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Wage advocates at odds with Target planned for Santa Rosa

The Santa Rosa Planning Commission today will reconsider its June 14 vote to grant a permit for a Target store at Coddingtown mall, a move that has frustrated some business and political leaders but encouraged advocates of better wages and benefits for workers.

The decision could determine how quickly the mall can move forward with plans to demolish the two-story former Gottschalks building and replace it with a 143,000-square-foot single story Target, which would be Santa Rosa's second.

It also could become a flashpoint between those who believe businesses freed from burdensome regulations can best spur job creation, and those who think more regulations are needed to ensure only businesses that create good-paying jobs are welcome in Santa Rosa.

Jonathan Coe, president of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, said his organization hopes the Planning Commission reaffirms its earlier approval of the project.

"We support any and all jobs," Coe said.

But the Living Wage Coalition of Sonoma County has seized on the Target project – and inaccurate employment information provided by a Target executive — as evidence greater scrutiny is needed of the 200 to 250 jobs that will be created.

"There are benefits and costs to these jobs, and the community needs to consider all of those at the front end," said Marty Bennett, co-founder of the Living Wage Coalition.

Formed in 2000, the union-supported group has lobbied for rules encouraging better wages and benefits for workers. It has won passage of living wage ordinances in Sebastopol, Sonoma and Petaluma. Santa Rosa rejected such an ordinance in 2001.

The ordinances require organizations that do business with those cities to abide by certain wage and benefits requirements. Petaluma's ordinance, for example, requires companies that do not pay health benefits for their workers to pay wages of at least $13.20 per hour.

The national minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, and California's is $8. In San Francisco, it's $10.24 per hour.

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