BAY AREA NEWS

FAIRFIELD — A critic of a project labor agreement passed unanimously by the Fairfield City Council says "those who voted for this backroom deal, especially any council member registered as a Republican, will be held accountable to the taxpayers."

"I'm not going to let this bone go," said Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction.

He also said six contractors would have bid on the Intermodal Station Project, but decided against doing so because of the labor agreement.

The face of a little baseball player on the verge of tears juxtaposed with scary looking 50-gallon drums strewn about a field is a powerful image, one meant to raise safety concerns about a planned hotel and residential project in Petaluma.

But is it accurate? Or is it a union blackmail tactic to force the developer to agree to hire only union labor for its 39-acre plan?

On Monday night, the Petaluma City Council will be asked to approve the final environmental impact report and zoning maps for Riverfront, a plan for a 120-room hotel, commercial and office space, 4 acres of parks and trails, 273 housing units including townhouses, live-work units and apartments, and space for a community boathouse.

Friday, 18 July 2014 13:38

Judge project on its merits

On Monday, the Petaluma City Council will consider approving a well-designed mixed use project that would meet many of the city's long-term development goals, generate an estimated $600,000 annually in new tax revenues and 2,500 permanent and temporary jobs. The 39-acre Riverfront development, which includes 273 homes, a 120-room hotel, 60,000 square feet of office space, and 30,000 square feet of retail, has, remarkably, elicited exactly zero opposition locally.

For a project of this magnitude to generate no local opposition is extraordinary in Petaluma, a city where, historically, local city council elections have frequently been decided on public perceptions of overdevelopment.

But in the case of the Riverfront project, the city is getting what is wants: a mix of uses that appropriately achieves local goals for new housing, office and retail space, open space, recreational facilities and overnight lodging facilities.

Friday, 18 July 2014 13:33

Builders oppose building?

Unions raise environmental objections to Riverfront plan

On Monday, the Petaluma City Council will have to decide if environmental concerns raised by trade unions about the mixed-use project proposed on the Petaluma River are genuine, or a smokescreen used to delay the project following failed labor discussions.

Construction policy consultant Kevin Dayton of the Coalition of Fair Employment in Construction said all over the state, he has seen labor unions use this tactic as a punitive measure to stall projects. But union representatives say the issues they've raised are sincere.

"Almost always, they do this because they're pressuring the developer for some sort of economic concession — usually a project labor agreement," Dayton said while addressing the Petaluma Planning Commission during last month's public comment on the project. "It's too bad that the union representatives here aren't being open about that."

The Fairfield City Council is poised Tuesday to hand big-labor special interests a huge victory. Specifically they are set to approve a project labor agreement on the new Fairfield train station.

A project labor agreement is a highly controversial agreement that city staff spent less than 90 days "negotiating" with local union bosses. The agreement will discriminate against the 85 percent of the area construction workforce that is union-free and cost taxpayers dearly, adding at least $10 million to the cost of the project due to fewer companies bidding.

The council at its April 12 meeting unanimously approved the concept of a project labor agreement despite a great deal of public opposition. They directed staff to "negotiate" the agreement with unions (no one else is allowed into these backroom negotiations) and less than three months later they have their "agreement."

City Council members are poised Tuesday to approve a project labor agreement with the Napa-Solano Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO, to cover virtually all work associated with Fairfield's train station project.

This is a massive undertaking that will help shape the city for the remainder of the 21st century, at an estimated cost of $81.5 million. Construction on a major piece of the project – to take Peabody Road over the existing railroad tracks near Vanden Road, is scheduled to begin next summer and will shut down the roadway for about a year.

Proponents of project labor agreements contend that they keep project costs in check and bring projects to conclusion on time. Opponents contend that they ultimately increase taxpayer costs and limit the pool of qualified people who can work on the projects – essentially shutting out shops that are not unionized.

Cost overruns have put a hold on plans to add a signature rooftop park to the Transbay Transit Center, adding to the design features being set aside on the project, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

That is unless the city can come up with $24 million in donations and grants to fund the park.

The Transbay Joint Powers Authority said the rooftop park would eventually be built, but it may not be ready when the center opens in 2017.

The Planning Commission for the City of Petaluma, California (in Sonoma County) experienced the full brunt of union abuse of environmental laws ("greenmail") at its meeting tonight (June 24, 2014) to consider approving a prominent proposed development project.

Calling themselves "Petaluma Residents for Responsible Development," the Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake Counties Building and Construction Trades Council hired the South San Francisco law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo to submit objections to the proposed Riverfront Mixed-Use Development Project. At stake are 1,952 construction jobs that unions want to control, apparently by getting the developer to sign a Project Labor Agreement.

In June 2013, the unions' law firm submitted a request to the City of Petaluma to extend the comment period for an Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration (a common tactic to drag out the environmental review process). Then it submitted objections on behalf of the unions to the city's Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration. After the city proceeded to develop a Draft Environmental Impact Report, the unions objected to that. (See links to these sets of comments, below.)

In response to the article, "Consider geothermal energy in climate crisis" (Opinion, May 19), contributing writer Robbie Hunter declares a need for more geothermal energy, in particular from the Geysers in Sonoma County.

What's the hidden agenda behind this appeal from the head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California? California's construction trade unions only support permits for new power plants when energy developers sign project labor areements, guaranteeing a union monopoly on construction. When a developer resists a union's pressure to sign, individual unions or a union-backed organization called California Unions for Reliable Energy exploit environmental laws.

They delay and block permits to build and operate the power plant. As Hunter acknowledges, Calpine Corporation has signed project labor agreements with the unions for the Wildhorse and Buckeye geothermal plants at the Geysers. But, what is his opinion on other proposed geothermal power plants in Mono and Imperial counties? The developer of those projects wouldn't sign a project labor agreement.

At the January 14, 2014 meeting of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, a representative of the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council read a letter dated January 13, 2014 from Jon Friedenberg, Chief Administrative Officer of Marin General Hospital. This was unexpected.

In the letter, Friedenberg expressed his support for Project Labor Agreements. He also noted that a union agreement had been approved with the “North Bay Building Trades” (actually the Marin Building and Construction Trades Council) for the Marin General Hospital replacement project.

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