Wealth & poverty

Employers Scramble to Claim New Tax Breaks After State Kills ‘Wasteful’ Enterprise Zones

Miguel Sola Torá, San Francisco Public Press — Dec 2 2013 - 5:08pm

Among the companies benefiting were two Sacramento strip clubs and some of the nation’s largest corporations, including Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Yum! Brands, FedEx, Starbucks and Wells Fargo

Large businesses in California “enterprise zones” reaped billions of dollars in tax breaks in recent years, but tax privacy laws made it impossible to tell whether the program actually encouraged companies to hire new workers in economically disadvantaged parts of the state. So the Legislature overhauled the $750 million program — but instead of killing it outrightstate put aside an equivalent amount for an even more elaborate array of tax credits. San Francisco officials said that a local, parallel tax break program will continue.

SAN FRANCISCO’S WORKFORCE REBOOT is the cover story in the fall 2013 print edition of the San Francisco Public Press. Check back for updates on other stories.

Board of Supervisors Cripples Transit Agency Plan for More Parking Meters

Josh Wolf, San Francisco Public Press — Nov 27 2013 - 12:57pm

Drivers will soon be able to use their credit cards to pay for parking at all 25,000 meters throughout San Francisco, but efforts to greatly expand metered parking are on hold. On Tuesday the Board of Supervisors approved a $51.2 million contract to replace the city’s aging coin-operated meters with machines that accept credit cards. But the supervisors rejected transit agency’s request for 10,000 new meters that it could install wherever it chose.

In other news: Mayor Ed Lee responds to concerns about Ellis Act evictions and affordable housing, and Supervisor David Chiu wants to legalize existing in-law units.

S.F. Board Watch: Supervisors Question High Cost of Jailhouse Calls

Josh Wolf, San Francisco Public Press — Nov 20 2013 - 4:55pm

The cost of a call from jail could come down, if the Board of Supervisors has its way. At San Francisco’s jails, inmates must pay an initial fee of between $1.25 and $3.95 for each phone call and are charged between 10 and 69 cents a minute, depending on whether it is local or out-of-state. Under a contract with an outside company, the Sheriff’s Department receives 65 percent of the money, for a fund to provide inmate services and supplies. The contract  is expected to generate more than $3 million in revenue over its four-year term, but the supervisors are talking about renegotiating.

In other news: Concerns over sex offenders at Bayview Homeless Shelter, city money to stop nonprofit displacement and the soda tax expected to appear on next year’s November ballot.

Twitter, Other Tech Companies Get S.F. Tax Breaks but Show Little Progress Hiring in Neighborhood

Yoona Ha, San Francisco Public Press — Nov 11 2013 - 12:51pm

The largest of the firms settling in mid-Market signed extensive community agreements, but critics call them toothless

Last year, 14 San Francisco technology companies received $1.9 million in tax breaks for setting up shop in the mid-Market Street area. Supporters said it was a good investment, bringing economic development and jobs to an economically depressed strip in the core of the city. The zone is certainly coming back to life, and the companies that benefited now employ more than 2,700 workers. But it is less clear that the deal resulted in entry-level jobs for residents of the hardscrabble neighborhood — one of the goals most sought by skeptics of the tax break. The largest six of the companies promised a list of community benefits that included an effort to identify qualified job seekers in the Tenderloin and mid-Market area. But the agreements are vaguely worded, the companies have been slow to report their progress to the city, and most were unresponsive to direct questions about employment practices.

This story is part of a special report on workforce development in the San Francisco Public Press fall print edition.

S.F. Board Watch: City to Consider Expanding ‘Green Zone’ for Marijuana Dispensaries

Josh Wolf, San Francisco Public Press — Nov 7 2013 - 5:54pm

The Board of Supervisors this week approved a limit to the number of marijuana dispensaries allowed to open on the southern end of Mission Street in the Excelsior commercial district. Medical cannabis dispensaries would need a special permit to open within 500 feet of an existing dispensary. Supervisor John Avalos said he may later propose expanding that distance to 1,000 feet. Plus: Marsh Theater’s Unwanted Neighbors | City Parks Closure | New Policy on Video Productions

HELP WANTED: City Hall Focuses on Hot Job Sectors, but Struggles to Track Workforce Training Budget

Noah Arroyo, San Francisco Public Press — Oct 8 2013 - 3:00pm

Behind the ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ mantra — Auditor says S.F.’s fractured workforce development system needs new strategy

Six years ago, San Francisco politicians called for better coordination of job training and placement services across the city. A new report reveals that since then, spending has more than doubled while control and evaluation of the sprawling system remain as elusive as ever.

At least 14 local agencies now independently operate an array of workforce development initiatives at an estimated combined cost of $70 million, the city’s budget and legislative analyst found. Without a common citywide strategy, no one has been able to measure accurately how many or what kinds of jobs are being filled, or how much is spent to prepare unemployed San Franciscans for new careers.

Mayor Ed Lee, whose approach to workforce development has focused on meeting the labor needs of some of the fastest-growing local industries, has ordered his own review this fall to map out all employment programs across the city.

SAN FRANCISCO’S WORKFORCE REBOOT is the cover story in the fall 2013 print edition of the San Francisco Public Press. Check back for updates on other stories in the package.

Less Than Expected: Minimum Wage Violations in San Francisco (Video)

Tearsa Joy Hammock, San Francisco Public Press — Aug 7 2013 - 10:44am

Mauricio Lozano, a Salvadoran immigrant, was paid below minimum wage to work at a North Beach pizzeria. With the help of local nonprofit organization, Young Workers United, and the San Francisco City Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, Lozano won his case, recovering his rightfully earned wages.

State Homeless ‘Bill of Rights’ Put on Hold Until Next Year

T.J. Johnston, San Francisco Public Press — May 30 2013 - 2:41pm

A “homeless bill of rights” in California must wait until next year for a vote in the full Assembly after clearing its first hurdle.  Advocates say the legislation would protect homeless people from local enforcement of so-called “quality of life” laws, and specify homeless people as deserving of protection in the state’s antidiscrimination statutes.

State Should Follow S.F.'s Lead and Raise Minimum Wage, Says Lawmaker

Alex Kekauoha, San Francisco Public Press — May 15 2013 - 4:27pm

San Francisco’s record of raising the minimum wage 10 years ago without crashing the local economy proves that California can do the same, said a leading labor policy reformer in the Legislature. Watsonville Assemblyman Luis Alejo’s plan to raise the state minimum to $9.25 an hour by 2016 draws heavily on the experience of San Francisco.

S.F.’s Minimum Wage, Highest in the Nation, Eludes Thousands as Enforcement Efforts Face Obstacles

Aaron Tilley and Michael Stoll, San Francisco Public Press — May 1 2013 - 10:07am

10-year-old reform unfinished as businesses routinely flout $10.55 mandate, labor activists say

This story is part of a special report in the Spring print edition of the San Francisco Public Press.

While San Francisco’s minimum wage is the highest in the nation, thousands of workers still earn below the current mandate of $10.55 an hour, say economists, anti-poverty activists and public officials. It has been 10 years since voters passed the groundbreaking labor reform, and the city has built a first-of-its-kind inspection team that has recovered back wages for more than 3,000 workers. But these efforts appear to have addressed only a fraction of the problem. ALSO: Listen to discussion of S.F.'s minimum wage enforcement on KALW Radio’s “Your Call” Friday Media Roundtable.

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