Photo Lola M. Chavez

The Board of Supervisors passed three pieces of legislation — two of them unanimously — on Tuesday, all three of which were introduced by Supervisor David Campos.

Supervisors restricted no-fault evictions of teachers and students during the school year, approved gender-neutral public bathrooms, and declared a homeless shelter crisis city-wide.

Though the items will come up for a final vote at a future meeting and must be approved by the mayor, all passed with the eight votes needed to block a mayoral veto.

Teacher Evictions

Campos introduced legislation in February that would prevent anyone who is employed at a school – including security guards, cafeteria staff, and school nurses – from eviction during the school year.

“This ordinance will help…minimize the harm that evictions and displacements can have on the school community,” Campos said. “If you are an educator the impact of an eviction is pretty significant in the sense that you are pushed out not only of San Francisco, but also the Bay Area.”

Campos also responded to concerns that the law would harm teachers because landlords would stop renting to them, fearing the new protections. He said California law prohibits such discrimination and that landlords would face penalties.

The law was backed by various education advocates, including the United Educators of San Francisco, Tenants Together, and several teachers who themselves were facing eviction.

The law also expands a provision passed in 2010 that prevented landlords from evicting tenants with children under 18 during the school year for certain types of evictions. Landlords are now prohibited from evicting schoolchildren during the school year for any no-fault eviction other than required construction like seismic retrofitting.

The legislation passed unanimously.

All-Gender Bathrooms

On the heels of a North Carolina law requiring people to use the restroom that matches the gender on their birth certificates, supervisors unanimously approved a city law that requires public single-stall bathrooms to be labeled “all-gender” restrooms – available for use by anyone.

The law applies to single-user bathrooms available to the public or employees at a business, as well as single-user restrooms on city property. Multi-stall bathrooms, under the legislation, may also become “all-gender” restrooms, but the change isn’t required.

New buildings in San Francisco must now have at least one all-gender bathroom on each floor. The Department of Building Inspection and the Human Rights Campaign can enforce the signage requirements under the new legislation.

“This legislation will benefit many people in the transgender community, but also includes parents with opposite gendered children, seniors and disabled people with opposite gendered caretakers, [and] gender nonconforming people,” Campos said. He added that it might also be welcome news to women who have to wait in longer lines than men to use the restroom.

“How perfect this timing is, that we’re doing this immediately after passage and signing of the really despicable law in North Carolina that basically announced to the LGBT community that we’re not whole citizens,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener.

Campos ended the commentary with a somewhat cringeworthy but humorous exchange, saying, “I have the smallest bladder of anyone I know–”

“TMI [too much information] Supervisor Campos, TMI,” Supervisor London Breed interrupted him.

“–So the idea that anyone would make it hard for anyone to use the bathroom just makes no sense to me,” Campos finished.

Shelter Crisis

After two unanimous votes, contention arose over Campos’s proposal to declare a homeless emergency in San Francisco. Campos announced his intention to do this in early March, saying the situation had become untenable for both homeless and housed residents and that this declaration, if adopted by the city, would make it easier to create shelters and open up state disaster funding.

At the meeting, supervisors opposing the measure pushed back on those statements, saying homelessness in the city has always been a crisis and that the declaration would neither make additional funds available nor make it easier to create shelters.

“I’m wondering why 10 years ago we hadn’t declared that it was an emergency or that there was a shelter crisis at that time,” said Supervisor Katy Tang, citing the annual homeless point-in-time count that indicates the homeless count has risen by only about 400 individuals, to 6,686, since 2005.

Supervisor Mark Farrell opposed the declaration on the grounds that it would do nothing concrete to address homelessness, and that the situation had been untenable for years.

“I’ve been publicly stating that our homeless situation has reached a state of emergency since last year,” Farrell said. “It’s been a state of emergency for decades.”

Supervisor Scott Wiener said he had been hopeful about the declaration, but now found it to be toothless. He cited a recent addition to the declaration that specified new proposed shelters may not waive any city requirements, including mandated neighborhood input. He also said the proposal does not provide for any kind of funding.

“When Supervisor Campos first introduced this legislation, based on the things that I heard, I thought, ‘Wow, this could actually be a path forward. Maybe it would open up resources.’ We now know that it opens up absolutely no resources, and we’ve received a letter from the federal government confirming it will not open up any,” Wiener said.

Amy Farah Weiss, a recent mayoral candidate and now an advocate for the homeless, said the declaration lays the groundwork for more concrete legislative action, and that she would like to see Wiener propose an alternative legislative approach if he does not support Campos’s.

“I’d love to see Scott Wiener work with me on the kind of stuff that I’m trying to put forward,” Weiss said.

Currently, her efforts include trying to arrange for temporary service hubs to be set up around the city – an approach she said requires an extensive permitting process.

“For us to wait to allow people to live on the street without access to secure sleep and toilets is just immoral. But it’s illegal for us to act,” she said. “It’s actually illegal for me to take the structures that I have and provide secure sleep and bathrooms and disposal unless the city gives me approval.”

Campos said he would be following Tuesday’s declaration with legislation that would require the city to build more navigation centers faster. Mayor Ed Lee also announced on Wednesday that the temporary shelter at Pier 80 would remain open until July 1.

The declaration was approved 8-3, with Farrell, Mar and Tang dissenting. That makes the legislation veto-proof if the mayor decides to send it back to the Board without signing it.

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