Local hiring tensions lead to protests 

Frustrated unemployed tradespeople in southeastern San Francisco have delayed construction projects and forced government officials to review local hiring and contracting policies.

The award of a construction contract for a Bayview library expansion project was delayed, and work was suspended at a nearby housing site following protests by unemployed residents.

Protests also are expected to affect high-profile planned home-building projects that are scheduled to begin in the coming months near the shuttered Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.

Residents of low-income southeastern neighborhoods, which have been harmed by chronic unemployment after a dramatic slowdown in building activity, are demanding greater hiring of local residents and contractors in publicly funded projects.

The San Francisco Department of Public Works restarted its search for a contractor to manage the expansion of the Bayview Branch Library after protests during community meetings.

The contractor and subcontractors originally were going to be selected based exclusively on the lowest overall bid, according to Public Works Director Ed Reiskin.

Now, bidders will be judged in part based on their ability to bring local businesses and workers onto the payroll.

“This allows us to break the work up into smaller pieces,” Reiskin said. “It’s a few months of delay, but it’s time well spent to enhance the likelihood of success.”

San Francisco Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Fred Blackwell said he suspended work on an affordable-housing complex at Third Street and Armstrong Avenue for three days in the third week of February after protests and reports of threats led him to fear for workers’ safety.

Blackwell said ongoing tensions could lead to similar problems with the reconstruction of public housing at Hunters View, which is planned to begin once House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can attend a groundbreaking ceremony, and with construction of the first homes at the edges of the former shipyard.

“We’ve had this issue ever since the economy tanked,” Blackwell said. “There are high levels of unemployment in the community and also high levels of unemployment among the various buildings trades.”

He said his agency is working to improve its local hiring policies and providing job readiness training to help address the issues.

Further protests about local hiring issues are likely, according to Bay Area Black Builders organizer Willie Ratcliff, who praised changes to the Bayview library construction project.

“We’re dead serious about breaking the lockout that they’ve put on us,” Ratcliff said. “We want the system to take us serious.”

Job pains

Projects affected by protests about local hiring practices:

Bayview Branch Library expansion

$10 million project

Contractor bidding will be restarted to improve local employment opportunities

Armstrong Place, 5600 Third St.

124-unit affordable-housing project

Work suspended for three days because of worker safety fears

Planned projects that could be affected by similar protests:

Hunters View Hope SF project

$450 million project to rebuild public housing units and incorporate new market-rate units

Construction set to begin once politicians are available for groundbreaking ceremony

Redevelopment of Parcel A at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard

Up to 400 new homes planned to be built on 63 acres of land

Home-building could begin in April


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