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By Henrietta J. Burroughs              Follow East Palo Alto Today on
East Palo Alto Today                  Facebook    Twitter         Blog
March 28, 2017                   
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Photo of Carlos Martinez
Carlos Martinez
East Palo Alto City Manager

In its February 21, 2017 city council meeting, East Palo Alto City Council members approved the alternative Good Faith Effort agreement with the Sobrato Organization, as owners, and with Amazon.com, Inc., as tenants, on the recommendation of the East Palo Alto city manager and his top staff. In an article titled, Amazon in East Palo Alto and First Source Hiring, which was written for the East Palo Alto Today newspaper, East Palo Alto’s City Manager, Carlos Martinez, explains why the staff recommended that the council approve the agreement.

Below is the city manager's article.


Amazon in East Palo Alto and First Source Hiring

Amazon has recently leased 214,000 sq. ft. of new office space at the intersection of University Ave. and Donohoe. The building was developed by the Sobrato Organization. On February 21, 2017, the City Council adopted an alternative definition of “Good Faith Effort” (GFE) under the City’s 2001 First Source Hiring Policy (FSH) at the request of Amazon. The alternative GFE definition is an “Employment Development Program” consisting of Amazon/Sobrato paying for a full time employment specialist, and providing 1,500 sqft of furnished office space to assist East Palo Alto residents to find a job with Amazon and with other companies. These benefits would continue for at least 10 years. It is estimated that the benefit will cost over $1m over a ten year period. This is in addition to the $1.2 million Community Benefit that Sobrato Organization volunteered to prepay in 2015.

This article seeks to clarify misunderstandings, and provide clarity on the context and the Employment Development Program.

First, Sobrato/Amazon is not exempt from the FSH, it is complying by providing the services above. If the Employment Development Program is not in place, Sobrato/Amazon will comply with the original definition of a good faith effort. If Amazon terminates the lease, Sobrato will comply with the 2001 FSH. Sobrato complied with FSH during construction of the building. Sobrato/Amazon will comply with FSH during the construction of the tenant improvements and shall include the FSH requirements in the contract with any contractors.

Second, the FSH does not require companies to hire 30% of their employees from East Palo Alto residents. It requires them to make a “Good Faith Effort” to do so. In general, companies are in compliance with the FSH if they submit quarterly reports on their efforts. Staff recommended approval of the alternative GFE definition because it goes beyond collaborating with staff and submitting quarterly reports. Having a full time Employment Specialist dedicated exclusively to assist East Palo Alto residents find jobs not only at Amazon, but regionally, and 1,500 sq. ft. of office space developed as an Employment Center, is significantly better than simply receiving quarterly reports.

Third, the Employment Development Program represents an expansion and improvement of FSH. The original FSH functioned largely to connect residents to jobs. The Employment Development Program is a substantial improvement because not only will help East Palo Alto residents connect to jobs, but also provides them with the assistance to secure the position and retain the job. As noted in the January 21, 2017 staff report, these services will include, but are not limited to:
1. resume preparation assistance
2. job search technical support
3. soft skills training (interview preparation, communication, personal skills)
4. leveraging outside resources to assist in job and career development
5. coordinating with other community employment resources, potentially including but not limited to Job Train, Parolee Reentry Program, StreetCode Academy, G101 Retailers, and others.

Regardless of the community, high tech companies draw their employees from a wide area. Almost 70% of the adult population in Menlo Park has at least a 4-year college degree. However, only approximately 4.2% of the employees at the Facebook Headquarters in Menlo Park are Menlo Park residents. The Employment Development Program will help East Palo Alto residents find jobs in East Palo Alto and in other cities, and will also provide quarterly reports.

City staff is currently coordinating with Sobrato/Amazon staff to develop the conceptual details of the Employment Development Program, including a job description for the Employment Development Specialist, defining how the EDP will coordinate with and compliment the work of the Facebook employment liaison, and other non-profit employment and job training assistance agencies. Once a rough concept is developed among the multiple parties, it will be brought to the City Council for community input and feedback hopefully in the month of May 2017.

This is a new effort and the community input process will be critical and important to design an effective program that will serve the needs of our local residents. Furthermore, Sobrato/Amazon have also agreed to periodically review the Program to identify ways to fine tune it and make operational improvement to ensure that this investment and EDP yields the maximum number of jobs for local residents. City staff and Sobrato/Amazon are looking forward to engaging the community in our efforts to revive and design a stronger and effective FSH program.

Carlos Martínez
East Palo Alto City Manager.