by Lee Hubbard
San Francisco – As cars zipped up and down Plymouth and Ocean Avenues, Mike Brown, founder and head of Inner City Youth, and fellow activists could be seen holding picket signs reading “unfair hiring” and “we need jobs” outside the construction site for the new $6 million Ingleside Library.
“The community has been dead out here as far as advocating positive alternatives for youth in the community,” said Brown. “We have been overlooked for the recent City College gym construction project, the new Ocean View Gym and we weren’t involved in the building of the Albertson’s complex a few years back. Those days are gone and we have to speak up to get a piece of the action for these jobs.”
Construction of the Ingleside Branch is part of the Branch Library Improvement Plan (BLIP), a $106 million bond measure approved by San Francisco voters in 2000, which called for the building and upgrading of various library facilities in San Francisco. Glen Park’s new branch just opened and new libraries will be constructed not only in Ingleside, but in other communities, such as Portola and Visitacion Valley in the next year. The Bayview and North Beach branches may also be the beneficiaries of new buildings, but they are currently in the pre-design phase.
Activists like Brown say that many of the construction companies receiving BLIP funds have not hired workers who live near the construction sites. “The city did not require that this contractor hire from this community,” Brown explained.
He said that violence over street money and turf is tearing his community up. He believes jobs and other opportunities for youth in the Ocean View Ingleside area would help to curtail some of this.
“Jobs would really reduce the crime in the area and the violence and we are going to start fighting for the Ocean View community now.”
A Bay View investigation into the workforce at the Ingleside Library, which is being built by CLW Builders, found that none of the workers on the construction site were from the Ingleside community. This news infuriated Brett Walker, an organizer with Inner City Youth.
“The library has a slogan, ‘Libraries for a stronger community,’ but how can you have a stronger community when no one from that community is working on or at the library?”
Mindy Linetzky, a program administrator with BLIP, said that contracts on the 17 library projects were a city process.
“Although the BLIP work is a joint project with the Department of Public Works and the San Francisco Public Library, we don’t have anything to do with this, as far as hiring goes,” said Linetzky. “We just have to follow all of the requirements the city requires.”
A city department that tries to get local workers hired on San Francisco’s public construction sites is the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development, which uses a program called City Build to train and refer San Franciscans. A call was put in to Rhonda Simmons, director of Workforce Development, to inquire about city workers at the Ingleside Library construction site, but she was not in at press time.
Mike Brown said his group has been protesting the Ingleside Library site on Ocean repeatedly to get jobs for youth from the community. His efforts may be starting to pay off. David Liang, owner of CLW Builders, says he will hire a few local people to work on the site, which Brown says is a start.
“I am meeting with City Build on Monday,” said Liang. “I have been told they have some people available for me to work on the project.”
With the Ingleside Library project just starting and taking a little over a year to complete, Brown said he will keep a close eye on the project to make sure Ocean View and Ingleside young men and women are hired for the work being done in the community.
“Jobs on construction in our community have not gone to members of this community, dating back to as far as when Art Agnos was the mayor,” declared Brown. “We are going to watch this jobsite as well as join forces with other community based organization to fight for our share of jobs and funding in San Francisco.”
Lee Hubbard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.