Laguna Beach residents will have plenty to decide the future of the city’s hotel industry as balloting for the November election is expected to feature two initiatives, one proposing new rules for hotel development and the other concerning hotel workers.
The Orange County Registrar of Electors certified the ballot measures on April 20, but the city council had the option to pass the initiatives as drafted before the election. Instead, the panel voted unanimously to let residents decide their fate.
A hotel worker protection ordinance initiative has called for a $18-per-hour minimum wage for people employed by Laguna Beach hotels, granting annual raises of $1-per-hour until in 2026.
The hotel development initiative would seek to meet specific development standards for projects within 1,000 feet of the city’s two main roads – Coast Highway and Laguna Canyon Road – or otherwise subject such developments to approval voters.
Both initiatives have the support of Unite Here Local 11, a hospitality union.
“People have spoken, and we believe it is time for the Council to adopt these two initiatives,” said Juan Muñoz, researcher for Unite Here Local 11. “…Workers need to be given the opportunity to have a living wage, and California’s minimum wage of $15 an hour doesn’t reduce it.”
Kurt Bjorkman, general manager of the Laguna Beach Ranch, said the facility exceeds the rate of pay offered in the hotel’s worker protection ordinance.
Speaking on behalf of several Laguna Beach hotels and Visit Laguna Beach, Bjorkman asked the council to turn the initiatives over to voters.
“Let the voters decide,” Bjorkman said. “We just became aware of these initiatives not so long ago. We know they are made and everyone cares about our hotel employees, just like us. We just wish we had time to be able to share our stories and communicate that with voters and let voters decide in November. »
Pro Tem Mayor Bob Whalen said he believes hotel workers should be earning more than the state minimum wage, but questioned why the union would support the hotel development initiative .
Mayor Sue Kempf took a similar stance, calling the hotel development measure “counterproductive”.
“It’s not going to help our hospitality industry,” Kempf said. “It’s not going to help our economy, and I don’t think it’s going to help employees. The more quality hotels we have, the better they will pay.
Councilor Peter Blake expressed his opposition to both initiatives, as well as one submitted by Laguna Residents First which would also regulate major developments.
“I am adamantly opposed to a vote of the people determining what the capitalist system will pay its personnel,” Blake said. “I think right now it’s impossible for a lot of these hoteliers and restaurateurs to get people to work for them, so they’re paying so much more than normal, and coming in here and forcing these raises. We all know what it is. This is about the unionization of our hotels in Laguna Beach.
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