the will, but the help, to gradually improve his life.
Two years ago, he decided to relocate to San Francisco — starting off by living in the Tenderloin before he moved in later with roommates in an apartment at Oak and Divisadero streets —because the minimum wage is higher than in Merced County.
Rosas began working as a dishwasher in a cafe and was soon promoted to a prep cook. But he wanted to advance his career and started asking about construction work, which led him to sign up for the Chase Center Training.
It wasn’t easy. The training was held on weekends in March through May, and was unpaid. He kept his cafe job, so he logged seven-day work weeks — five days at the cafe and two at the job training. He had no knowledge of construction, other than a woodshop class in high school in 1995.
While graduates weren’t promised work on the arena, they were told it was a possibility, along with getting work on other construction projects.
Rosas, however, said he and others who signed up initially thought they were going to be have guaranteed jobs on the Warriors arena. He remembers being disappointed when their instructor told him “nothing is promised.” Rosas said that led some of his classmates to quit, feeling discouraged.
But he decided it was worth sticking out. “If I gave up nine weeks in exchange for a possible future this was not a bad deal at all,” Rosas said.
Rosas eventually received the call to work on the Warriors arena in late June, several weeks after graduating, where he has worked ever since. He is an apprentice in the Carpenters Local Union 22 and wants to spend the next four years logging hours, attending a nine-hour job training course each quarter to get pay raises and eventually become a journeyman. From there, he would like to continue to rise in the ranks.
He now earns double the $16.50 an hour he was making at the cafe.
“It made it possible for me to stay in San Francisco,” Rosas said. “It allowed me to dream bigger.”
CityBuild has trained and graduated 1,026 individuals since 2005.
The outcomes of Rosas’ classmates who graduated varied. Twenty-three ended up being placed in construction jobs and five found jobs in other industries, including nursing and hospitality.
Five graduates remain unemployed.
The graduates came from all over The City with the most — 11 — from the Bayview, followed by five in the Outer Mission and four in the Civic Center area. Nearly half, or 15, were black, nine were Latino and four Asian.
LOCAL HIRE HISTORY
The lack of local hiring on construction projects became a major focus at City Hall in 2010 when Joshua Arce, then head of the nonprofit Brightline Defense, helped pass a local hire mandate with then-Supervisor John Avalos on publicly-funded construction projects.
Before the law, such projects had to only make a “good faith effort” to hire locally. But backers of the mandate argued the numbers were unacceptable and by mandating a higher percentage The City could reduce the displacement of low-income residents and boost employment among ethnic minorities.
A year before the law passed, an average of 20 percent of the hours worked on publicly funded construction projects went to local residents. In fiscal year 2016-17, that has increased to 38 percent with the local hire law. The current local-hire requirement is 30 percent of the hours worked.
Through the effort, residents in neighborhoods where major development occurs saw how local hire is an opportunity to benefit from the economic activity, potentially softening opposition to projects based on worries of gentrification or other impacts like traffic.
For developers, agreeing to, or being required to, hire locally can win over community support and ultimately the approval of elected officials. But when percentages are not living up to expectations, it’s a red flag that there may be broken promises.
In 2012, the Warriors planned to build an arena on Piers 30-32, and to boost their proposal agreed to hire local residents for 25 percent of the jobs and 50 percent of apprentice-level jobs, which was the local hire mandate for publicly funded projects at the time, even though they didn’t have to since it’s a privately funded project. Lee, who has built up a “jobs mayor” image, called it a landmark local hire agreement.
When that deal fell apart, the Warriors and The City selected the Mission Bay site, where construction began in January. The area is under the jurisdiction of the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, the successor agency to the dissolved Redevelopment Agency, which requires a 50 percent “good faith effort” to hire locally.
Johnston said the arena’s contractor team has “implemented and is clearly exceeding those good faith efforts.” He said “chief among the many efforts” is the Chase Center Training.
Arce was hired in September as director of CityBuild and he said he will work to boost the local hires working on the arena.
“With nearly two years left on the project, we’re continuing to work with our community and labor partners to place more Chase Center graduates and local workers on jobs at the Chase Center Arena,” Arce said.
The $1 billion Chase Arena is expected to open in time for the 2019-2020 Warriors season.