Image: falseStatement: “It will literally shut our doors down for business,” Ernie Hahn, the Sports Arena’s general manager, told the City Council before it passed the living wage ordinance April 12, 2005.

Determination: False

Analysis: Hahn’s prediction was wrong. Drive by the Sports Arena on a Saturday. It definitely hasn’t closed.

This month marks the five-year anniversary of the San Diego’s living wage ordinance, which generally requires that some people — like janitors, landscapers and security guards — earn at least $10 an hour while working on city lands.

In 2005, the proposal spurred outcry among business leaders, like Hahn, who predicted financial fallout for themselves and the city.

“From our standpoint, we didn’t know how it was going to be,” Hahn said Wednesday in an interview.

Estimates of the ordinance’s economic impact varied greatly from city officials, business owners and labor supporters. Two years after it passed council, the city found it added 25 percent to the costs of some city contracts, higher than the 21 percent increase council expected.

It also turns out, contrary to what Hahn expected, that the living wage ordinance doesn’t directly dictate how much he pays workers at the Sports Arena. The property is leased by the city, and subject to the ordinance, but the company’s labor agreements supersede the municipal law.

“The reason it hasn’t had a profound impact on us was our collective bargaining unit,” Hahn said. “It wasn’t as punitive in that respect.”

Today, the living wage rate is up to $11 an hour, plus another $2.20 an hour if health benefits are not included. You can find a video of Hahn’s statement here, skipping forward to 42:15 on the section about the living wage ordinance.


Summer Polacek was formerly the Development Manager at Voice of San Diego.

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