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Residents’ Views Sought on Raising Minimum Wage

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Hector Gonzalez
Staff Writer

April 21, 2015 -- A countywide debate on raising the hourly minimum wage for thousands of workers – from the current $9 to possibly $13.25 in two years – opens Tuesday evening in neighboring Marina del Rey.

Although Burton W. Chace Park, 13650 Mindanao Way in Marina del Rey, is technically outside of Santa Monica-area Supervisor Sheila Kuehl's Third District -- it's in the Supervisor Don Knabe's Fourth District -- the meeting at 6 p.m. is the closest to Santa Monica residents of five public forums being held this month and May, representing each of the five members of the Board of Supervisors, said Joel Bellman, Kuehl's spokesman.

Other forums will be in East Los Angeles, Lennox and Lancaster, and in May in Topanga, Bellman said.

Officials want to hear from workers but also from small and large business owners and representatives of nonprofits and other groups. Comments  will be included as part of the comprehensive study the Board unanimously approved in March on a motion by Kuehl and First District Supervisor Hilda Solis.

By approving the motion -- which included a “friendly amendment” by Knabe requesting the series of forums -- the Board took the first step toward setting a new minimum wage for thousands of County workers and also employees working in unincorporated areas like Malibu.

It asked the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LACEDC) to look at all the potential impacts of increasing the minimum wage in the County, using data from four previous studies done on behalf of the City of Los Angeles.

By May the LACEDC is expected to “bring back an analyzed, synthesized take on the four studies and their applicability to the county overall, and will also present some options” for supervisors to vote on, said Bellman.

The final report will probably be similar to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s plan for gradual increases in the minimum pay, which would  “make it seamless between the County and the City,” Bellman said.

Any Countywide minimum wage ordinance also would likely include “a phase-in period,” said Bellman, along with some exemptions for nonprofits and small mom-and-pop businesses.

Earlier this year Garcetti announced his plan to boost his city’s minimum wage to to $10.25 this year, $11.75 next year and to $13.25 in 2017. The plan is awaiting approval by the L.A. City Council.

Garcetti has discussed his proposal with mayors and officials from several of the County's 88 cities, including Santa Monica officials, who are reviewing it. Under the City's Living Wage ordinance, contractors doing more than $54,200 in business with Santa Monica must pay “certain employees” a minimum of  $14.08 an hour.

But the talks among local officials, along with the County's new look at increasing the minimum wage, signal a desire by officials to take a regional approach to the issue.

In requesting the study at the Board's March 31 meeting, Kuehl noted that 2.7 million people in Los Angeles County – nearly 27 percent of its 10.2 million residents – live in poverty, according to the California Poverty Measure.

More than 2,500 county employees earn below $13.25 an hour, she said.

“We live in a second ‘Gilded Age,’” said Kuehl. “More and more families are falling into low-wage poverty. The City of L.A. is one of hundreds of cities and counties across the country now seriously considering raising its minimum wage, and L.A. County is looking to do the same.”

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