A state department put San Diego on a list of municipalities eligible for state funding despite the city’s voter-approved anti-PLA initiative. Photo credit: business.ca.gov

The state Department of Industrial Relations on Thursday included San Diego on a list of municipalities eligible for state financial assistance on major construction projects, despite voter passage of an initiative that prevents the city from requiring Project Labor Agreements.

City officials had worried that San Diego would lose state funding after voters overwhelmingly passed the anti-PLA initiative in 2012.

PLAs are seen by opponents as favoring organized labor, thereby raising project costs. Union supporters in Sacramento responded by passing legislation barring state financial help in cities that ban the agreements.

However, San Diego’s intitiative carried an exception that allows for PLAs when required by state law.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said the city’s legal argument was novel but convincing to state lawyers.

“The only threat was on the political side,” Goldsmith said. “Speaker Toni Atkins was able to keep Sacramento politics from being an obstacle.”

Atkins is a San Diego Democrat who leads the Assembly and is a former City Council member.

“This allowed our office and the state’s lawyers to resolve this on legal — not political — grounds,” Goldsmith said. “Having served in the Sacramento legislature, I know the value of what Toni Atkins did for San Diego.”

According to the City Attorney’s Office, inclusion on the list means San Diego can benefit from state programs and bond measures, including the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014, which voters approved last November. The measure provides $7.5 billion in funding for water projects that are part of a statewide, comprehensive water plan.

San Diego’s presence on the state eligibility list was in doubt as recently as last fall.

To be eligible for state funding, the cities also had to comply with the state’s prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements on all public works projects.

— City News Service

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