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San Diego County supervisors OK subcontractor transparency ordinance

The San Diego County Administration Building in downtown San Diego.
Angela Carone
The San Diego County Administration Building in downtown San Diego.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 on Wednesday in favor of two ordinances that require contractors to provide more information on subcontractors working on projects in unincorporated areas.

Supervisors approved a required second reading of the ordinances during the Wednesday meeting, which deal with land use and environmental issues.

Board Chairman Nathan Fletcher, who originally proposed upgrading subcontracting policies, said subcontractor transparency "is vital to protecting workers and ensuring project work sites are safe and completed correctly by a skilled workforce."


Supervisor Jim Desmond voted no, but didn't elaborate.

The updated ordinance mandates collection of the following information before a subcontractor is onsite:

  • subcontractor specialty, name and contact, license number, address and workers compensation policy
  • subcontractor work start and end dates
  • detailed scope of the work done
  • verification of Occupational Safety and Health Administration or wage violations
  • subcontractor Disadvantaged Business Enterprise status
  • special safety licenses or training requirements for a subcontractor's scope of work

Projects that will require greater subcontractor transparency are:

  • building permits for new commercial or residential tracts (five or more lots) and multifamily construction projects (five or more units), commercial tenant improvement projects over 10,000 square feet and projects associated with General Plan amendments
  • right-of-way permits for transport of energy, sewer or water projects subject to the state prevailing wage; and projects not subject to state prevailing wage (excluding driveways and retaining walls)

Fletcher's office said the policies will take effect on June 10.

The ordinance process began in March 2021, when supervisors directed Chief Administrative Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer to seek input from stakeholders and develop options. After reviewing those options, the supervisors provided further direction in October.


Last month, supervisors voted 4-1 (with Desmond also opposed) in favor of additions to the two ordinances, as part of a first reading. Desmond at that time said further regulation will only slow badly needed housing projects and increase costs.

According to Fletcher's office, union leaders are backing the new rules.

"There are too many subcontractors that prey on working families and use exploitation as a business model," said Doug Hicks, regional manager for the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters.

The board's decision Wednesday "ensures we are able to identify the bad actors that plague the construction industry," Hicks added.

Frank Lopez, an official with CWA Local 9509, said his group commended supervisors and county staff "for taking action on an issue that affects both workers and the public."

Multilayered employment structures "can create accountability problems and dangerous conditions at work sites, including in the public right- of-way," Lopez said.

He said that low-road subcontracting "is a huge problem in the telecom industry, affecting work quality, worker safety and public safety."

"For example, we are currently seeing a boom in installation of wireless `small cell' technology in our rights-of-way," Lopez added. "We have seen substandard work quality and unsafe work conditions."

According to Fletcher's office, the county issues between 14,000 and 18,000 building permits and around 2,200 right-of-way permits per year, with the overwhelming majority of projects using subcontractors.