After lagging behind its neighbors, many workers in Menlo Park will start receiving heftier paychecks in January.

Menlo Park City Council has decided to enact a $15 minimum wage for any employee working more than two hours a week starting Jan. 1, 2020.

The new ordinance will result in a 36 percent pay increase for minimum-wage employees working at companies with fewer than 26 employees and a 25 percent increase for those in larger companies.

The minimum wage will increase by up to 3 percent each year in correspondence with the annual increase in the regional cost of living determined by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The recent decision means that Menlo Park will join dozens of cities around the Bay Area with the same or higher minimum wage requirement, including San Mateo, Palo Alto, Mountain View and Cupertino.

Councilmember Drew Combs said that the city’s ordinance was merely Menlo Park “playing catch up” with its neighboring cities.

“We’re behind a lot of other municipalities and certainly, we’re far behind what I think even comes close to what it costs to live in this area,” Combs said during the Sept. 10 meeting.

In 2017, California adopted a minimum wage phase-in requirement for all employees across the state depending on the size of the employer.

Under state law, the minimum wage for those in a company of 25 or less employees is currently $11 an hour and for those in companies of 26 or more employees it is $12 an hour. Those wages will increase one dollar a year until all employees in the state reach a minimum wage of $15 an hour — Jan. 2022 or Jan. 2023.

Although of the half dozen Menlo Park residents who spoke before council this week said they supported raising the minimum wage, some asked the city to follow the state’s gradual approach.

Anna Chow, the owner of Cheeky Money Toys in downtown Menlo Park, said the tiered model would give her more time to plan for the bump in costs.

“We completely agree that the challenge of addressing the high cost of living in Menlo Park and the surrounding area is incredibly pressing, but the repercussion of a 35 percent increase in wages with just three months to plan would have a significant negative impact on our business,” Chow said.

Councilmember Catherine Carlton, who abstained from the council’s ordinance vote, echoed similar concerns that the steep jump in wages would “burden mom and pop shops out of business.”

“I absolutely am for minimum wage, but I have a real problem with the impact of small businesses to not be a little more gentle with phasing this in,” Carlton said during the meeting.

Nevertheless, the council opted against the phased-in approach, saying it was time to draw the line and stop lagging behind.

Following closely in the footsteps of Menlo Park, East Palo Alto is expected to discuss its own minimum wage ordinance at its meeting on Tuesday.

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