New labor center planned for S.F. 

Responding to neighborhood complaints about the line of day laborers standing on Cesar Chavez Street waiting for work, city officials plan to put up a day labor center for the job-seekers less than two miles away on Bayshore Boulevard.

Day labor centers act as hiring sites for people, often immigrants, looking for immediate work in such jobs as construction, landscaping and building painting. One such center already exists on Cesar Chavez. Run by the nonprofit La Raza Centro Legal, it is supported in part by a $150,000 city grant.

In addition to counseling and other services, the center provides job referrals for approximately 20 workers a day, according to its manager, Renee Saucedo. It also supports the rights of the workers to stand on a street corner so that prospective employers can drive right up to them and offer them a job, she said.

Some neighbors have complained about the day laborers, however, noting that the crowd creates traffic problems on Cesar Chavez and the nearby residential streets. Last year, the South Mission Neighborhood Coalition contacted The City with concerns that laborers were urinating in public areas, while also protesting a proposal to put more public toilets in the area for the workers.

City Administrator Edwin Lee said he has spoken to dozens of day laborers in recent months and, after talking to Mayor Gavin Newsom, came to the conclusion that The City would benefit from a second day labor center. He has made a deal to rent a plot of land at Bayshore Boulevard and Waterloo Street — near the site of a proposed Home Depot — to set up shop.

Newsom called the proposalfor a second center "a win for the day laborers and a win for the neighbors."

Lee said the new center would also offer services, adding that he is in conversations with local unions about eventually setting up training programs for the workers.

The one person Lee has not spoken to about the new day labor center is Saucedo, who has fiercely defended the existing center through the years, including in 2002, when The City suggested looking for another service provider. La Raza remained the nonprofit in charge, but funding for the organization has been decreased by $60,000 annually since that time.

Lee said The City would continue to fund the existing center at its current grant level.

Saucedo said she was insulted but not surprised by the maneuver.

"They’ve always wanted to put us out on Bayshore, because it’s isolated and the neighborhood wouldn’t have to see the workers," she said. "Our position is that day laborers are a part of our community."

beslinger@examiner.com

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