Unions press for commitments on development near new arena

A coalition of unions and their supporters pressed Sacramento city officials Wednesday to ensure that at least portions of the so-called “ancillary development” surrounding the new Kings arena be unionized, particularly the proposed hotel.

The coalition, led by the Sacramento Central Labor Council, released a letter urging Mayor Kevin Johnson and the rest of the City Council to hold off on approving entitlements for the ancillary development until the “public benefits” are spelled out.

The letter comes as city officials enter a crucial phase in the approval process for the arena and the adjacent development, which would transform the eastern end of moribund Downtown Plaza. The city Planning and Design Commission is expected to vote tonight on the arena and the proposed development around it, and the City Council is expected to vote May 13.

The Kings have said they’re focusing most of their attention on the $448 million arena, which is supposed to open in 2016. But they have released preliminary plans to build 1.5 million square feet of hotel, retail and office space immediately adjacent to the sports facility. The Kings bought the shopping mall earlier this year.

Bill Camp, executive secretary of the labor council, said unions remain supportive of the arena and the surrounding development but are particularly interested in having the proposed hotel staffed by union members. The letter is co-signed by Unite Here Local 49, the hotel workers’ union, the Sacramento Housing Alliance, the Service Employees International Union and other groups.

Camp noted that the Holiday Inn immediately to the west of Downtown Plaza and most other downtown hotels are unionized, and “we would consider a nonunion hotel a declaration of war against the labor movement.”

Ty Hudson, research analyst with the hotel workers’ union, said unionizing the new hotel near the arena is “absolutely crucial” to Local 49’s efforts to “raise the living standards and job quality of hospitality workers in the Sacramento area.”

There was no immediate comment from the Kings or the mayor’s spokesman.

Camp stressed that the unions aren’t trying to obstruct either development. “We support the arena,” he said. “We support the ancillary development.”

But he added, “We think, given the amount of money that the citizens are putting into the project, there ought to be some clarity about what’s coming back to the citizens.” The letter urges the city not to approve any entitlements for the ancillary development “until the public and the City Council have had the opportunity to fully consider its potential impacts and benefits.”

The city plans to contribute $258 million to the arena project, but does not plan to subsidize the development next to it.

The Kings have already committed to a “project labor agreement” that ensures that the arena will be built mostly with union labor. The agreement doesn’t cover construction of the hotels or other elements of the adjacent development.

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