Construction boom prompts SF to freeze mandate after four years of improvement 

San Francisco has frozen a local-hiring mandate at 30 percent for public construction projects after four years, but supporters say the law is achieving the results long sought after.

The legislation began in March 2011 and as of last month has applied to 263 public construction projects lead by such city departments as Public Works, the Public Utilities Commission and Recreation and Park, according to a report.

The mandate required in its first year that San Francisco residents perform at least 20 percent of hours worked on job sites, increasing annually. The overall obligations were met or exceeded, though a handful of smaller trade groups didn’t meet the obligations in some cases, according to the local-hire report submitted by the Office of Economic and Workforce Development this week to the Board of Supervisors.

The local-hire effort can help residents find middle-wage jobs that don’t require college education at a time when costs are rising amid a tech boom and residents face displacement. The policy’s significance is heightened because The City experienced a significant decline in local serving industries, the largest source of middle-wage jobs, between 2004-2010.

In the past four years, the law applied to construction projects that employed a total of 14,915 trade workers, of which 2,796 were San Francisco residents, the report said. By ZIP code, the highest concentrations lived in neighborhoods including the Excelsior, Outer and Inner Mission and Bayview-Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley.

The most workers of any single county came from Alameda County at 2,802 followed by Contra Costa County at 1,972. Some 2,641 workers resided in counties outside the Bay Area. Latinos comprise the largest ethnicity of workers.

“The local-hiring legislation has worked tremendously well,” said Supervisor John Avalos, who introduced the proposal. He said the policy “has ensured that a lot more local residents get steady work in public-works contracts.”

Avalos recalled that when the board was voting to select Ed Lee as interim mayor, he requested Lee commit to backing local hire.

“[The mayor] appears to have lived up [to] his agreement,” Avalos said. Because construction is booming, The City’s decided to freeze the mandate at 30 percent for the next two years.

The report notes “developing a strong pipeline of skilled workers to meet the growing demands of the construction industry remains the primary challenge.” While percentages overall are being met “there is the potential for a shortage of skilled local workers in the coming years, due to the rapid increase in construction activity.”

In response, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development says it will “strengthen construction career pathways by building on its relationships with industry and training partners.”

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