The Santa Monica City Council voted Tuesday, February 22nd, to require firms that hold contracts with the city valued at $50,000 or more to pay their employees a minimum $11.50 per hour living wage.

The decision will benefit parking lot attendants, gardeners, maintenance workers and other “lower-skilled” laborers, said city manager Susan McCarthy.

Companies receiving city contracts in the amount of $50,000 or higher would be subject to the wage requirement.

Exempted from the requirement are government agencies, nonprofit organizations and companies that receive grants from the city instead of competitively bid contracts.

“If someone is paid $11.50 an hour, that is about $25,000 a year,” said Mayor Pam O’Connor.

“To rent an apartment in Santa Monica — to rent — you have to earn an income of about $50,000 a year,” she said. “We are doing something closer to a living wage, where someone may have some shot at not having to work two jobs.”

The living wage requirement for city contractors takes effect Friday, July 1st.

City of Santa Monica employees have been receiving an $11.50 per hour living wage since January 1st.

For the past several years, the city has required only that public works contractors pay their employees a “prevailing wage,” which varies from trade to trade for skilled workers, McCarthy said.

Unskilled workers set to benefit from the living wage have been getting California’s minimum wage, which is $6.75 per hour, or higher if employers chose to pay more.

Mayor pro tem Herb Katz and Councilman Bob Holbrook voted against the $11.50 per hour living wage.

They said other local governments, including Los Angeles, Pasadena and West Hollywood, require contractors to pay employees a living wage of $10.03 to $10.28 per hour.

“We are being asked, if we require $11.50 an hour, to spend maybe 15 percent more to contract for the same work done in other cities,” Holbrook said.

“Taxpayers in Santa Monica pay more because they get less services from contractors for more money or the same services for more money,” Katz said.

Pasadena requires contractors to pay their employees a $10.28 per hour living wage.

Los Angeles and West Hollywood require $10.03 per hour and Los Angeles County requires $9.46 per hour.

McCarthy said there is no comparison between Santa Monica and other cities because the $10.28 and $10.03 per hour wages in other cities include health benefits.

“A higher dollar amount wage is when health benefits are not provided,” McCarthy said.

“We are paying a premium wage because no health benefits are provided,” she said.

A coalition of living wage advocates in Santa Monica “decided not to press” for health benefits and just wanted $11.50 per hour, McCarthy said.

Councilmember Bobby Shriver asked staff to study the increased cost of city contracts because of the living wage and report those results to City Council next year.

City officials cannot know the increased cost until competitive bidding begins for contracts under the living wage requirement, McCarthy said.

Officials suggested in a staff report to the City Council that preliminary estimates of the increased cost might range from $500,000 to several million dollars per year.

“There have been a number of studies that show the cost of implementing a living wage in other cities throughout the United States is not that great,” said Councilman Kevin McKeown.

“The idea here is that either taxpayers pay or taxpayers subsidize,” he said. “Food stamps are paid for by the taxpayer.”

An unskilled worker with a family of four can stop collecting food stamps if he or she earns $1,994 per month, which is $11.51 per hour, McKeown said.

“The level of $11.50 per hour was chosen to be that neutral point at which we are eliminating the hidden taxpayer subsidy and giving people the dignity they deserve for the work they do,” McKeown said.

CITY ERUV — City Councilmembers agreed to allow the city manager to enter into an agreement with the Los Angeles Coastal Eruv Committee to include part of Santa Monica in a coastal eruv. This was requested by Los Angeles County and the nonprofit Los Angeles Coastal Eruv Committee.

An eruv is a religious ceremonial demarcation of a geographic area.

“The demarcation enables Orthodox Jews who have small children or are disabled to attend synagogue without violating the prohibition against pushing or carrying objects outside their homes on the Sabbath,” said Kate Vernez, a member of the Santa Monica city manager’s office.

“Absent creation of an eruv, activities such as pushing baby strollers and wheelchairs or carrying canes and walkers outside the home on the Sabbath would violate Talmudic law,” Vernez said.

Religious custom allows eruv boundaries to be established by using lechis, which in this case would be thin monofilament fishing lines.

The lechis would be nearly invisible lines strung at a 16-foot height and considered to be a ceremonial extension of the home.

Los Angeles County officials proposed a Westside eruv within an area that includes the cities of Santa Monica and Los Angeles.

In Santa Monica, eruv lines would run west along the Santa Monica Freeway (I-10) and south along Beach Front Walk into Venice.

The Eruv Committee would handle installing the lechis at no cost to the city.

The committee and city would have to enter into a licensing agreement to allow the lechis to be strung from existing utility poles, fences and buildings.

COUNCIL ROUNDUP — In other Council action:

n The Santa Monica Fire Department has received a new fire truck.

The 100-foot tractor-drawn aerial ladder truck was purchased from KME Fire Apparatus for approximately $783,800.

Fire chief Jim Hone said a 1986 aerial ladder truck failed an annual inspection and was no longer cost-effective to maintain.

The Fire Department has two aerial ladder trucks in its fleet.

n The City Council approved an ordinance that clarifies the city’s authority to collect fees for the private commercial use of public property.

City attorney Marsha Moutrie said the legal authority to collect payments had previously been unclear and the new ordinance does not change existing ordinance practices.

Private commercial use of public property on the Santa Monica Pier and Third Street Promenade is popular among advertising and entertainment filmmakers.

The city would set the amount of fees and charges to be collected depending on the types of private commercial use.