A construction worker
A man working at a construction site. Photo via Pixabay

The Board of Supervisors Wednesday unanimously approved the first steps toward creating an ordinance to require subcontractors working on permitted projects in San Diego County to disclose more information about their business through a public county-sponsored online portal.

Chief Administrative Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer was directed to seek input from stakeholders and develop options for the “Subcontractor Transparency Measures for County Permits” ordinance, which would require subcontractors — through the Accela online portal — to disclose their contact information, workers’ compensation insurance information, and state Contractor License Board license number and category.

Robbins-Meyer will return to the board in six months with options, along with recommendations on how information can be collected to ensure compliance.

“It is important for subcontractors to be held accountable for their work, along with their safety and labor practices,” said board Chairman Nathan Fletcher, who proposed the policy. “Adding simple disclosures to the online portal will help prevent unqualified operators and violators from doing shoddy work in our community.”

Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer described the proposed ordinance as a “modest, reasonable” mechanism to curve abuses.

According to Fletcher’s office, having a firm policy will help the county address situations such as one involving a Riverside-based drywall company that was cited for wage and hour violations in 2016 and a 2019 hotel collapse in New Orleans that killed three people.

During the Wednesday board meeting, held virtually, supervisors heard from building industry and union representatives, including Dustin Steiner of the San Diego chapter of Associated General Contractors of America, who said the proposed ordinance would create more bureaucracy and cost. Steiner said, however, that he looked forward to working with the board as it crafts a new policy.

Gretchen Newsom, political director of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 569, said her union strongly supports the proposed ordinance.

“This transparency measure enhances the goal of building stronger communities,” she said.

Matthew Adams, vice president at the Building Industry Association of San Diego County, said he wanted clarity to ensure any ordinance doesn’t result in more difficulties, additional costs or time delays in getting projects approved.

Doug Hicks, of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, said his group appreciated “the county being strong voice for workers and contractors.” Law-abiding contractors are at a disadvantage compared to those who break the law, so the ordinance “will send a strong message to contractors as well,” he said.

Each year, the county planning and development services department processes about 13,000 building permits. On average, projects that utilize contractors have two to six subcontractors.

The county already verifies that the lead contractor is in good standing with the Contractors State Licensing Board, but the proposed ordinance would ensure the subcontractors they use are held to the same standards, and that the public is able to access the same information.

The Subcontractor Transparency Measures for County Permits policy is part of Fletcher’s plan to create a “Framework for San Diego County’s Future,” which has increased transparency as a goal. The framework prioritizes communities and populations in San Diego that have been historically left behind.

“We can create a culture of compliance, which will help root out potential violations,” Fletcher said.