The Half Moon Bay City Council is pursuing an ordinance requiring a $15 minimum wage in an effort to address one aspect of affordability among people working in the city. 

On March 26, the council voted during its annual priority-setting workshop to increase the minimum wage as one of the five goals the city will work to accomplish in the next fiscal year. 

“We are in a crisis right now with our housing, and the other side of the housing issue is people do not make enough money to afford even affordable housing,” said Councilwoman Deborah Penrose, who spoke adamantly about wanting the city to put the issue on its agenda. 

In January, minimum wages increased statewide to $12 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees and to $11 per hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees. Senate Bill 3, signed into law in 2016, made these pay raises necessary. 

Under the law, the state’s minimum wage will reach $15 per hour by 2023. Some cities have gone further by introducing ordinances to increase the minimum wage faster than the 2023 deadline. They include Berkeley, Emeryville, Sacramento, San Jose and Santa Clara. San Francisco will adjust its minimum wage starting in July to increase in step with the Consumer Price Index. And four cities in San Mateo County approved a $15 minimum wage requirement by 2020. 

Councilmembers Debbie Ruddock and Adam Eisen expressed some concern over the city taking on raising the minimum wage this year. Ruddock and Eisen selected five other issues during the workshop exercise but when the council decided to keep to five not six priorities, both were in favor of including minimum wage. 

“I think it is going to need some research,” Ruddock said. “It is important to understand the pay landscape and go through a process that addresses our stakeholders.” 

Ruddock said she would like to survey employers to determine who in the city was already paying $15 an hour before acting on an ordinance. She also said she wanted to hear from small business owners who may be impacted by added costs. 

“We do not want to do anything that might be a burden for small businesses to operate,” Ruddock said. 

Krystlyn Giedt, president and CEO of Half Moon Bay’s Coastside Chamber of Commerce and Visitors’ Bureau, said if a minimum wage increase comes to the city, she wants to be sure it is in the best interest of small and large businesses. 

“Increasing the minimum wage can be a double-edged sword,” Giedt said. “Small businesses already run on thin margins, so on one end you want people to earn a living wage, but it can also cause businesses to pay a wage they may not be able to cover.” 

Giedt explained when the state increased its minimum wage it took into account both small and large business needs, with wages going up incrementally over a period of years. 

“There is an assumption small businesses can pay up, which is not always the case,” Giedt said. “I do not know if accelerating the increase in minimum wage is in the best interest of our local community businesses.” 

A report from University of California, Berkeley’s, Labor Center, which looked at estimated impacts from a proposed minimum wage law for the North Bay, concluded, “minimum wage increases lead to net gains in worker earnings and have no negative effect on employment.” 

The report further stated “turnover levels in low-wage jobs are high as workers leave jobs looking for better wages or because they are unable to stay in their jobs due to poverty-related problems such as difficulties with transportation, child care or health. As a result, rather than eliminating jobs, raising the minimum wages can reduce turnover and increase job stability.”

The council voted 5-0 at the end of the meeting to put a minimum wage ordinance on the list of the city’s priorities, citing the important role it plays in working toward affordability for residents.  

“My guess is making it fit for Half Moon Bay is not the end of the world,” Rarback said.  

In addition, City Council listed other priorities for the year. It pledged to work toward addressing affordable housing, emergency preparedness, transportation management and sustainability in the upcoming fiscal year.

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