A $5 an hour “hero pay” for grocery and drug store workers in unincorporated Los Angeles County has been approved by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
The urgency ordinance to enact a $5 per hour hazard pay, expected to go into effect on Friday and last 120 days, was passed 4-1, with Supervisor Kathryn Barger voting in opposition.
Barger cited unintended consequences and a concern that the ordinance only covers a ”small sliver” of the essential workforce.
The proposal applies to companies that employ at least 300 workers nationwide and more than 10 employees per store, according to the county.
Workers must work at least two hours in a one-week period physically within a grocery retail or drug retail store in an unincorporated area of the county to receive the new “hero pay.”
“While many sectors were able to transition their workforce to working from home, millions of workers in face-to-face service industries were deemed ‘essential’ to ensure that our communities continue to operate, and basic needs continue to be provided,” the motion co-authored by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Holly Mitchel reads.
The supervisors said frontline grocery and drug retail workers have been met with COVID-19 exposures and outbreaks in their place of work.
The inability to practice social distancing consistently at work due to large crowds has not only increased exposure risks but also contributed to the psychological distress workers have felt during the pandemic, with research finding that employees with direct customer exposure were five times more likely to test positive with the burden of the crisis affecting the most vulnerable low-income communities, especially low-income workers of color, according to the motion.
Meanwhile, some of the largest grocery retailers in the nation and county have flourished and expanded their market share, the supervisors argue.
“These employers employ a labor workforce that consists of low-wage workers who have been disproportionately impacted by the economic fallout of this pandemic, with nearly half of low-wage workers having trouble paying their bills and roughly a third having found these top retailers have seen a 40% increase in profit averaging $16.7 billion in grocery and drug retail workers are among the heroes of this pandemic, putting their lives on the line – often for low wages and minimal benefits- in order to sustain our food system and maintain healthy communities,” the motion reads.
Those in the grocery industry fear measures like this might lead to increased costs to consumers as well as potentially reduced hours for workers.
“This could increase grocery prices for families in an economic time where many people are struggling,” said Nate Rose, spokesperson for the California Grocers Association (CGA).
The industry association did an economic study on the impact of wage increase ordinances and found the grocery costs for a family of four could increase by hundreds of dollars a year, according to Rose.
The spokesperson added a one-size-fits-all plan is not feasible and it should be up to each company to enact a hazard pay or bonus for their employees.
The urgency ordinance is expected to be in effect for 120 days, with an option to extend the order, according to the motion.
Note: This story has been updated with additional information from Los Angeles County
L.A. Mayor Signs Camping Ordinance Aimed At Restricting Homeless Encampments
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed an ordinance on Friday aimed at restricting homeless encampments in certain areas of the city.
The ordinance, which is set to take effect 30 days from the signing date, bans camping near “sensitive” facilities including within 500 feet of schools, daycares, parks and libraries, according to the L.A. City Council agenda.
In addition, the measure also restricts sitting, lying, or sleeping as well as storing, using, maintaining and placing personal property in any public right-of-way such as ramps, driveways or bike lanes, among others.
On Wednesday, the council voted 13-2 to approve the measure before Garcetti’s signature.
Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Nithya Raman voiced opposition to the ordinance, with Bonin recalling his own struggle with housing.
“Some of those nights I slept in the car, some of those nights, when my car was in the shop, I slept on the beach. I cannot tell you how much turmoil is in your heart when the sun is setting and you don’t know where to sleep,” Bonin said. “I cannot tell you how demoralizing and dehumanizing and defeating that experience is when you don’t know where you’re going to sleep.”
City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said the measure helps regulate shared public spaces while “acting with compassion and purpose” to help people experiencing homelessness.
“This ordinance establishes fair and clearly defined rules for how sidewalks in Los Angeles are regulated — while linking those rules to a comprehensive, compassionate strategy for street engagement that will establish reasonable pathways to positive outcomes and, ultimately, permanent homes,” O’Farrell said.
In order to enforce the new order, the City Council has to take action through a resolution to designate a certain area for enforcement, according to the ordinance.
The city plans to send out “street engagement teams,” along with law enforcement, to assist those experiencing homelessness in the designated encampment by providing connection to services, including interim housing.
Last month, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) released a report outlining the number of shelter beds available across the county.
The number of homeless shelter beds in the L.A. region has increased by over 50% in the past three years, however, demand still outpaces the capacity, according to the agency.
LAHSA found that the L.A. region’s shelter capacity on any given night was 24,616 beds — less than half of the estimated 66,000 people on the street countywide.
The previous Homeless Count was conducted before the pandemic, with many housing experts and community members reporting an increase in the unhoused population in the past 18 months.
L.A. Homeless Shelter Capacity Up 57% In Three Years, Still Less Than Demand
The number of homeless shelter beds in Los Angeles has increased by over 50% in the past three years, however, demand still outpaces the capacity.
The 2021 Housing Inventory Count and Shelter Count, released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) Wednesday, shows the nightly shelter capacity in the L.A. area has grown despite challenges faced by the pandemic.
LAHSA found that the L.A. region’s shelter capacity on any given night was 24,616 beds, a 57% increase over the last three years. The agency also reported 33,592 permanent housing options, an increase of 16% over the same period.
Through “unprecedented coordination” and a critical influx of state and federal emergency funding, the L.A. region’s rehousing system’s response to COVID-19 saved lives, according to Heidi Marston, executive director of LAHSA.
“We must build off of that momentum as we emerge from the pandemic to build the infrastructure necessary to address our homelessness crisis and collectively confront the conditions that continue to push people into homelessness,” Marston said in a statement.
The Los Angeles region needs to build a more balanced system with more housing options. A balanced rehousing system has five permanent housing exits for each shelter bed; the Los Angeles system is closer to one-to-one, according to the executive director.
The Housing Inventory Count is a census of all interim and permanent housing options in the homeless rehousing system at a given point-in-time. This year, the Housing Inventory Count occurred on Jan. 27.
LAHSA reported these results despite the global pandemic causing a considerable strain on its shelter supply.
In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, all of Los Angeles County’s congregate shelters had to decrease their bed count through a process called decompression.
However, strategic investments by the federal, state, and local governments through Project Roomkey and Project Homekey helped make up for the loss of capacity, according to the agency.
The Shelter Count revealed that there were 17,225 people in a shelter on the night of the count, which is virtually unchanged from the previous year.
LAHSA cited that without the addition of 2,357 Project Roomkey beds and 497 Project Homekey beds, there could have been a more significant drop in the shelter count due to decompression.
Following the advice of public health officials, LAHSA did not conduct an Unsheltered Count in 2021 to protect the 8,000 volunteers needed to complete the Count each year from COVID-19. The agency is planning to resume the Unsheltered Count in 2022.
Home Prices In San Fernando Valley Reach New High, Median Nearing $1 Million
The median price of San Fernando Valley homes sold during June reached a record high while sales soared 56.9% and the number of properties listed for sale lingered at low levels.
The median price was $955,000, up 28.9% from June 2020, according to the Southland Regional Association of Realtors (SRAR).
June was the fourth consecutive month with the median above the $900,000 benchmark.
“Not long ago it would have been inconceivable that the San Fernando Valley would see the median home price inching toward $1 million,” said Diane Sydell, president of the association in a statement. “Now it seems inevitable, especially with today’s wealth of buyers, dearth of inventory, and heated competition over virtually every listing.”
The condominium median price for June was $519,000, up 12.8% from June 2020, but 3.9% below the record high $540,000 set this April.
A total of 554 single-family homes closed escrow during June, up 56.9% from a year ago and 11.5% ahead of May’s tally. It was the first month this year above 500 sales and the highest monthly total since June 2018.
The statistics for condominium sales were not as dramatic, in part because of the extremely limited supply of condominiums listed for sale, according to SRAR.
There were 725 active home and condominium listings at the end of June, the first month above 700 listings this year.
“The market has been overheated and buyer fatigue may be a factor going forward,” said Tim Johnson, the association’s chief executive officer. “Too many buyers are weary of competing with unseen competitors and losing to a higher bidder even when they come to the market fully prepared to buy. ”
That may translate in buyers being a bit more cautious, which when combined with the
reopening of the economy may yield a slowdown in sales and a few more listings.
Yet Johnson stressed that a “few more listings” doesn’t go far, even if some buyers are starting to take a bit longer to jump into the market.