CITY HALL — If lowering unemployment, increasing economic activity and cutting down on traffic in the city sound like attractive goals, City Hall’s newest project may have some appeal.

Andy Agle, director of the Housing and Economic Development Department, presented options for a local-hiring program, which could require companies that build in Santa Monica to hire Santa Monicans either for the construction or for positions in the new company.

Agle said the “hire local” model would have many of the same benefits of the “buy local” campaign created by City Hall and the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, which encourages people to shop at local stores instead of driving to nearby cities, thereby saving gas while pumping more money into the local economy.

“It’s good for job development, economic development and sustainability,” Agle said Monday.

Hiring local would ostensibly pump more money into the local economy by putting dollars in the pockets of Santa Monicans, and simultaneously cut down on traffic by getting people to live closer to where they work.

At present, two-thirds of employed Santa Monicans work outside the city limits, according to figures in a city staff report.

How, exactly, to get locals hired is up for debate.

Santa Monica already has limited local hiring in place.

Four of City Hall’s agreements with developers looking to build outside of normal zoning codes include a local hiring provision as a sweetener for City Hall, Agle said, but at this point, the programs are anything but uniform.

Over the course of 30 years engaged in development agreement negotiations, only 47 locals have been hired, according to the staff report.

“This was an opportunity to have it more formalized, and more effective,” Agle said.

Other measures, like a $737,000 per year program that led six Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District students to get jobs in construction and other fields got slammed by the council for waste.

“We need to think about the future for these internships,” Holbrook said. “$100,000 a year each is not bad.”

Staff reported at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that other cities use a variety of programs to get locals hired.

First among those was a policy called “first source hiring,” which promises locals an exclusive first shot at jobs before opening up the hiring process to a wider audience.

The practice was common both to public works contracts and to private development, Agle said.

Next came development agreements, which have the added benefit of tying hiring requirements into the nature of the development.

Development agreements have the added benefit of flexibility — provisions of local-hiring can kick in based on the size and scope of the project.

Agle also noted that community groups can haggle directly with developers, but it usually requires those organizations to be better funded than they are in Santa Monica, so that they have the resources to hire lawyers.

Lastly, the concept of in-lieu fees — payments that could then be used for job training programs — was broached.

That proposal drew support from Mark Loranger, the CEO at Chrysalis, an organization that receives municipal grants to help homeless and low-income people get jobs.

In-lieu fees would give City Hall more resources to put to organizations that already have the staff and infrastructure to encourage job placement, without spending money on a new program, he argued.

“Local hire programs are very well-intentioned, but they’re also costly to administer,” Loranger said. “We’re in a unique position in the community, and we’re ready to be a partner in the city to increase opportunities to Santa Monica residents.”

The thought found favor with Mayor Pro Tempore Gleam Davis and Councilmember Bob Holbrook, although for very different reasons.

“It would allow local, well-established and high quality programs to take people marginalized because of their pasts to get them training and into permanent jobs,” Davis said.

Holbrook, on the other hand, saw it as a way to get a public benefit without unduly burdening businesses by forcing them to go through a special hiring process.

Before committing public resources to any kind of program, said Mayor Richard Bloom, council members would have to see results from other cities to get a sense of possible outcomes.

Unfortunately, based on reports from other communities that have done studies of the programs, local hiring initiatives haven’t gone too far.

“Cities that have gone through and studied their programs found that the impacts were not as great as they anticipated,” Agle said.

At this point, staff is looking at the things that have worked best in other communities to cobble together a model specific to Santa Monica.

“We’ve looked at a lot of programs, and with general direction from the council, we’ll choose elements of different programs,” Agle said.

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