California developer, Village Partners, is being called out for partnering with Johnstone Moyer- a general contractor plagued with a history of corrupt business practices. Village Partners has built projects throughout Southern California and officials are wondering why they are using the embattled GC on one of their most high-profile projects to date.
The development, The Village at Montclair, is a $77 million mixed-use project that spans 6 acres and is part of what will be a 22-acre community in North Montclair, CA. Additionally, the Village will have connectivity to the Montclair transit station and future Metro Gold Line (Village Partners is a Metro consultant on land use and real estate economics for the Gold Line)
“For such a major development and a developer that preaches quality and community uplift, it makes no sense that Village Partners would gamble on such a sub-par GC to build this. Cutting corners on such a major project to save a few bucks doesn’t make sense. What happens when something goes wrong? Johnstone Moyer has a history of exploiting their workers, unsafe jobsites and allegations of building poorly,” a union representative said of the contractor.
BDN was tipped off by a reader to active safety violations occurring on the job site. When BDN visited the Montclair site, our reporter witnessed multiple safety violations firsthand. Investigations into the contractor’s history with the California Labor Board confirmed that Johnstone Moyer has a sordid track record with labor authorities, and they’ve been issued multiple citations throughout the years.
In the last 5 years, Johnstone Moyer has run afoul of government regulators and labor unions numerous times. Two years ago, the contractor was issued $8 million in penalties by the California Labor Commissioner. The fraud violations stemmed from shady business practices on a development in Marina Del Rey, CA. The charges included, prevailing wage violations, nonpayment of overtime, failure to report and pay all hours worked, and failure to report all workers on the job site.
In 2018, Laborers Local 270 brought charges against the company for alleged labor violations. Johnstone Moyer was accused of engaging in “Coercive Statements, and Coercive Actions.”
In 2017, the company was found liable and issued citations for a structure collapse in Oakland. In this incident, 13 workers were sent to the hospital with injuries. A CAL/OSHA investigator, Chief Juliann Sum, was quoted as saying, “Significant safety lapses caused injuries that could have been much worse if the workers hadn’t landed in freshly poured concrete.”
When BDN visited the job site in Montclair, the site was dangerously unkempt. Our reporter noted numerous instances where workers were operating at heights over 20 feet without safety harnesses and proper personal protection equipment.
BDN spent 20 minutes walking the periphery of the job site. According to the reporter, the combination of construction workers without tie offs, working dangerously near the edges of rooftops and above exposed rebar and all manner of debris, signified a blatant and unmistakable disregard for worker safety.
Complaints of shoddy craftsmanship
Additionally, an online search of the contractor yields a 1-star yelp rating and numerous negative tenant reviews of their properties. “This company rather pay [air quality] fines than to pay their workers a decent wage or to care for others health. I am 6 months pregnant and developed asthma because of their dust problem. This company’s project manager told my husband that his bosses told him not to worry about the complaints!!! This company is disgusting and has no concern for the health or safely of anyone. They literally S..t where they eat.” Said Christina M. of Daly City.
In another lengthy review that included pictures of the contractor’s allegedly poor craftsmanship, reviewer J.L. of San Mateo, CA. ended with a stern warning, “I am writing this to warn people to make sure they check who the builder is before they purchase ANY condos or homes. Make sure it's not JMI or Johnstone Moyer.” These reviews are significant because plans for The Village at Montclair include 350 luxury housing units.
When one navigates Village Partners website, it is apparent that the company preaches a facade of philanthropy and sustainability. All the executives are affiliated with the Urban Land Institute and as stated in their mission statement, they propagate “smart growth” as they promote sustainability in the community. Furthermore, to their mission statement, “We approach sustainability with an eye to the three pillars of sustainability: environmental, social, and economic.”
Using a company with a history of worker exploitation, wage fraud, and tenant allegations of environmentally unsound and poor-quality construction goes against what they claim as part of their mission statement. The Village at Montclair appears to be the first collaboration between Village partners and Johnstone Moyer. It makes one question the reasoning behind this decision. Perhaps Village Partners were unaware? In the future the developer will hopefully do a bit of research before granting their contracting bids.