In this March 16, 2020 photo, a line of permit-seekers stretched out the door of the Department of Building Inspection and down Mission Street at the exact moment the mayor and health director were announcing the initial shelter-in-place order.

Update: 13 workers self-isolating after permit technician tests positive.

An employee at the Department of Building Inspection has tested positive for COVID-19, and a number of his colleagues have been contacted and sent home for self-isolation.

The department has not disclosed any details regarding the employee, or the number of colleagues who are now home from work. Sources within the building at 1660 Mission St. have told us he is a permit technician working on an upper floor. The Department of Building Inspection reports that 13 workers are now isolating at home.

They have been asked to remain there until July 10.

This is the first confirmed COVID-19 case among Department of Building Inspection employees since the department’s workers reported back for duty months ago. A colleague who yesterday saw the employee who tested positive said “he looked fit as a fiddle.”

DBI workers were informed of the positive test via a department-wide email after work hours yesterday. This morning, another e-mail informed them that “employees who have been in close contact with the employee who tested positive for COVID have been identified and are now self-isolating.”

The Monday night email stated that sanitation workers would be “cleaning and disinfecting the office consistent with the guidelines put in place by the Centers for Disease Control. This includes cleaning and disinfecting all surfaces and areas potentially used by the infected staff member, including bathrooms and other common areas.”

Department of Building Inspection headquarters recently opened again to the public, albeit in a limited fashion. People who make an online appointment can begin lining up at 7:30 a.m. to drop off paperwork and other materials in an outdoor parking lot.

Employees within said that members of the general public can, in some circumstances, enter the building — but are only permitted on the first floor.

As the infected employee purportedly worked on an upper floor, he is described by colleagues as having “extremely limited contact with the public” and doing “work you cannot do from home.”

Christine Gasparac, an assistant director at the Department of Building Inspection, confirmed that “curbside services will continue” for the general public.

“The safety plan mandates limits to the number of customers allowed in the building for the two hours in the mornings that drop-in Over-the-Counter no plans permit services are provided.  Employee access to the building will continue.”

Employees contacted by Mission Local took this news in various ways. While some noted that “they did a pretty good job contact tracing” and “nobody in this building doesn’t wear a mask,” others questioned why they were still coming into work at all.

“None of us should be here,” says one. “The profits of realtors and developers aren’t worth our lives, or the lives of tradespeople.”

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Joe Eskenazi

Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. “Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior...

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    1. Doc — 

      As noted in the caption, this photo is from March 16. I think San Franciscans have gotten better since then at mask-wearing.


  1. Mr Eskenazi: Thank you for publishing this, “upper floor” is rather vague- would you mind divulging which floor the permit tech worked on? It would be beneficial to those who interact with DBI but have not been “officially” been provided with this information. Thank you.

    1. Sir or madam — 

      I would urge you to err on the side of caution and make some inquiries. I have reason to believe the individual worked on the fifth floor, but I am not 100 percent certain on that matter.


      1. 2nd and 5th floors serve same function- plan review —5th floor is public area over the counter work and 2nd floor primarily staff albeit a few permit expediters in the mix

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