Pay boost scheduled for grocery, retail drug workers
In a split vote Tuesday, the Santa Barbara City Council passed a regular ordinance — going into effect in 30 days — providing a 60-day, $5/hour pay boost for grocery and drug retail workers, applying to employers with 300 or more employees nationwide.
The ordinance passed five to one, with Councilman Mike Jordan as the one dissenting vote and Councilman Eric Friedman recusing himself. Both he and Councilwoman Kristen Sneddon hesitated to single out one workforce sector as “heroes.”
Although the regular ordinance passed, the council could not find enough votes to pass an emergency ordinance, which staff originally recommended due to the fact that the workers continue to face exposure to COVID-19.
“I just could never make the findings for the immediacy of it, so the tougher one for me is the regular ordinance,” Mr. Jordan said. “… I also have difficulty with the thought that we’re categorizing as non-heroes an entire group of people that are just as heroic as the ones we’re doing this action for.”
Ms. Sneddon voted in favor of the ordinance, but she said it was because of the fact that she sees it as a first step toward looking at a living wage ordinance.
“I have very, very much discomfort about one sector being singled out … When you think about the EMTs and nurses and our own city employees who are on the front lines and really deserving of hazard pay, I just am having a hard time,” she said.
However, Councilwoman Meagan Harmon said in response that she believes that just because the ordinance can’t serve everyone doesn’t mean that the council should do nothing.
“I think equity asks that we look at the totality of the circumstances and center justice for our community members in light of those circumstances,” she said.
Councilwoman Alejandra Gutierrez echoed the support, mentioning the medical community that also worked on the front lines during the pandemic.
“We also have to keep in mind that grocery workers weren’t trained to really confront this pandemic,” she said.
The ordinance also allows a full or partial credit for employers who already provide hazard pay above the base wage rate.
In other business, the council unanimously adopted both an ordinance establishing procedures for processing streamlined housing projects and a resolution adopting objective design standards for streamlined housing projects. The move was necessary to be consistent with Senate Bill 35, which provides a streamlined, ministerial approval process for eligible multi-unit housing projects.
The objective design standards will be based on El Pueblo Viejo Design guidelines — specifically Spanish Colonial Revival style. Staff cited that EPV guidelines were selected because of their well-known, distinctive style; the fact that they’re pedestrian-oriented and human-scaled; their simple forms with quality materials and finishes; and the fact that they can be modified to objective standards. Spanish Colonial Revival style was chosen because it’s known and loved in the city, it’s required in the EPV Landmark District, it uses simple, climate-appropriate, weather-protecting and energy-efficient building techniques, and there are many examples to emulate, according to city staff.
“I thought this couldn’t be done, really, that you could have objective design standards that really fit Santa Barbara,” said Ms. Sneddon. “Staff has really pulled everything out to make this happen and make it workable, so I support this recommendation.”
While the decision was unanimous, Mr. Jordan expressed some concern with the guidelines being implemented, primarily with the fact that the city chose “what arguably would be the most expensive design style in this city.”
“If for some reason, a comet fell out of the sky and somebody was able to build a project with whatever those numbers were…They’re then forced with design components that increase the construction costs of that project and probably negate out the gain of that streamline,” he said.
SB 35 applies to cities and counties that haven’t made sufficient progress toward meeting the affordable housing goals for above-moderate and lower-income levels as mandated by the state, and Santa Barbara has only met above-moderate goals.
Finally, the council unanimously decided to produce the State of the City address as a community event, at a time convenient for working families, and with opportunities for constituents to speak directly with council members.
Santa Barbara’s State of the City was previously produced by the South Coast Chamber of Commerce, but Mayor Cathy Murillo requested that the chamber not partner with any oil or gas companies to fund the event. The chamber declined to grant that request, adding that it will continue to produce its own State of the City events on its own, using its own sponsors.
The mayor said that aligning the city with its own values, along with creating a more accessible event, is the “right outcome” of the situation.
“It’s an opportunity for us to connect with the public personally,” she said, adding that she envisions a Saturday morning or afternoon at the Carrillo Recreation Center or Cabrillo Pavilion, complete with Spanish interpretation and family friendly with children’s activities.
Ms. Sneddon said, “I really see this community event as an opportunity for residents of our city to come forward, ask us questions, ask department heads questions, and really feel like they’re a part of reflecting back the State of the City.”