New shelter-in-place extension restricts most housing and commercial construction

Order also limits size of funerals, requires social distancing at essential businesses

Most housing and commercial construction is now restricted under the Bay Area-wide shelter-in-place extension, which has been extended to May 3, health officials said Tuesday.

San Francisco, Santa Clara, Alameda, San Mateo, Contra Costa, and Marin counties extended the existing order Tuesday to May 3, nearly a month after the original end date, and announced new restrictions that bars most construction previously considered essential.

Exceptions are made for affordable housing projects with income restrictions, shelters and temporary housing excluding hotels and motels, and projects needed immediately to service people who are unhoused, elderly, low-income, and with special needs. Other categories include projects on essential infrastructure, health care operations including the coronavirus response, construction needed to keep closed sites secure, and construction or repair needed for essential businesses to remain safe, sanitary, and habitable.

The previous order allowed blanket construction of housing, although it particularly named affordable housing and housing to do with homelessness.

Though construction on future projects may continue for now, affordable housing developers remain concerned about long-term impacts of the current crisis. San Francisco is grappling with steep and immediate revenue shortfalls that could affect future funding, while tenants of current affordable housing buildings may have a harder time paying rent, which is used to fulfill loans secured by nonprofits to build or acquire the buildings.

“We are both focused on how do we manage risk in a changing environment like this and what would a recession, for example, mean for the financing that needs to support affordable housing, as well as the income levels and rents that existing residents and businesses can afford to pay,” Housing Accelerator Fund CEO Rebecca Foster said after the initial shelter-in-place order,

Don Falk of the Tenderloin Housing Development Clinic still doesn’t anticipate negative impacts on its three projects under construction, as well as other affordable housing projects from different groups.

“There may be second-order effects, both negative and positive, including perhaps a moderation in the escalation of construction costs,” Falk said.

The new order also closes recreational areas like dog parks and playgrounds to public use, requires essential businesses to set up social distancing protocols by April 3, and limits funerals to 10 people. Though the order thus far may have reduced the rate of infection, health officials cited increasing cases and hospitalizations as the reason to extend it.

San Francisco had 394 confirmed cases and six deaths as of Tuesday morning.

“What we need now, for the health of all our communities, is for people to stay home,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, in a statement. “Even though it has been difficult, the Bay Area has really stepped up to the challenge so far, and we need to reaffirm our commitment. We need more time to flatten the curve, to prepare our hospitals for a surge, and to do everything we can to minimize the harm that the virus causes to our communities.”

Schools in San Francisco and other Bay Area counties first extended closures to May 1, which falls on a Friday. Mayor London Breed warned Monday that the order would be extended to at least May 1. California’s order remains indefinite.

imojadad@sfexaminer.com

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