San Francisco Solar Project Will Include Local Hiring Requirement
Advocates Seek To Establish New Standards For Green Job Opportunities In Traditionally
Underserved Communities, Board of Supervisors to Vote on Tuesday, April 28
San Francisco, CA – For environmental justice advocates the phrase “green jobs” has a
connotation that reaches beyond the employment context. In fact, the idea of “green jobs” is viewed by many as a means of promoting social justice by reaching out to those traditionally ignored by major environmental movements, partnering with low-income communities of color, limited English speakers, and the formerly incarcerated to solve what green jobs activist Van Jones calls America’s two biggest problems: social inequality and environmental destruction.
A proposal to build a 5-megawatt solar installation at San Francisco’s Sunset Reservoir, the largest municipal project of its kind in California, was met with resistance in the city’s Budget & Finance Committee on March 18 when environmental justice leaders on the Board of Supervisors and in the community highlighted the project’s failure to implement an all-inclusive vision of green job creation. Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi, John Avalos, and David Campos in particular locked on to the project’s
failure to include a binding “local hiring” provision to create opportunities for qualified workers from San Francisco’s most economically disadvantaged communities.
That all changed, however, when solar developer Recurrent Energy saw the political writing on the wall as the item was continued for a month, prompting Recurrent to engage community-based organizations, Supervisors, and Mayor Gavin Newsom’s workforce development team to craft language to guarantee that a green workforce that reflects the diversity of San Francisco will build the $50 million project for the city.
The results were unveiled in a follow-up Budget Committee meeting on April 22. A binding commitment
from Recurrent to hire a workforce of at least thirty percent qualified economically disadvantaged
residents from the City’s most underserved communities in Southeast San Francisco, Chinatown, the Mission, Western Addition, the Excelsior, the Tenderloin, and South of Market was met with unanimous approval by the twenty community representatives and advocates that spoke at the April 22 hearing.
Supervisor John Avalos, who as Chair of the Budget Committee has consistently identified opportunities
to enforce local hiring policies and guarantee employment for low-income residents throughout San
Francisco, lauded the progress that has been on green jobs, as did the project’s sponsor Supervisor
Carmen Chu. Supervisor David Campos acknowledged the work that had been done on the green
workforce development front, but had several important questions about the financial terms of the solar project contract.
The proposal was advanced to the full Board of Supervisors for a vote on Tuesday, April 28. One major unanswered question is whether the proposed workforce provisions fully address the concerns of
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who has been the Board’s leading advocate in creating green workforce opportunities for underrepresented San Franciscans. Supervisor Mirkarimi was unable to attend the April 22 Budget hearing due to birth of his son the day before.