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San Diego City Council Votes in Favor of Labor Backed Proposal that Critics
Fear Could Force Downtown Hotel Developers to Use Union Workers;
Hoteliers Worry Action will Kill Future Projects

By Lori Weisberg, The San Diego Union-Tribune
September 15, 2010

A labor-backed proposal that its critics fear will force downtown hotel developers and operators to use union workers won the support Tuesday of the San Diego City Council.

The 6-2 vote followed an acrimonious hearing that drew dozens of union workers whose representatives urged elected leaders to support the measure, arguing that hotel development fosters the creation of some of the city’s lowest paying jobs. They contend that future hotel projects should, therefore, be reviewed directly by the council, which would give it the opportunity to take into consideration a number of the city’s stated economic goals, including the creation of jobs with self-sufficient wages.

Hoteliers worry that council action will kill future hotel projects

The two-hour hearing also drew strong representation from the city’s business, development and real estate community, which united in opposing the proposal.

“Today was a big victory for hotel workers in downtown San Diego because now they’ll have the opportunity to talk about job quality before elected leaders when previously they were not allowed to do so,” said Brigette Browning, president of the local hotel workers union, Unite Here. “The intent of this is not to force employers to hire union workers. But with (Tuesday’s vote), the council would now have the ultimate opportunity to disallow hotels to be built with low-income jobs.”

Under current regulations, the Centre City Development Corp., which is the city’s downtown redevelopment arm, is the final arbiter on most downtown hotel projects. With Tuesday's vote, the council will now be able to have the final say.

The CCDC, which opposed the move to change the development review process, argued that it offers a more streamlined process that gives developers greater certainty and removes politics from land-use decisions.

The council vote now paves the way for an ordinance to be drafted that would be reviewed by various downtown groups, including the CCDC, as well as the planning commission and ultimately the council, which would consider the measure by the end of the year.

While council supporters insisted Tuesday that the effect of their action was to simply create a more transparent process that would allow elected leaders to weigh in on hotel projects of 100 rooms or more, opponents were just as adamant that the vote was all about unionizing hotels.

“The public trust is at an all-time low because the public is ... sick and tired of being told something from elected leaders when their eyes tell them something different,” said Councilman Carl deMaio, who voted against the action, along with Councilman Kevin Faulconer. “We have a room full with labor unions and we’re told this has nothing to with sweetheart labor deals. But ... it benefits organized labor and is driven by the influence they have in getting (council members) elected to office.”


Lori Weisberg, Staff Writer
San Diego Union-Tribune
350 Camino de la Reina
San Diego, CA  92102

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San Diego's Downtown W Hotel Now Owned by Lender / July 2010

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