SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) – California's 1st Appellate Court District, Division Two ruled June 30 that a movie theater built with city assistance is considered a public works project and required to follow municipal pay requirements associated with such projects.

The events that led to Cinema West LLC v. Christine Baker et al. began when the city of Hesperia contacted the plaintiffs to discuss building a movie theater within city limits to help bring traffic to its new commercial area. The city offered Cinema West public assistance as an incentive to complete project that included the development of a parking lot, access roads and sewage and water resources, the suit states. In addition, the agreement included a $1,546,363 forgivable loan to Cinema West.

In exchange, the plaintiff agreed to continuously operate the project, to provide Hesperia with free advertising prior to each movie showing, and to comply with all provisions of the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions.

In November 2012, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 477 filed a request for paperwork relating to whether or not the movie theater qualified as a public works project and would therefore be required to follow guidelines associated with such projects. 

Representatives for the plaintiff responded by issuing a statement arguing that none of the aid it had received would qualify as evidence that the movie theater was a public works project.

In March 2013, the union responded by issuing a determination that project did qualify and was subject to the same wage requirements as all city public works projects. The plaintiffs responded by filing a petition in the Superior Court of Sonoma County for a writ of mandate under Code of Civil Procedure section 1085 challenging the decision. To support its case, the plaintiffs submitted evidence that included statements in its verified petition and three declarations. Despite this evidence, the court still ruled against the plaintiffs.

Cinema West responded by filing a petition for a writ of mandate under Code of Civil Procedure section 1085 pursuant to section 16002.5, subdivision (c) of the Department‘s regulations with the appeals court. The court affirmed the lower court ruling on the grounds that project was considered a public work because: “(1) private construction is not subject to prevailing wage merely because other related construction is publicly funded; (2) mere coordination of two related construction projects does not create a complete integrated ―object; (3) Cinema West has not received public funds or their equivalent; and (4) the construction of the parking lot did not transform the private theater into a public work.”

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