Supes move to stop business eviction
Photo by Lola M. Chavez

As statewide protections for commercial rentals expire on Sept. 30 and businesses become vulnerable to potential eviction, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors desperately rushed to introduce legislation at Tuesday’s board meeting that would buy tenants more time. 

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, along with Dean Preston, Gordon Mar and Hillary Ronen, sponsored an emergency ordinance that would extend the rent deadline for San Francisco businesses for 60 days, into December. The earliest the Supes can vote on it is on Sept. 29. 

This appears to be the only real option for San Francisco’s small business owners, since Gov. Gavin Newsom has not yet announced another statewide extension of a rent moratorium, Peskin’s legislative aide Lee Hepner told Mission Local.  

His boss tweeted as much on Monday. 

“We cannot punish small businesses for playing by the rules. It is absurd to think they can afford to pay back rent starting Oct 1.,” Peskin tweeted. 

“Without an extension of state eviction protections, we’ll be left w [sic] the plainly inadequate option of extending emergency relief for a max 60 days,” he continued. 

Locally, Mayor London Breed renewed protections for commercial tenants that lasted up until now, but these, too, expire next Wednesday. 

Peskin and Preston drafted a resolution urging the governor to continue the extension, which the supes unanimously approved on Tuesday. 

Without action from Newsom, the proposed emergency ordinance will only extend businesses 60 additional days of relief. 

Small business owners “want some certainty and, unfortunately, that is bungled up in state law,” Hepner said. 

Commercial tenants are allowed to miss a payment for up to six months during the pandemic if they pay back rent — otherwise, they must work out a deal with their landlords or face eviction.

Early on, the city encouraged landlords to work out payment plans with renters, and some managed to negotiate the date by which missing money would be remunerated. Some have not been able to come to agreements, putting business owners who have lost months of revenue at risk of eviction.

Since January, the city introduced loans and business grants to deter some of the ravaging effects the pandemic had on the local workforce. But navigating reopening has inevitably made a dent in some industries, especially for those like salons and gyms that had only been able to invite customers in again recently.

The final “tool” the Supes have in the works is a proposal from Peskin, Preston and Mar that allows business owners to pay all back rent by Dec. 31, 2021, instead of six months from when the moratorium expires (as of right now, March, 2021).

It would also permit small landlords — those who rent out less than 25,000 square feet of space — to use “hardship protections.” However, this is contingent on whether the governor extends commercial rent relief across California, and it is unclear when or if that will happen. 

“We’re kind of down to the wire,” Hepner said. “For all the small businesses we are talking to, all they really want is accountability.”

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REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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  1. When will the City & County of San Francisco be “cancelling” property tax on commercial buildings? Fair is fair, after all.

  2. I’m confused. What exactly is it that small biz wants – certainty? or accountability? And I’m not even sure what “accountability” is (though I can imagine it from an owners POV)?

    And left out is what the situation is around being evicted for not paying rent going forward. If a biz has missed some payments over the last months, but can or begins paying going forward, would they be subject to eviction? I believe the ‘certainty’ requested is around what businesses had to do with the accumulated debt. But eviction is not a panacea for an owner. They must then find someone new to lease the space; and that is uncertainty in its own right (devil you know vs the devil you don’t). Any new lease will not be paying any of the former rent payments; so in one sense that money is lost either way. Leave it to the two parties to work out, but don’t kneecap either side like what is being proposed. This is a horrendous time, with mostly no one at fault. Even evicted, an old business will still owe the missed payments; so at some point there will needs be negotiation btw the parties.

    Its interesting that the ‘aggrieved’ parties were termed “tenants” instead of business owners. Is that meant play to a larger sense of anxiety from householders, who are regularly used as a political football here?