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City Council Moves to Evict Day Laborers : Workers: A planned ordinance would prohibit job solicitation anywhere in the city. The action comes after six months of effort to remove the men from Memorial Park.

August 27, 1992|MARIALYCE PEDERSEN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SIERRA MADRE — Six months after city officials began trying to get day laborers out of Memorial Park, the City Council unanimously approved prohibiting job solicitations anywhere in the city.

The council instructed its staff to come up with an ordinance enacting the prohibition before its Sept. 8 meeting.

Agoura Hills recently enacted a similar ordinance, which was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union. A Los Angeles Superior Court ruling upheld the law; the ACLU is appealing.

Residents have continually complained about the men, most of whom come to Sierra Madre by bus to meet with contractors and residents for temporary employment. Complaints include dirty restrooms in Memorial Park, trampled vegetation, harassment of women and residents' fears of using the park when the men are present.

"I'm frustrated," Councilman Clem Bartolai said. "We've looked at so many angles to deal with this and there isn't a lot a city can do."

Police Chief Bill Betts said that officers had spoken to workers in February and that they had agreed not to congregate in the park, but they soon came back.

Other cities have tried such solutions as phone banks for employers and workers (Dana Point), municipally funded hiring centers (Pasadena, Los Angeles, Costa Mesa and Brea), or volunteer city job coordination services.

The Sierra Madre council said these options were too costly or inappropriate, although the council agreed to ask the state unemployment office to work with the city.

Officials also have asked the Immigration and Naturalization Service to make a sweep through the area and check for documentation.

At Tuesday's meeting, one resident said she resents paying taxes and not being able to use the park in the mornings.

Neither day laborers nor employees of the Sierra Madre Congregational Church, which has been involved in the issue, attended the meeting.

At an earlier council meeting, church secretary Laura Wiles said she and other church workers would act as liaisons between the city and the men. Church elders agreed to allow the men to stand on church property across the street from Memorial Park.

"I'd love to help the (workers) out," Wiles said Wednesday. "But if the city makes laws against them, there's nothing I can do. I have no solution except to let them alone.

"A lot of Sierra Madre residents hire these guys to clean house and help them, so people are using them, but others may be prejudiced or afraid and unsettled by their presence," she said. "They never make catcalls at me or any of the other 10 secretaries here."

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