SF cops keep telling homeless people to move

At 10:11 pm on March 17, five SFPD officers approached a man sitting on the sidewalk at Stockton and Union Streets, according to a video uploaded to Twitter taping the event. The officers’ words can’t be heard, but the man they approached said “That’s where I sleep…I’m gonna be sleeping here” after a few moments into the exchange. After another moment, the officers got back in their vehicles and the man sitting on the sidewalk collected his belongings, stood up, and walked away.

This is one example of the police issuing what homeless rights advocates have called “move along orders,” where despite the COVID-19 crisis, police continue to enforce laws that forbid unhoused people to sleep or sit in public areas, forcing homeless people to seek a place to spend the night elsewhere.

This practice is nothing new. SFPD and the Department of Public Works have been conducting homeless sweeps for years.

But the Centers for Disease Control has recommended against law enforcement conducting sweeps of homeless encampments, and Kelley Cutler, human rights organizer at the Coalition on Homelessness, agrees that sweeps, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, are a bad idea.

“What makes this so crazy is that we’re in the middle of a pandemic,” said Cutler. “Stopping sweeps helps with social distancing, also people aren’t being squeezed into small areas, avoid sleep deprivation.”

Cutler said that if homeless people can stay in the same area, it helps ensure that healthcare and outreach workers can locate people, collect trash, and set up and maintain sanitation stations.

Cutler said she has heard from both service providers and members of the community in the Tenderloin that there has been more enforcement by police since the mayor’s shelter-in-place order went into effect, and that it is evident to her as she walks through the neighborhood. She explained that with fewer people outside, homeless people they have become much more visible to police, and as a result many of the unhoused people who are normally in her neighborhood are no longer around.

I reached out to SFPD asking why officers are enforcing “move along” orders, and whether these interactions were occurring at an increasing rate, to which they replied:

“During this time with the current health order we are focused on advising the homeless population of resources available such as shelters and navigation centers where people can seek haven.  We work closely with our city partners to assist in addressing larger scale issues that may affect public health and may make vulnerable populations more at risk than other communities.”

They refused to comment on the specific interaction which occurred the night of March 17.

Cutler added that there seems to be ambiguity in the police telling homeless people to “move along.”

“They haven’t provided areas for people to shelter in place, if someone goes around the corner, will they be told to move along?” asked Cutler.

Christin Evans, a small business owner in the Haight and homeless rights activist, said agrees with Cutler’s opinion that there is a lack of clarity around police telling homeless people to relocate.

“I don’t think there’s a plan, there’s no clarity of where people should shelter in place. What the police are doing right now, is that they are still enforcing no sleeping in parks, and no sit-lie in the streets, so no sanctioned location for people to pitch a tent,” said Evans.

Evan’s also criticized the tactics used by police when talking to unhoused people, specifically their practice of “barking” over loudspeakers when telling people to relocate or stand six feet apart from others.

“I’ve had neighbors tell me it feels like a police state. All of these things combined, visibility of police and the sound [of the loudspeaker] is unsettling, we should be focused on seeing each other as neighbors,” said Evans.

Evans said that the police need to establish guidelines for homeless people to know where they can stay, as they are being told to move “frequently.” Evans added that these frequent “move-alongs” can be dangerous to both the communities where homeless people are living, as well as those who are unhoused themselves.

“It’s dangerous for the community. People who live on the streets have compromised health, live 20 years less than those who are housed. They are more likely to get respiratory infections or pneumonia,” said Evans. Respiratory infections and pneumonia are common fatal complications from COVID-19.

Evans and the Homeless Youth Alliance are working to collect donated two-person tents for distribution to homeless people who do not have immediate access to homeless shelters while the city works on acquiring hotel rooms to shelter homeless people exposed to COVID-19. Currently they have collected 30 tents.

Mary Howe, executive director of the Homeless Youth Alliance, said getting homeless people shelter is important to ensure that they can comply with the city’s shelter-in-place order.

“If we can’t support people’s ability to shelter in place on the streets, if resources aren’t provided near them. They will breach the shelter in place,” said Howe.

According to Howe, two-person tents are the best option for individuals who can’t get shelter in doors, because they allow people to self-isolate to an extent, get them out of the rain, and provide enough space for them and their belongings. Howe added that because San Francisco is experiencing a public health crisis, the city should allow homeless people to remain in place in tents, and not be told to “move along.”

“We are in the middle of a public health crisis, maybe we should do something different. Continuing these policies puts everyone at risk,” said Lowe.

The Homeless Youth Alliance is working with Sup. Dean Preston’s office to locate possible sites for homeless people to shelter in place. Lowe said that a parking lot at 730 Stanyan. and Golden Gate Park are good candidates.

The Homeless Youth Alliance’s campaigns for tent donations and for sanctioned sites where unhoused people can live in tents legally are intended to provide immediate shelter to those who have no option to go indoors. The Homeless Youth Alliance supports the measure proposed by supervisorsthat would allow the city to acquire even more hotel rooms than the original goal of 4,250 rooms and would seek to acquire a enough rooms from a pool of 30,000 existing vacant hotel rooms to house homeless San Franciscans, sick or no.

“I think people want housing, when people are living in tents, that’s demonstrative of people wanting housing, they want safety and privacy…We would prefer everyone be prioritized to get their own hotel room,” said Lowe.

Lowe told me that if enough hotel rooms become available to house all homeless San Franciscans, she would end the tent distribution campaign.

But until that happens, the Homeless Youth Alliance will continue to accept donated tents and distribute them to homeless people.

If you want to donate a two-person tent to the Homeless Youth Alliance, you can order a tent online and either mail it or drop it off at 607A Haight St.

Five supes push to put homeless in vacant hotel rooms

Police and DPW workers force homeless campers to get rid of or move their belongings. Now, they want to get rid of their RVs. Photo by John Youll

Five San Francisco supervisors announced plans yesterday to house thousands of homeless residents using some of the city’s 33,000 vacant hotel rooms during the COVID-19 crisis.

Sups. Hillary Ronen, Matt Haney, Dean Preston, Aaron Peskin, and Shamann Walton introduced a resolution today at the first-ever virtual Board of Supervisors meeting. Already, 31 hotels representing a total of 8,500 hotel rooms have responded to the call to lease rooms with the city.

Instead of sweeps that leave people with nowhere to go, five supes want to move homeless into empty hotel rooms. Photo by Jim Youll

““It is dangerous and reckless to leave thousands of people in our city out on the streets, or in congregate shelters where we know the virus can spread quickly,” said Haney, whose district has the highest number of homeless people. “Every second, every hour matters, let’s be proactive and preventative and get homeless people inside now, it’ll keep them healthy, and all of us healthy.”

The resolution specifically calls for Public Health Officer Tomas Aragon to issue a new Health Order mandating homeless be placed in private rooms even if they are not displaying symptoms. Supervisor Shamman Walton said the supervisors are prepared “to do more legislatively if we have to” if the resolution isn’t followed.

The call to get homeless people into hotel rooms before they contact the virus is vastly different from city agency conversations that were had just a week ago, where plans for homeless populations focused solely on bringing homeless residents into mass congregate shelters. Some advocates warn that even with social distancing, there is still a high chance of spreading the virus to a large number of people, many which have underlying medical conditions or are elderly.

“As other cities debate between offering services in place on the streets or bringing people into congregate shelters, both of which have extraordinary dangers and risks, San Francisco is blazing a third way that avoids the pitfalls of both,” said Chris Herring, soon-to-be assistant professor at UCLA working closely with the Coalition on Homelessness on mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on San Francisco’s homeless population. “There will definitely be challenges in how to care for everyone in these spaces, but the health benefits and circumstances of being able to isolate in hotel rooms far surpasses staying on the streets or shelter.”

The city is still working on assessing the suitability of the rooms and negotiating leases for the 8,500 hotel rooms — so nothing has been secured yet. Human Services Agency head Trent Rhorer has earmarked the rooms for frontline healthcare workers who need to self-quarantine and for homeless people or Single Room Occupancy residents who test positive or who have been exposed to the virus.

For the five supervisors, it’s equally important to house homeless San Franciscans immediately in hotel rooms rather than wait until they get sick. As cases of COVID-19 ramp up, the urgency to do so is even more apparent.

“This is hour by hour, minute by minute,” said Walton. “Every second we wait and don’t have an actual strategy in place for our unhoused population to go, we are behind the curve.”

It’s still unclear who will get into the hotel rooms first, and there is no number for how many rooms will be set aside for homeless people, but those who are over 65 or have underlying medical conditions will be prioritized, according to Supervisor Ronen.

While the city does have the power to commandeer hotel rooms under the state of emergency, there may be no need based on the outpouring of responses from the city’s first call for hotel rooms. However, the supervisors say they are prepared to initiate that power if needed.

Preston, who represents D-5, is already moving ahead with plans of his own to house the residents of two of the shelters in his district in hotels using private funds. One shelter serves homeless families in a single room with mats on the floor; the other is a shelter for women, of whom more than half are elderly, according to Preston’s office. Preston, who spent yesterday finalizing the hotel agreement, hopes to begin moving the families and women into some 40 hotel units by the end of the week.

“We are imagining ways to protect one another that wouldn’t have been possible two weeks ago because this pandemic had made us realize that our individual well being is connected to that of the whole,” said Ronen. “If we have empty hotel rooms and someone doesn’t have a home to shelter in place, we must lend them the room.”

Breed Administration official says moving homeless people into hotel rooms is not a priority

Human Services Director Trent Rohrer says shelters are a better model than individual hotel rooms.

The Board of Supes hearing Tuesday on the city’s response to the COVID-19 crisis demonstrate a key policy divide between the Breed Administration and the progressive board members:

The progressives want to take control of as many hotel rooms and vacant apartments as possible and move homeless people off the streets. The Breed administration is taking a much more limited approach that features the large-scale shelter model.

Human Services Director Trent Rhorer says shelters are a better model than individual hotel rooms.

The clearest message that we got from the hearing was that the Human Services Administration and the Department of Public Health are not at all on the same page when it comes to the homeless population.

In fact, HSA Director Trent Rhorer said repeatedly, on the record, that his agency was not trying to get hotel rooms or other individual housing units for homeless people. That’s not a priority for his office.

Instead, he said, DPH had recommended that the city try to get people living on the streets into shelters, where they can better access services.

But Dr. Tomas Aragon, the health officer for DPH, later testified that the department from a disease-prevention perspective thinks the city should do everything possible to get people into private rooms.

Under questioning from Sup. Matt Haney, Rhorer said that “the DPH guidance is not to put every homeless person in a hotel room with no services … they prefer getting people on the streets into shelters where they are safe. We are following DPH guidelines.”

Rhorer said that his priority was to deal with the 19,000 people living in single-room occupancy hotel room, often in close quarters. “At the next phase,” he said, the city could worry about people living on the streets.

Rhorer said that some of the people on the streets have acute needs for mental-health and substance-abuse services. He even said that the city wouldn’t want to put someone with drug addiction in a hotel room because they might break quarantine to go buy drugs on the street.

(Let’s remember we aren’t talking about quarantines here – that’s a different issue. We are talking about taking people who are living on the streets and bringing them inside.)

As Sup. Dean Preston noted, there are thousands of unhoused people who don’t need intensive social work; they just need a place to live and they are very vulnerable, either on the streets or in shelters, to exposure to the virus.

Dr. Tomas Aragon says moving homeless people into individual units is the best approach to fight COVID-19

A few minutes later, Haney asked Dr. Aragon the same question – and got a very different answer.

“From a disease-prevention perspective, having your own room is the best,” Dr. Aragon said.

Shelters are by definition crowded indoor spaces which may lack adequate room for social distancing (beds have traditionally been about three feet apart or less) and adequate facilities for regular handwashing and sanitation.

“Not only did the director of HSA say that it made sense to do the wrong thing,” Haney said, “he told us that he was following your directives.”

Aragon was clear: Rhorer’s position did not reflect DPH directives. He said that HSA had “misinterpreted” what public health official said and politely suggested that since the shelter-in-lace order had been written in six hours across seven counties, it was possible that HSA folks had misread it.

Preston noted that Dr. Aragon and the director of public health have considerable power in an emergency. There are, he said, more than enough currently vacant housing units and hotel rooms to house every homeless person in the city.

Some landlords are stepping up and volunteering to help out, he said, but if there aren’t enough volunteers “then we are going to have to figure out how to take those units.”

You can watch the video here. Rhoer starts at about 3:50, Dr. Aragon a little after 5:00.

An emergency platform for protecting unhoused people

As the mayor was talking 'tough love,' homeless activists made a different point.

The Coalition on Homelessness just put out an emergency policy platform to protecting unhoused people from COVID-19. You can sign the petition to show support here.

House every single homeless person in a vacant unit now. 

San Francisco currently has 30,000 vacant units and 42,000 empty hotel rooms while 18,000 homeless people who are disproportionately elderly, chronically ill, and with severe medical conditions are without homes. Currently, the City is only placing those who test positive or who are symptomatic into hotel rooms. We are calling on the City to house every single homeless person in a vacant housing unit immediately, prioritizing those who fall into the high-risk category.

Among the proposals is an end to all sweeps.

Stop the Sweeps. 

The Department of Public Works and the Police Department are still harassing homeless people, confiscating their belongings, and forcing them to move along — when they have nowhere else to go. We call for a stop to all homeless sweeps including property confiscation, a moratorium on the enforcement of anti-homeless ordinance, and allowing those without housing to shelter-in-place on all public lands.

Provide comprehensive support to those “sheltering-in-place” outside. 

Surviving in public space already presents a number of individual and public health risks. The city should immediately offer tents, hygiene stations, food, water and other provisions to all of those sheltering-in-place outside.

Protect People in Shelter: Deconcentrate and Stabilize Shelters. 

San Francisco’s shelters are mass congregate settings, some with more than 300 people where the virus will spread rapidly. We are calling on the City to enforce all CDC guidelines for homeless people in shelter and to provide up to date information to shelter residents regarding the risk of contracting COVID-19 in congregate settings.

Leave no one hungry: Provide food assistance to shelters, encampments, and quarantined units. 

Effectively deliver and provide 3 meals per day for those residing outdoors, in hotel rooms, and in shelter. Doing so will reduce their needs to move about the city acquiring food and resources and in turn reducing the risk of wider community spread.

Prevent homelessness: Ban all evictions and suspend all rent. 

In order to prevent homelessness, the City must ensure that all eviction proceedings are halted and that a rent suspension is implemented. The City should create a financial assistance fund to assist with back rental payment and other debt incurred during the crisis.

Create clear guidelines for homeless people from the Department of Public Health. 

General rules don’t help: What does “stay home” mean to a homeless person? Unsheltered and sheltered homeless San Franciscans need clear, specific guidelines to follow and for those guidelines to be widely distributed.

Other organizations that have signed on:

Coalition on Homelessness

San Francisco Night Ministry

Compass Family Services

Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco

Faith in Action Bay Area

Do No Harm Coalition


Western Regional Advocacy Project


Hospitality House

Eviction Defense Collaborative

Mission Housing

Street Sheet


Global Movement Network

San Francisco Pretrial Diversion Project

St. Mary and St. Martha Lutheran Church

San Francisco Rising

Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council

Haight Ashbury Merchants Association

St. Anthony’s

People Power Media

AIDS Legal Referral Panel

The Gubbio Project


Court agrees to put evictions on hold

Rent control is only a problem because of the loopholes in the law

Under immense pressure from local officials and state legislators, the Superior Court finally agreed today to delay all eviction cases (except those involving violence) for 90 days.

During a public-health crisis, evictions could indeed be fatal. Photo by Gerard Koskovich

That’s a huge victory of tenants and their advocates, who have been arguing that the state law forcing eviction cases to the front of the legal line is unfair in this public-health crisis.

Ken Garcia, a spokesperson for the court, just sent me this:

All actions of unlawful detainer cases, including trials, motions, discovery and ex parte applications with the exception of unlawful retainer cases resulting from violence, threats of violence, or health and safety issues, will be stayed for 90 days.

Judge Ronald Quidachay agreed this morning to continuation motions for most pending cases.

And after the Board of Supes, state Assemblymembers Phil Ting and David Chiu, and state Sen. Scott Wiener all contacted the presiding judge, the entire court backed down.

There are still landlords who are filing eviction motions. But for the moment, as vulnerable tenants struggle with so many issues, the courts are going to slow this nightmare for the moment.

Supes promise protections for small businesses and gig workers

Sup. Hillary Ronen wants to know why PG&E is such an obstruction to public projects

So many updates from City Hall as we (mostly) shelter in place:

Sup. Hillary Ronen announced this morning that she and others are working on plans to help gig workers who are struggling:

A plan is in development for independent contractors and non-traditional workers.

The City is lobbying strongly for large expansions to Federal and State wage replacement programs. Once those programs are announced, the City will create a wage assistance program to fill any gaps.

Stay tuned. Artists, domestic workers, stagehands, day laborers, sole proprietors, and more, help is on the way.

Sup. Dean Preston is asking the developer of 555 Fulton to make available for vulnerable homeless people the 53 units that are completed, ready for occupancy, but unsold.

Sup. Hillary Ronen is working on relief efforts for gig workers and small businesses.

“Families with children are sleeping on mats on a shelter floor in my district, and we know a considerable portion of our unsheltered population are seniors, the most at-risk demographic for contracting the coronavirus,” said Preston. “We know that preventing the spread of coronavirus depends greatly on keeping people housed to the best of our ability. The property at 555 Fulton Street presents an opportunity to help meet this need. … Given the severity of this health crisis, and the importance of shelter-in-place directives, we believe any and all vacant units should be looked at by the city for temporary occupancy. Lives are at stake.”

That development is part of the ongoing DPW and DBI scandal.

It’s by no means the only building in the city that’s ready for occupancy but vacant.By some accounts, there are thousands of empty apartments in San Francisco that could be used during the crisis.

“For landlords who have vacant buildings, now is the time to step up and make those units available,” Preston said at today’s board meeting.

Sups. Ronen and Preston have introduced legislation to ban commercial evictions for small businesses that can’t pay rent because of a loss or revenue. “The fear of eviction and default among small businesses is real and growing,” Preston said.

Gov. Newson has issued an executive order allowing cities the authority to limit evictions.

Mayor London Breed is also demanding a moratorium on commercial evictions: “Now that the Governor has waived laws allowing us to prevent commercial evictions, we are taking action to make sure that our small businesses are not displaced as a result of the economic impact caused by coronavirus,” she said. “We will continue to push for more immediate state and federal support in addition to the programs we’ve introduced locally, because this pandemic is having major widespread economic impacts on almost every business and resident in our city.”

Ronen has been working to create a $20 million line of credit that would allow loans of up to $15,000 at zero interest to businesses with $1.5 million in gross receipts or less. She’s also authored a resolution calling on grocery stores to hold special hours for seniors and other vulnerable populations.

Sup. Sandra Lee Fewer called on the Department of Disability and Aging Services to expedite its process for screening volunteers. She asked that anyone who is healthy and able-bodied look for ways to volunteer at food pantries and food-delivery services for homebound people.

Fewer noted that the budget process will have to change as we address the financial impacts of the crisis.

At some point, the billionaires in this city, the multimillionaires, and the very successful and rich businesses particularly in the tech sector, which are not hit as hard by the crisis, are going to have to help pay their fair share.

SF heads toward eviction moratorium

Preston wants all local housing protected from evictions during the crisis.

Mayor London Breed said she will issue a directive to place a moratorium on evictions in the midst of the coronavirus at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. The directive follows District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston’s March 6 announcement to introduce legislation doing the same.

“There’s no need to wait and go through a lengthy legislative process in order to make this happen,” said Breed.

Preston wants all local housing protected from evictions during the crisis.

She also said she would work with Preston’s office on the directive and to requesting that the governor waive any state laws that could limit the directive, including restricting the City’s ability to enforce a moratorium on no fault or nonpayment of rent evictions.

Preston said he met with the mayor on Wednesday. “I’d like nothing more than to see the mayor or the governor ban evictions so we wouldn’t need to pursue legislation,” he said, but had some reservations. “I have to see what the scope of the directive is. We’re hoping it can be as strong as possible.”

The scope that Preston said he’s looking for is a ban on both evictions for nonpayment of rent and “no fault” evictions, including owner move ins, Ellis Act evictions, and evictions involving capital improvements.

His legislation would also ban evictions in private, public, and nonprofit housing. Most tenant legislation excludes public and nonprofit housing, such as permanent supportive housing, where more than 7,000 formerly homeless individuals live and are also subject to eviction. Preston said his legislation, which was also introduced at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, would include all types of housing.

Tenants who are evicted for nonpayment of rent would be required to notify and provide documentation to their landlord of an inability to pay. The legislation also would prohibit landlords from collecting late fees on late payments of rent. Tenants would still be expected to pay in full following the end of the state of emergency.

Preston’s office is in consultation with the city attorney to determine how quickly legislation can be passed, and he said the measure may take a month or two before implementation. However, if passed, the ordinance would apply to eviction notices starting the day it was introduced, March 10.

“As people lose income because of the coronavirus, many of them will be subject to evictions,” said Preston. “The danger now is that some of the bigger corporate landlords might use the fact that people have lower income as an opportunity to evict — for profit.”

At least one San Francisco landlord — GreenTree Property Management — has voluntarily instituted a moratorium on evictions for those experiencing financial hardship due to the virus.

Supes seek support for small businesses and workers

Mayor London Breed and Board President Norman Yee in chambers today.

Several supervisors are moving to address the economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis in San Francisco – and while the mayor seems sympathetic, it’s not clear how far she is willing to go.

Sups. Matt Haney, Hilary Ronen, Gordon Mar, and Dean Preston all have announced plans to put city resources into helping small businesses and individual workers avoid financial peril while much of the city shuts down and consumers stay home.

Mayor London Breed and Board President Norman Yee in chambers today.

“We are not going to let anyone have to deal with this on their own,” Ronen told me today.

Ronen is asking the Controller’s Office to secure a $20 million line of credit than can be used to make zero-interest loans to small businesses that suddenly can’t make rent.

Haney told me that he and Mar are working on the labor side, making sure that workers know their rights and protections. “We’re going to look at a loan fund for individuals,” he said.

Preston is asking for a moratorium on evictions.

All of this was discussed this afternoon in an extraordinary moment: For only the second time since the voters approved “Question Time” in 2006, the board and the mayor actually engaged in a non-scripted, relevant policy discussion.

Along with my colleagues Gordon Mar, Matt Haney, Dean Preston, and Shamann Walton I’m announcing a legislative plan to help San Franciscans impacted by COVID-19. No one should have to choose between staying healthy and making ends meet!

Posted by Hillary Ronen on Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Preston was prepared to ask about corruption at City Hall, but with unanimous consent of his colleagues, he changed his question to address evictions. He asked Breed if she would support his plan to enact a moratorium on evictions – and if she would commit to calling on the governor to suspend any state laws that prevented the city from taking that action.

Breed said that she was willing to consider executive action on evictions, and would work with Preston at the state level.

Haney asked about the plan to use city money to help small businesses. Breed wasn’t quite ready to go there – she said that she was looking at allowing businesses to delay paying their city taxes.

But she also said, as she did at the beginning of her remarks, that she is wary of committing city resources at a time when there’s a looming budget deficit.

“I have heard a number of suggestions and comments,” she said (which sounded to me a bit dismissive of the board’s actions and role). “All these things are welcome and important, but let’s make a commitment to the public that we want to be sure it will happen.”

In other words: Back off on your ambitious plans, supes – the Mayor’s Office is running the show and has only very limited plans to spend money.

“We are looking at relief for workers,” she told Haney, “but when we allocate resources and the money goes out the door, we have to be sure we implement it.”

Haney asked about the workers and small businesses that are in trouble right now; the mayor said she “we are still fleshing out the details” and would have a proposal tomorrow.

I tried to ask the mayor about the specifics as she left the board chambers, but she refused to answer my questions.

Stopping evictions and price-gouging in the coronavirus crisis

It's official: Dean Preston will take office in December.

Sup. Dean Preston is calling for a moratorium on all evictions in San Francisco during the coronavirus outbreak. And District Attorney Chesa Boudin has set up a special hotline to report profiteers who are price-gouging in the crisis.

Preston’s legislation will be introduced Tuesday/10, and is aimed at preventing not just people who are sickened and unable to work but the low-income workers who are seeing their incomes plummet as people stay home from restaurants, concerts and performances are canceled, and the local economy slows.

Sup. Dean Preston is calling for a moratorium on evictions.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has already announced his plan to ban the evictions of both residents and small businesses who have lost income during the public-health crisis.

Boudin, along with both the governor and state attorney general, has warned that California law prohibits price-gouging during a state of emergency.

That means, potentially, that San Francisco landlords can’t raise the rent—even on vacant apartments—by more than 10 percent right now.

It gives the city, which has also declared a state of emergency, considerable power to prevent landlords from tossing out tenants who can’t pay the rent because the crisis has caused them to lose income, Preston told me.

“This is well within the board’s authority,” he said.

The measure will take more than a month to work its way through the legislative process. If the mayor were on board, she might be able to use executive authority to move more quickly.

But since evictions typically take several months anyway, this could be a big deal to a lot of vulnerable tenants.

The entire discussion also raises the question of what the state and the city can do to subsidize individuals and small businesses that are suffering, and will continue to suffer for months to come. The arts community has been devastated already—musicians and performers from both large and small operations are out of work, and a lot of them are gig workers who don’t get paid if their event is canceled or their venue shuts down.

Rupa Marya, an associate professor of medicine at UCSF who is also a performing musician, posted an open letter/petition via Facebook to the mayors of Oakland and San Francisco:

As a hospital medicine physician at UCSF and a first responder to the CoVID19 spread, I want to commend you for taking steps to contain the virus by recommending limited social engagement. I believe that limiting how many gatherings are happening this month will be crucial to how quickly and effectively we weather this storm together.

Many wage workers I know will be deeply impacted by this. Musicians are having gigs canceled. Restaurant workers are not making the tips they need to survive. Theater performances are being canceled and actors, stagehands and crew are impacted. Yoga teachers and dance teachers are impacted as well.

I am asking for you to put a moratorium on evictions and enact a plan to forgive rent for wage workers who will be unable to make the income needed to pay rent for the month of April. By following the advice of the SF health department, they are doing a service to the greater good and should not be punished fiscally for that collective action.

But the city and the state also ought to be looking at financial help for the people who are suffering. During the financial crisis, the federal government was happy to bail out the banks; now, some of the working population needs that sort of help.

Nate Seider, who runs a special-event and wedding DJ company, told me that he has lost one big corporate event and another community gathering has been cancelled. “At this point I’m out two months’ rent,” he said. “I also know a lot of people who are losing gigs.”

He said “it’s really hard on DJs and entertainment people. We’re all just hoping we can weather this.”

I think it’s safe to say that the federal government under Trump won’t do anything, but California is in a position to try to keep this from becoming even more of an economic crisis. And there are a lot of people in this city who, despite some stock-market losses, have massive wealth and could help with an arts, workers, and small-business bailout fund.

(The money Mike Bloomberg wasted running for president would have been enough to save thousands of jobs, prevent thousands of evictions, and keep thousands of artists and performers from financial disaster.)

And the city is in a position to make sure than anyone taking advantage of this outbreak to make excess profits is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

District Attorney Chesa Boudin told me tonight that his office will hold accountable anyone who violates the state price-gouging law.

“The last thing anyone should have to worry about in a crisis is being cheated,” he said. “People who try to profiteer from a public-health emergency will be held accountable.”

If you think you’re a victim of price-gouging (including by landlords) you can call the DA’s hotline at 415-551-9595.

Sup. Aaron Peskin’s legislation regulating intermediate-term rentals comes back to the Land Use and Transportation Committee Monday/9, and should be headed for a vote that would send it to the full board. The committee will also be hearing a resolution confirming that it’s the city’s intention to take over Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

PG&E is at a state of collapse – state Sen. Scott Wieneris calling for a state takeover,and the company’s market value is less than a quarter what it was two years ago (meaning the state could get it cheap). Of course, the company’s bankruptcy-exit plan is massively expensive and will rely on a huge amount of new borrowing, which will make the company even more unstable and unable to provide clean, reliable energy at a fair price.

PG&E has so far refused to negotiate with San Francisco. So at a certain point, if the city is going to fulfill its legal and historic mandate for public power,the supes and the mayor and the city attorney are going to have to condemn the company’s property and seize it under eminent domain.

That’s a complicated legal process and could take years. So is this bankruptcy mess. The sooner they start, the sooner we could see some progress.

Mayor London Breed appears before the board Tuesday/10, and for once, some of the supes actually have some questions for her. They should be enlightening.

Preston has informed Breed he wants to ask about “corruption.” I think it’s pretty clear that he’s going to focus on the Department of Public Works scandal, and I don’t know what he’s going to ask, but one obvious question is this:

In all the time you have known Mohammed Nuru, both as a friend and as a public official, did you ever have any suspicion that anything he was doing was in the least bit unethical? And if not, what does that say about your management ability?

District 6 Supe Matt Haney is going to ask about “transportation infrastructure.” Perhaps he wants to know if all the new development the mayor is supporting will actually pay for itself.

The board will also vote on Haney’s proposal to hire an outside investigator to look at corruption in local government, particularly the DPW scandal. There are four co-sponsors, Sups. Hillary Ronen, Gordon Mar, Preston, and Shamann Walton. Takes six votes.

And Sup. Aaron Peskin’s measure to allow the Government Audit and Accountability Committee to issue subpoenas is on the agenda.

Will be a fascinating meeting.

Some surprising political analysis from the local election results

This map shows that Jackie Fielder, who ran against state Sen. Scott Wiener, got support not just in the more progressive parts of town.

The voter turnout is up to 55 percent in San Francisco now, and will exceed 60 percent once the last 54,000 ballots are counted. That’s what today’s results show – and there are only a few changes from yesterday.

But a close analysis of winners and losers shows some fascinating political trends.

This map shows that Jackie Fielder, who ran against state Sen. Scott Wiener, got support not just in the more progressive parts of town.

The progressive slate is not only dominating the Democratic Party Central Committee voting; its looking possible that Mary Jung, the former party chair who is a lobbyist for the real-estate industry and has been on the panel for years, might not retain her seat.

Jung is in tenth place for ten seats, only 541 votes ahead of School Board member Faauuga Moliga, who has been picking up votes as the count continues.

The vacancy-tax measure is passing by an even-larger margin as the final votes come in, and the limits on office development is far enough ahead that it’s safe to say that one is over.

One judicial race remains close; the latest total puts former prosecutor Rani Singh 75 votes ahead of tenant lawyer Carolyn Gold – a gap of 0.03 percent. Gold was ahead in the last count, so the votes seem to be breaking for Singh – but it’s still way too tight to make any predictions.

So the progressive movement as a whole is a big winner – nearly every candidate and ballot measure that had strong progressive support did well. Some of this may be due to the Sanders-Warren bump – between the two presidential candidates, they got 55 percent of the local vote, so progressives showed up in significant numbers to support them. Biden narrowly edged Warren; the mayor’s candidate, Mike Bloomberg, got only 12 percent of the vote, and that from the richest areas in town.

Still, the DCCC results are interesting.

Joe Fitz at the Examiner points out that two of the leading moderate Dems – Sup. Ahsha Safai and former Sup. Vallie Brown – lost badly in a race that is typically defined by name recognition:

Supervisor Ahsha Safai and former supervisor Vallie Brown both ran for this tiny Democratic Party board, and both are getting their clocks cleaned by newcomers with little-to-no name recognition, and by future potential opponents as well.

Safai, in particular, netted incredibly low results compared to his rumored rival, former supervisor John Avalos, in the upcoming 2020 November election to defend his District 11 seat.

As of Wednesday’s newest Department of Elections count, Avalos had received 27,586 votes, while Safai earned just 10,200. If the vote pattern holds, Safai will lose this tiny little election where ten seats were up for grabs.

That’s absolutely bonkers for a sitting member of the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco.

Let’s look a little deeper.

It’s no surprise that the top five candidates in Assembly District 17 are widely known politicians with deep roots: Jane Kim, David Campos, John Avalos, Hillary Ronen, and Matt Haney were well ahead of everyone else.

But next on the list are Frances Hsieh, Honey Mahogany, and Annabel Ibanez. Hsieh is a DCCC incumbent, but Mahogany and Ibanez are newcomers who have never held or run for local office before.

Then comes Shanell Williams, a City College trustee who was elected in a citywide race, and Peter Gallotta.

In 11thplace? Sup. Rafael Mandelman. Sup. Shamann Walton is even further down the list, in 20thplace, just two slots ahead of Brown, who had less than half the votes of Kim, Campos, Ronen and Haney.

On the west side of town, where ten DCCC members will be elected, Safai was in 14thplace.

The Social Justice Democrats, who will now dominate the party panel, had money and a solid slate, and since a lot of voters don’t know most of the candidates, the organized slate made a huge difference.

But if this race is a glance at the popularity of elected officials and their allies, it appears that Safai, at least, is potentially in political trouble.

The D11 votes show the incumbent supervisor got 2,536 votes and Avalos got 1,561. But that’s misleading since D11 is split between two Assembly districts, and most of the vote is in D19, where Safai ran.

This map shows the split in D11 between two Assembly districts.

There are 33 D11 precincts in AD 19, and 12 in AD 17. So if we adjust for that difference (Avalos was running in just 25 percent of the district), Avalos actually beat Safai in the district by more than 2-1. (Kind of geeky math, but multiply the Avalos vote by four and the Safai vote by 1.33, and you get Avalos 6,244 and Safai 3,062.)

That’s not a great sign for the incumbent.

For Brown, who is talking about running against Sup. Dean Preston for her old seat, the outcome can’t be encouraging either. Brown got 4,148 votes in her home district; Hillary Ronen, a big Preston supporter, got 5,518 votes in D5. David Campos, also a Preston supporter, got 5,861 votes in D5.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, of course, is well ahead, as we all expected; he’s got 56 percent of the vote. But that’s low for a powerful well-funded incumbent running against a person who has never held or run for office before.

And it’s interesting to look at where Jackie Fielder, his opponent, won votes. She clearly was popular in the most progressive districts – but also ran strongly in some parts of the west and southwest, suggesting that Wiener’s housing proposals (and that’s what this race was and will be about) are unpopular in more than just the liberal precincts.

The other message that came out of this election is that the endorsement of Mayor London Breed is not terribly helpful right now. Breed backed Bloomberg, who tanked, and that may have nothing to do with the mayor; he was going to tank in San Francisco anyway.

But the candidates aligned with the mayor overall did badly.

That’s not unusual – San Francisco mayors traditionally have limited coattails. But to the extent that this election was a plebiscite on how the current administration and the people who are part of its political agenda are seen by the voters, Breed is in trouble.