While the City of San Francisco continues to negotiate with hotel owners over what the costs of turning their hotels into ersatz homeless shelters during the pandemic turned out to be, one more hotel has just walked away with a considerable damage settlement.
The Tilden Hotel at 345 Taylor Street — formerly the Hotel Mark Twain and once the home of trendy restaurant Fish & Farm, which has since moved — has been closed since the start of pandemic lockdowns in March 2020. The hotel's website, untouched since that spring, still bears a message saying it would be closed until June 30, 2020.
But in those early months of the pandemic, the Tilden Hotel, along with dozens of other hotels in the city, was commandeered by City Hall to serve in the COVID-19 Alternative Shelter Program. The program provided both long-term shelter for vulnerable people experiencing homelessness, as well as isolation and quarantine units for individuals infected with COVID-19 who did not have alternatives for isolation.
In total, at the peak of the program, the city was leasing 2,288 rooms across 25 hotels, providing housing for some 3,700 people over a number of months. While much of the cost of the program was reimbursed by the state and FEMA, the hotels received some $200 million in the deal during an extended period in which they likely would have made no money at all.
As the program sunsetted over the last year, we learned that around 1,500 people had been permanently re-housed in supportive housing after leaving their hotel rooms.
It was inevitable that these hotels might see some wear and tear from the program — and while nonprofits provided some management support at these shelter sites, it's not like these were regular hotel stays with maid service.
As Supervisor Aaron Peskin put it last fall to the Chronicle, "When we rapidly housed 3700 people, we were aware that some of them would be tough customers."
But now a number of these hotels have come calling, filing lawsuits over damages they say were caused by those shelter-in-place residents. SFist reported back in May on four hotels, including the Tilden, that had filed suits, and in November we learned that one hotel, the Hotel Union Square, had won a $5.3 million settlement, after seeking $5.6 million.
As ABC 7 now reports, the Tilden Hotel's parent company has won a $2.9 million settlement, which was approved by the SF Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. The owners had been seeking $6.5 million.
An anonymous employee of the hotel told the station that the building was "a mess," and that walls, floors, and TVs all sustained damage.
Peskin previously said that the city would gladly cover the "actual cost" of any damages, but "if [the hotel owners] think they’re going to fleece San Francisco... we’ll litigate."
It's unclear how many more hotels are seeking damages, or how many more millions the city will be on the hook for. We know that the Chicago-based owner of the The Good Hotel (112 7th Street) and the Hotel Vertigo (940 Sutter Street) has also filed suit.
Per ABC 7, hotel occupancy in the city was up to 60% in December, with a total of around 30,000 hotel rooms citywide. That's still down from the 80% level seen pre-pandemic, but it is a considerable recovery from the previous two years.
Photo via Tilden Hotel/Facebook