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California

WeHo, Santa Monica ponder minimum wage hikes after L.A. plan unveiled

Mayor Eric Garcetti
Mayor Eric Garcetti announces his plan to raise the minimum wage in Los Angeles on Sept. 1.
(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

When Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti pitched a plan to slowly boost the minimum wage across the city, critics warned that businesses could easily skip town for neighboring cities and pay less.

Now some of those cities are beginning to explore whether to boost the minimum wage within their borders too -- a trend that could ease concerns about job losses in Los Angeles.

The West Hollywood City Council voted Monday to gather information about wages in the city, the first step toward deciding whether it should hike its citywide minimum wage.

“We want to make sure that the wages that we pay here are competitive and give the best opportunity for our citizens to stay here and work here,” Councilwoman Abbe Land said at the Monday meeting.

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She added that although the idea was already in the works before Garcetti made his Labor Day announcement, “the timing couldn’t be better because it’s clear that there will be some action, at some point, in Los Angeles.... The more the region works together to improve wages for people, the better.”

The next day, Santa Monica City Council members voted to analyze how the proposed L.A. wage boost would affect their coastal city, and, if L.A. presses ahead, to kick off the discussion over whether to hike its own wages.

Garcetti has proposed a gradual increase in the minimum wage from the California state minimum of $9 an hour to at least $10.25 in 2015, $11.75 in 2016 and $13.25 in 2017.

“The fact that nobody came to speak to this tells you how utterly unsurprising this is for the progressive city of Santa Monica,” Councilman Kevin McKeown said at the Tuesday meeting.

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Both cities are still gathering information about wage hikes and their effects, but Santa Monica Mayor Pam O’Connor, who met with Garcetti on Wednesday to discuss transportation and other regional issues, said city leaders are keenly interested in the idea as a possible way to alleviate poverty.

“One in four children in our region is living in poverty, and that is not good for children. It is not good for any of us,” O’Connor said. “I hope that we adopt something -- but we need a broader community and regional discussion about it” first.

Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman said the mayor has been reaching out to other mayors throughout Los Angeles County about boosting the minimum wage in their cities, and will be attending a Friday meeting with other mayors to discuss the wage increase, among other topics.

Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard said he appreciated  Garcetti’s “call for cooperation among cities on a regional basis,” and that the topic of the minimum wage was “well suited for regional consideration.”

“The goal is to avoid inter-city competition that could result from individual cities’ actions,” Bogaard said in a written statement Wednesday, adding that he intended to work with other cities to explore a “shared strategy for improving the lives of working families.”

Carol Schatz, chief executive of downtown Los Angeles’ Central City Assn., said that if the bulk of neighboring cities decide to boost wages alongside Los Angeles, “that lessens the competitive disadvantage” for the city. The business advocacy group was among those concerned that jobs could flee L.A. if wages were increased.

“But you still have the competitive disadvantage of L.A. versus Orange County or Ventura, or other cities in California,” Schatz said. “And there are many other concerns with this.”

Follow @latimesemily for what’s happening at Los Angeles City Hall

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