The Los Angeles City Council is calling for large home improvement stores to make their properties a bit more accommodating for the day laborers who tend to gather nearby seeking work.
The City Council approved a new ordinance Wednesday, August 13th, that requires home improvement stores of at least 100,000 square feet in the city to obtain a conditional use permit, which could also require them to create a day laborer facility on site equipped with drinking water, toilets, tables and trash cans.
In its current form, the ordinance could be applied to stores such as The Home Depot that will be built or are undergoing major renovations. But City Councilman Bernard Parks, who first proposed the law four years ago, noted that the ordinance could lead to requiring existing stores, such as the Home Depot on Jefferson Boulevard, near Alla Road in Del Rey, to provide the day laborer shelters.
“After four years, I am pleased that the council unanimously passed a public policy that creates a process that will generate a collective effort to manage and mitigate day labor issues at home improvement stores,” Parks said. “This is the first step of many that the council will take to ensure the retail community and the city work in cooperation together.
“By passing this ordinance, council has eliminated the erroneous debate that this is an immigrant issue and clarified it as it rightfully should be, a land issue.”
Under the ordinance, the home improvement stores will be subject to day laborer operating standards, including providing shelter and amenities such as bathrooms for the workers waiting throughout the day, as well as to develop a security plan.
The operating standards will not be required if the store does not have an existing day laborer population nearby or if the workers’ congregation does not cause adverse traffic and loitering impacts, according to the ordinance.
Home Depot government relations manager Francisco Uribe said in a letter to councilmembers that the company has serious concerns with the ordinance and requested that a more comprehensive and effective law be developed. The law should apply only to new home improvement stores and should not discourage existing stores from making improvements, Uribe wrote.
“Day labor is a broad, social issue that can only be solved by laborers, nonprofits, government, law enforcement, neighbors and businesses working together,” Uribe said. “We are committed to having a positive impact on the communities in which we operate.”
Company spokeswoman Kathryn Gallagher added that Home Depot was disappointed with the City Council’s approval of the law.
“This is a broader social issue that goes beyond The Home Depot and the solution is certainly more complicated than placing mandates on businesses,” she said.
Some City Council members and day labor advocates argued that the large home improvement stores should be required to provide certain amenities because they receive some benefits by having the workers in the area. Antonio Bernabe of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network said the laborers pick up supplies they need for work at Home Depot.
“These day laborers are Home Depot’s customers,” Bernabe said.
National Day Laborer Organizing Network executive director Pablo Alvarado praised the ordinance for benefiting the workers, calling it a “forward-thinking approach.”
“It provides for safe and dignified hiring locations where contingent workers can defend their basic rights,” Alvarado said. “It carefully balances the interests of business, residents, day laborers and their employers.”
But Mark Redick, president of the Del Rey Neighborhood Council, which covers the Home Depot site on Jefferson Boulevard, argued that the stores do not necessarily benefit by having the laborers in the area and should not be obligated to build labor centers.
“The contractors are not going to Home Depot to get these guys; they’re going there to get supplies,” Redick said.
He added that facilities such as the day labor center in West Los Angeles have been effective for the workers because they require them to register.
City Councilman Bill Rosendahl noted that the Jefferson Boulevard Home Depot located in his 11th District is considered to be one of the company’s most successful stores in the country, and he plans to have discussions with company officials about a potential labor center there.
The councilman said he is also looking at ways to provide more amenities for the day laborers who congregate in his district.