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Gov. Newsom pushes eviction moratorium statewide [Update]

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“Everyone will have to make sacrifices, but a place to live shouldn’t be one of them,” governor says.

A low-angle photo of a man in a suit speaking with one hand upraised in an emphatic gesture.
Newsom speaking at the California Department of Public Health in February.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

[Update: Late Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order that allows cities to suspend evictions for renters and homeowners, citing the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak and the related economic fallout.

“ Over the next few weeks, everyone will have to make sacrifices – but a place to live shouldn’t be one of them,” Newsom said in a statement, adding “I strongly encourage cities and counties take up this authority to protect Californians.”

State government cannot suspend evictions itself, so individual municipalities will have to implement moratoriums themselves. Minutes after the order, Supervisor Matt Haney and Supervisor Dean Preston said that the Board of Supervisors will quickly take up an SF plan.

Note that Newsom stopped short of suggesting suspension payments altogether—the order only authorizes cities to shield residents from potential ouster over non-payment. That is to say, you’re still expected to pay the rent if able, but your landlord cannot remove you if you can’t pay now. Earlier today the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department announced that all pending evictions are postponed.

Protections extend to May 31, although Newsom may extend the order later.]

The public campaign to slow the spread of COVID-19 has brought much of San Francisco to a standstill—which is encouraging news for public health advocates pushing residents to adopt more sedentary habits to avoid potentially spreading the contagion.

The effort is also likely to be a source of stress for those facing financial hardships from the outbreak and the response to it. To help soften the blow, the city will roll out a series of rules changes and moratoriums related to housing and transit. As of now, here’s a few small weights off your mind:

  • As Curbed SF reported Friday, Mayor London Breed issued a moratorium on residential evictions for San Franciscans “directly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.” Under this order, renters who inform their landlord within 30 days of a missed rent payment that they’ve suffered outbreak-related hardships like loss of work or “extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses” are shielded from eviction. The order lasts for 30 days, though Breed may renew it next month, and once it ends tenants have six months to catch up on the suspended payments.
  • The SF Board of Supervisors had been considering similar rules, but Breed’s emergency powers act faster than the city legislative process and beat them to it. Now Supervisor Dean Preston says he would like an even more aggressive eviction ban that would also halt “no fault” evictions for the period of the city emergency, although no such legislation has passed yet. The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department announced Monday that all pending evictions are postponed.
  • Also effective Friday, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission says it will put a moratorium on shutoffs for nonpayment of water and electricity bills for the next two months. The moratorium is effective citywide, and the utility agency says that it will also waive late fees during that period. Note that this only applies to customers who get electricity from the city’s public power program, not PG&E.
  • The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) notes that for the time being it will ease up on the throttle when it comes to parking tickets and fare evasion on Muni. Director Jeffrey Tumlin says until further notice SFMTA will no longer apply late penalties on unpaid citation. The city will also stop referring delinquent nonpayment to collections and give people longer to dispute a ticket.
  • Although Caltrain has cut back service after ridership dropped 75 percent compared to two weeks ago, starting Tuesday the “baby bullet” service is no longer available.
  • BART and Muni say that they will still operate on a full regular schedule for the benefit of those who still need to commute despite “social distancing” mandates.