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WAGES—Sun Quest Is 2nd Developer to Commit to Living Wage

Proponents of a living wage received what they consider a victory as a second developer has agreed to a pact requiring that 70 percent of all jobs at a proposed commercial project in Sun Valley pay more than 50 percent above the federally mandated minimum wage. “We feel it’s a fair deal for us, potential tenants and the community,” said Randy Roth, president of Roth Properties Inc., developer of the SunQuest Industrial Park project on a 33-acre parcel in Sun Valley. The project is expected to accommodate a number of light industrial uses such as post-production firms, software manufacturing companies, truck repair shops and storage facilities. The effort marks the second time in a month that the Valley Jobs Coalition has struck a deal with developers of major commercial centers in the Valley. The first was last month’s agreement with NoHo Commons developer J.H. Snyder Co. According to the agreement, all of Roth’s tenants will have to guarantee that 70 percent of the people working for them earn the so-called living wage. The coalition defines a living wage as one that allows an income just above the federal poverty line for a family of four in Los Angeles: $7.72 an hour with benefits or $8.97 without. The federally mandated minimum wage is $5.75 an hour. Under the agreement, 75 percent, or 900 of the estimated 1,200 jobs, at the complex will be living wage jobs or Roth Properties could face sanctions from the city of up to $10,000 per month. “It’s something that I think we’re all after,” Roth said. The agreement with Roth and his SunQuest project comes about a month after NoHo Commons developer Jerry Snyder agreed to a similar deal with the coalition. “Overall, I think everyone benefits from this deal,” Snyder said. The North Hollywood project had long been stalled over land use issues and financing problems, forcing one developer to drop out earlier this year and Snyder to take over with a scaled-back version of the original plan. Developer J. Allen Radford, who abandoned the NoHo Commons project earlier this year, said developers and business owners are leery of the high costs associated with living wage agreements. Many potential tenants, he said, would rather go someplace else. “The (Snyder contract) is the first agreement of its kind that actually calls for sanctions for not meeting the living wage requirements,” said Roxane Auer, a community organizer with the Valley Jobs Coalition. Kevin Whelan, an organizer with another pro-living wage group, Association of Community Organizations for Reform, said the coalition’s effort marks a first for living wage activists. “A lot of these agreements didn’t have any teeth,” Whelan said. “But now they have a contract that calls for fines for non-compliance. That’s truly a first.” In the past, living wage activists with the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy managed to wangle pledges from developers of the Staples Center and a multi-use commercial complex in Hollywood to provide living wage jobs. However, neither carried sanctions for non-compliance. “It was a matter of having something that we couldn’t enforce,” said Auer. “It was the best we could do.” Snyder’s estimated $180 million NoHo Commons complex along Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood features 150,000 square feet of retail space and 200,000 square feet of office space. It also includes a supermarket and about 750 apartment units. It is expected to provide about 4,000 jobs, 70 percent of which would be under the living wage requirement. Lillian Burkenheim, project manager for the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency, said getting the living wage agreement for the project was one of her agency’s key goals. “It’s going to help the people in the community with jobs, but it’s also going to improve the overall economy in the area,” she said. City Council President Alex Padilla, a resident of Pacoima, said he believes in the living wage movement, citing the number of people in Sun Valley and North Hollywood who earn a meager living.

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