Will lawsuit void Measure JJJ?

Construction worker alleges hiring provision in affordable housing rule is unconstitutional

Mar.March 22, 2017 02:17 PM

In December, experts told The Real Deal the passage of labor-backed ballot Measure JJJ — which mandates developers seeking zoning amendments pay workers union-approved rates and include affordable units in their projects — was already having a chilling effect on investment.

At the time, developers and real estate attorneys were mulling how it could be fought in court.

Now, the first lawsuit against the measure, also known as Build Better L.A., has been filed — by a construction worker.

Jim Luke, a construction worker from Illinois, and the Golden State Environmental Justice Alliance, a nonprofit based near Riverside, filed a federal lawsuit last week in the District Court for the Central District of California which claims that the “local hiring” provision in Measure JJJ is unconstitutional. It alleges the provision creates incentive for private contractors to discriminate against out-of-state residents when hiring, Courthouse News reported.

The provision states developers “must make a good-faith effort to ensure that at least 30 percent of all their respective workforces’ construction workers’ hours … shall be performed by permanent residents of the City of Los Angeles.”

It mandates that at least 10 percent of all hours come from people who have troubling finding jobs — the homeless, veterans, single parents and ex-criminals among them — who also live within 5 miles of the project.

The complaint also says that JJJ will not fulfill the promise it made to voters — that it would help to ease L.A.’s housing shortage.

“[It] compels persons who wish to work on certain construction projects to relocate to the City and thereby compete with existing residents for the available housing stock,” Luke and the alliance say in their eight-page complaint.

These hiring provisions will deter out-of-state developers from building in L.A., which can also decrease potential supply, the complaint alleges.

Under the Privileges and Immunities Clause in the U.S. Constitution, a state law cannot discriminate against residents of another state without a “substantial reason.”

Luke’s lawsuit seeks a declaration that the local hiring provision violates the constitution and an injunction preventing its enforcement.

Should the court rule Luke’s favor, it will have to decide whether to strike down just the hiring provision or the entire measure, said the plaintiffs’ attorney Craig Collins of Blum Collins. [CN]Hannah Miet

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