Homebuilders are not staying at home, and in some cases entering residential properties, as the Department of Building Inspection sees a roughly 500 percent increase in complaints.
We have seen a few on-again, off-again sectors come and go from the “essential business” list, like the weed dispensaries that were initially shut down and then allowed to reopen. Among those originally deemed essential in Mayor Breed’s initial March 16 stay-at-home order was the housing construction sector. “Creating more housing has consistently been Mayor Breed's top priority in office," spokesperson Sarah Owens said in a Washington Post report reprinted locally by the Press Democrat. "It was deemed necessary to continue building housing so that people can afford to live in San Francisco."
But that Post report contained a more telling quote from a San Jose roof contractor, who said that high-end and luxury construction “will never stop because the money's endless."
That shit came to a near-complete halt last week when, as the Examiner reported at the time, most construction was barred from continuing under updated public health orders. Projects with 10 percent affordable housing, however, were exempt and can keep building. “It beats me what the difference is as far as health goes between two floors of affordable housing and ten [floors]," Phil Matier said on KCBS yesterday. “But that’s the way it goes in San Francisco and six other counties.”
You know how else it goes in San Francisco? We like to complain! The Chronicle reports on a giant increase nonessential construction complaints lodged to the Department of Building Inspection (DBI) since those updated orders were announced. Their numbers find that in the first ten days of the new orders, the DBI took 730 complaints about unauthorized construction, in other words, nearly 75 per day. Previously, the DBI would average 12-15 such complaints per day. So that’s about a 500 percent increase, and we do count weekends, since it’s an online complaint filing system that one can access on Saturdays and Sundays. (You can file a complaint right here.)
It may seem like some Permit Patty-esque NIMBYism to sit home and snitch on construction projects that you see from a distance. But as supervisor Rafael Mandelman explains, many of these complaints do indeed hit closer to home.
“If you are sheltering in place and there are a whole bunch of workers coming to your apartment building, potentially exposing residents and other workers to the virus, that’s obviously not what we want.” he told the Chronicle.
Building contractors are of course crying poor. “Tradespeople will leave the Bay Area, and families will leave San Francisco,” builder Clayton Timbell said to the Chron. “Rebuilding a business in June 2020 will not be a summer project. Rather, it will take years.”
Yes, he’s correct, but the same struggles apply to pretty much every industry right now. And it’s not as if you can just run off to some community that is free of COVID-19 health risks or financial devastation. The best you might find is some area with lesser restrictions. And it would not likely be a region where contractors describe the business landscape with words like “the money's endless.”
Image: John Moeses Bauan via Unsplash