San Francisco Mayor London Breed said the city may soon be able to reopen more businesses and even some schools, but only if the Labor Day holiday doesn’t cause a spike in case
Mayor London Breed Tuesday gave San Francisco tenants an additional month to figure out how they will cover rent and avoid eviction, in light of economic hardships resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the soonest landlords could legally evict for nonpayment of rent is Dec. 1. That’s a month later than the previously announced eviction moratorium was set to end. The information was initially made public in a web post from the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco. The San Francisco Public Press received confirmation of these changes from Hugo Ramirez, a staff member at the Mayor’s office.
On Aug. 20, a state appeals court gave Uber and Lyft more time to argue their case that they shouldn’t have to abide by a California law that requires them to classify their drivers as employees, who would be entitled to unemployment, sick leave and other benefits mandated in California.
Limits on construction activity were lifted May 17 as California reopened. Reopening presaged a summer-long spike in COVID-19 cases. As the pandemic continues through wildfire season, and San Franciscans breathe in pollution from the fires’ miles-wide blankets of smoke, public health experts and researchers contacted for this article agree that human-created sources of pollution should be limited or eliminated.
San Francisco residents have requested four times the rent assistance City Hall can provide, indicating a widening gap between resident needs and the city’s ability to help. The city is in the process of giving out $7 million to help people cover rent — but it has received more than $28 million in requests from over 6,800 applications since this spring, according to the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, which is disbursing the money from the Give2SF COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.
Zoom meetings and other communications tools have made it possible for many white collar workers to remain employed as they work from home.
Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom says what had once been uncommon, is now a necessity. “Before COVID, about 5% of working days were spent at home and that was done by about 15% of Americans, with an average of one in every three days. During COVID, 42% of us are now working from home so it’s an eight-fold increase.”
Courtesy of Nicholas Bloom. Of the remaining pre-COVID workers, Bloom found that nearly 33% are not employed and the remaining ones are essential workers and others who work directly with people or products.
When the pandemic is over, Bloom predicts that fewer people will work five days a week in a central office. “We’ll go from very occasionally working from home to something like two to three days a week.” He predicts that will have a major impact on where people will live.
UPDATE: July 17, 2020. Adds embedded audio and timestamps to summary of key points from press conference. Mayor London Breed announced this morning at a press conference that San Francisco would roll back some of its reopenings, closing indoor malls and non-essential offices on Monday. S.F. has joined a list of 30 counties on the state watch list, due to the rapidly rising number of Covid cases. San Francisco has 4,795 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 52 deaths.
Tenants would gain a potential pathway into permanently affordable housing — to weather the COVID-19 pandemic — under a bill making its way through the state Legislature. Assembly Bill 1703 would require most owners looking to sell residential rental property to give the property’s tenants, as well as designated groups like nonprofits, the opportunity to make the first offer to purchase. If any of those outside groups bought the building, rents would be capped to help protect low-income tenants from displacement — a major threat as the state faces a recession and widespread job loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill’s sponsors are trying to guard against a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis’ fallout. “If you mapped where most homes were lost, and who lost them, they were Black and brown communities,” said Peter Cohen, co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, one of more than 40 groups that sponsored the bill and brought the concept to the state Capitol, where Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) wrote and introduced it.
Certain businesses that had been forced to close under San Francisco’s coronavirus shelter-in-place order had been expecting to re-open on Monday. But last week, seeing a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases, city officials postponed that date. Joaquín Torres, director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, gave an overview of local programs meant to support struggling businesses and workers and how many have received aid.
Real estate groups Monday sued the City and County of San Francisco to overturn an eviction ban designed to help renters weather the COVID-19 pandemic. The plaintiffs argue that the city ordinance “violates constitutional and state law” empowering landlords to evict, and conflicts with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Executive Orders, which have allowed local governments to issue temporary bans on evictions — not permanent ones. The San Francisco Apartment Association, the Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute, the San Francisco Association of Realtors and Coalition for Better Housing jointly filed the suit in San Francisco Superior Court. The groups are also seeking a temporary restraining order to suspend the law, said Noni Richen, president of the small property owners group. The legislation, signed into law June 26, outlaws eviction for nonpayment of rents that were due from March 16 through July 29 — a time period tied to Newsom’s executive order.
As San Francisco improves its ability to mitigate the spread and treat the effects of the novel coronavirus, the city is also grappling with the fallout of its economic shutdown. Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the city’s Department of Public Health, said at a virtual press conference on Tuesday that the city has rapidly expanded its testing and contact tracing capacity and improved its supplies of personal protective equipment. While the number of new cases has not reduced to the city’s goal, the number of hospitalizations has dropped and hospital capacity meets the city’s target. Colfax acknowledged, however, that the economic shutdown resulting from the city’s shelter-in-place order has detrimental public health effects as well as economic ones. He also said he expected to see case numbers increase as the city reopens.