By Marc Norton
Carmel, celebrated as an artist colony nestled above a picturesque white-sand beach, is not where you would expect to find a picket line. But there I was, with maybe 40 others, on a Friday evening the week before Christmas, in front of the La Playa Hotel, shaking noisemakers made from plastic bottles, chanting, “WHAT DO WE WANT? OUR JOBS!”
Happy holidays, indeed.
Two years ago, in November 2011, a new owner took over the La Playa Hotel, closed it down, and put a hundred workers on the street. When the hotel reopened after a $3.5 million remodel, it was with a whole new staff. The new owner “tossed us out with the old carpets” reads a workers’ leaflet. Workers like Noe Hinojosa, who had been at the hotel 33 years, like Suong Edwards, who had worked there 31 years, like Sherrie Watkins, who had served guests for 28 years.
Carmel is so hoity-toity that it’s illegal to wear high-heeled shoes more than two inches in height or with a base of less than one square inch, unless the wearer has a permit. It used to be illegal to eat ice cream on the street, until Clint Eastwood, who served as mayor in 1986-88, got that law overturned.
But it is still perfectly legal in Carmel to throw workers out on the street after decades on the job.
Made in SF
The saga of this tragedy begins in San Francisco. For years, the La Playa Hotel had been owned by Nob Hill Properties. The company also owned the renowned Huntington Hotel, a classic luxury hotel perched atop Nob Hill. John Cope, head of Nob Hill Properties, is well connected, having been an officer of the San Francisco Hotel Council, the San Francisco Travel Association, the Nob Hill Association, and the elite Olympic Club. (more after the jump)