Supervisor Aaron Peskin speaks at a news conference in support of the “Shelter in Peace” ordinance at an apartment building in Nob Hill in July.. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Construction disruptive to tenants may be barred under emergency legislation

Alternative resources would be required during water, electricity shutoffs

San Francisco landlords may soon be prohibited from conducting nonessential construction disruptive to tenants sheltering in place.

An emergency “shelter in peace” ordinance that moved out of committee on Monday would bar construction that shuts off water or electricity in residential units for more than two hours a day unless backup resources are provided. That could include water bottles or a generator that supports internet use

The Land Use and Transportation Committee unanimously voted to recommend its approval at the full Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. Emergency ordinances last 60 days once they go into effect and can be extended during the state of emergency.

“There have been a handful of egregious actors who, during COVID-19 as everyone is spending an inordinate amount of time in their residences, have totally and absolutely abused the system in the desire of money and profit,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin said in July. “While we are sheltering in place, it is profoundly important that the residents of these buildings can shelter in peace.”

Peskin introduced the emergency legislation in July in response to complaints of discomforting construction that has left dust in the air, constant noise, and electricity shut off without notice.

San Francisco’s original health order in March stopped non-essential construction but eased up to allow all construction starting in May. Peskin’s legislation backed by Supervisors Hillary Ronen, Shamann Walton, Dean Preston, Sandra Lee Fewer is narrowly tailored.

Exceptions would be made for buildings with 100 percent affordable units or for property owners that reach a different agreement with all tenants.

Construction with no advance notice may still continue if the Department of Building Inspection authorizes it to fix an imminent safety hazard.

Peskin acknowledged concerns about lack of exemptions for buildings that faced deadlines for mandated seismic retrofitting but said Supervisor Rafael Mandelman is working on legislation that extends those deadlines.

The ordinance is limited to construction that shuts off water and electricity without providing alternatives.

Some public commenters sought leniency and said it was a good time for construction with fewer people out and about, but Peskin rejected the argument.

“This is not road construction, my friend,” Peskin said. “This is construction in apartments with rent-controlled tenants.”

The Board of Supervisors will vote on the emergency legislation on Tuesday.

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