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Local restaurateurs battle labor challenges

Original post made on Mar 11, 2017

Longtime owners who have run restaurants on the Midpeninsula for decades say they've never seen labor costs become so acute, and they fear a breaking point is on the horizon.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, March 10, 2017, 9:14 AM

Comments (10)

Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 11, 2017 at 8:53 am

It would be a shame to see our wonderful variety of affordable restaurant offerings decline and with it our privileged lifestyle.

This is why we need a steady stream of illegal immigrants to make up for the shortage. They will settle for less wages without benefits and accept a lower standard of living and housing arrangements such as sharing an apartment room with other families.

And the shortage of labor also affects our ability to hire the cheap house cleaners and gardeners we have all grown so accustomed to having and which raise our standard of living here in Silicon Valley.

Posted by History
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 11, 2017 at 10:41 am

@Observer, can't let anything go by without a snarky comment, tiresome at best.

I'll copy a comment I saw elsewhere that sums up this entire conversation. It's not based on opinion, feelings or activism, rather just pure fact.

"Labor is a supply/demand commodity. So is supply of services. The market will determine the balance. The labor supply will adjust accordingly. 30 years ago people were driving in from Tracy and Manteca to work here, often using commuter vans. Commuter buses will be the future, and employers will adjust.

The days of illegal aliens driving down wages is over. Get used to it."

And now let the opinions that disagree fly, in the face of fact.

Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 11, 2017 at 12:19 pm

The shortage of people willing and able to work for low wages is entirely caused by the lack of housing that people can afford with low wages. Unless the city puts more effort into improve the supply of housing in the lower price ranges, the labor shortage is going to hurt more than just restaurants.

Posted by Jim Neal
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 11, 2017 at 3:57 pm

This should not come as a surprise to anyone. I have been talking about this for the last 6 years and predicting exactly the effects that we are seeing now. The source is clear; the approval of too much office space by peninsula governments. This is being exacerbated by the setting of artificial wages by those same governments.

The result will eventually be that only chain restaurants or highly specialized and profitable family owned restaurants will be able to survive, and housing for low to moderate income people will be almost non-existent.

The only solution is to slow ( and preferably freeze ) new office development on the peninsula and for cities to stop setting arbitrary minimum wages in order to allow the housing and retail markets time to absorb the glut of high wage earners that have relocated here.

Jim Neal
Old Mountain View

Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 12, 2017 at 8:21 am

There are solutions other than killing the engine of prosperity that drives this area. We have a jobs to housing imbalance, and you are proposing limiting the jobs. I'd prefer to see more affordable housing, however, city governments have structured building rules to pretty much ensure that prices remain high. We can't have enough density to amortize land prices, we don't get much in the way of mixed use developments, so more people must travel farther for basic goods and services, not to mention ludicrous permitting costs with various impact fees which add a lot of cost to each unit.

As for residents, quit being obstructionist to development. Mountain View's fruit orchard days are gone, it's now a hotspot in a tremendously successful industry. We can resist change and continue down this path of driving out all but the rich, or we accept the problems of higher density but retain diversity in people and businesses.

Posted by Mike
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 12, 2017 at 4:22 pm

It is not just restaurants that are getting impacted. Home Care companies can't find Caregivers, Dry Cleaners losing staff, everywhere the less than 25 dollar an hour service worker is leaving. Mountain View City Council loves tech workers but has failed the lowest income service, worker. That is why tech startups love the 1099 employee and California looks the other way at the underground economy. Cash under the table can make the difference if you look at wages, taxes, Obamacare, worker's comp insurance and the host of taxes a small business needs to make to be legal. Utopia for tech but terrible for anybody that cannot make the "Google" Hiring standards....raising the minimum wages forces more people underground not less.

Posted by Jim Neal
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 13, 2017 at 10:07 am

I was not speaking of killing any engine of prosperity. It would be one thing to advocate for getting rid of all the existing office space and driving employers out of town, but that is not what I was proposing. I was saying that too much of anything is not good for anyone. Water is good for your body, but if you drink too much it can kill you.

It is a fact that it takes far longer to approve and build residential properties than office spaces, so unless we slow down the runaway expansion of office space, the housing will NEVER be able to catch up. Think of it like putting too much popcorn in your popcorn maker. Initially everything is fine, then the kernels start to slowly pop and things are still fine, but then as the oil and air get hotter (like jobs in silicon valley) the kernels start popping so quickly (like people moving into the peninsula to get the high paying jobs ) that the popcorn maker starts to overflow and no matter how fast you try to eat it ( provide housing ), you won't be able to eat it fast enough to keep it from spilling over and making a mess (like a massive housing shortage and skyrocketing rents).

I have spoken for years about the need for balance between jobs and housing; and for a steady, controlled growth policy and so far I'm not seeing it.

Jim Neal
Old Mountain View

Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 13, 2017 at 10:45 am

@Jim Neal, that popcorn maker analogy is hot on!

Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 14, 2017 at 3:21 pm

The job market is good right now. So all the good employees are getting better (ie: not retail/restaurant) jobs.

Every store I go to has a hiring sign in the window these days.

What I've noticed is the quality of people have dropped as a result. Anyone with a brain escapes the retail world fairly quickly leaving behind the less than helpfuls.

But that's a good problem to have. Means the economy is doing well.

Posted by Karma
a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2017 at 12:21 pm

What goes around, comes around. The Mountain View city motto is "Poors OUT!"

It's hilarious.

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