We hope that everyone is staying healthy and safe. Pursuant to the San Francisco and Bay Area Shelter-in-Place Orders, our physical offices are currently closed. However, our attorneys and staff are all working remotely, and are connecting with clients and city staff members via email and phone.
In this week’s e-update, we wanted to summarize the status of public hearings for various San Francisco boards and commissions, and provide an update to the way in which public meetings are held by many other local jurisdictions in response to COVID-19.
San Francisco Public Meetings and City Departments
Board of Supervisors (BOS): Both the full Board and Committee meetings will continue to be held. Board President Yee has asked the Supervisors not to schedule non-essential legislation for hearings, instead allowing the Board to focus on matters that have statutory deadlines or are otherwise necessary. Appeal deadlines and hearings before the BOS are continuing. The Board members have an option to attend the meetings in person or via telephone, and member of the public are encouraged to submit comments in writing. BOS Clerk’s Office remains open.
Planning Commission (PC): PC hearings have been cancelled at least until April 9. Those projects that were scheduled for any of the cancelled dates will need to be rescheduled.
Historic Preservation Commission (HPC): HPC hearings have been cancelled at least until April 9.
Planning Department staff: Most Planning staff members are working at reduced capacity remotely. This means that project application processing, issuance of PPA (Preliminary Project Application) letters, environmental review, and other processes will continue, with the exception that no in person meetings will be arranged. Planning Department staff are scheduling telephone and videoconferences in lieu of in-person project review and other meetings.
Board of Appeals (BOA): Appeal filing deadlines still apply, and since the Board office is closed any appeal must be filed by phone or email. The March 18 hearing was cancelled, and the April 1 and April 8 hearings have also been cancelled. The next regularly scheduled hearings on April 15, May 6 and May 27 are currently scheduled to proceed. The parties to the appeals have been asked to submit their appeal briefs via email, and the original briefing schedules still apply even to appeals that are being rescheduled to a future date.
Zoning Administrator: The March 25 hearing has been cancelled, and the next regularly scheduled hearing on April 22 is currently scheduled to proceed.
Department of Building Inspection (DBI): DBI offices are closed until April 9. It is our understanding that some emergency inspections are taking place, and the Mayor’s Office is working on a plan that will provide for continued permit review (by DBI and other applicable plan check agencies) for housing projects, which the Shelter-in-Place order allowed to proceed.
Other Bay Area Cities
Within the last week, Governor Newsom has issued two executive orders that address local municipalities ability to hold public meetings during the current pandemic. Tuesday’s Executive Order No. N-29-20 provides further flexibility to Brown Act requirements, allowing cities and other governmental bodies to hold public meetings via teleconferencing without the need to also provide a physical location for the meeting.
Many cities around the Bay Area have cancelled various commission and committee meetings, however, most cities and counties must hold city council and county board of supervisors meetings for necessary actions. Many cities have already held city council meetings via teleconference, and will likely continue to do so. Pursuant to Gov. Newsom’s Exec. Order, public meetings still require advance noticing per normal requirements (i.e. 72 hours advance notice for regular meetings, and 24 hour notice for special meetings), and members of the public must still be provided an opportunity to provide public comment. To the extent cities decide to hold public meetings entirely via teleconferencing, each jurisdiction may end up adopting slightly different methods on the way in which project sponsors can present a project that is being considered by the council, to the extent such items are still scheduled for the time being.
Many Bay Area jurisdictions have also declared local emergencies (in part in order to be sure that the local jurisdictions have the ability to obtain FEMA and other funding that may become available), and have closed their offices for all but essential services.
Looking Beyond – COVID-19’s Impact on Local Ballot Measures
COVID-19 is already shaping the November 2020 election, and it is expected to alter the content for the local November ballots. One such example is the Faster Bay Area measure. The March 2020 ballot contained two more localized transportation measures (the Sonoma-Marin Rail Transit Measure and Contra Costa Measure J), both of which failed. The November 2020 ballot was anticipated to contain a regional, 9 county-wide one-cent sales tax measure that would have provided funding for transportation and transit projects for the greater Bay Area. Per multiple newspaper articles this week, the proponents of the regional “Faster Bay Area” measure have decided to not move forward with the ballot measure in November due to COVID-19.
COVID-19 is also impacting the implementation of previously passed measures. San Francisco’s Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector announced last week that the estimated quarterly tax payments for the Gross Receipts Tax, Payroll Expense Tax, Commercial Rents Tax, and Homelessness Gross Receipts Tax, which would otherwise be due on April 30, 2020, are deferred for taxpayers that had combined San Francisco gross receipts in calendar year 2019 of $10M or less. Instead, these quarterly estimated tax liabilities must be paid along with annual tax payments for tax year 2020, which will generally be due by March 1, 2021.
We are staying abreast of rapid changes that San Francisco, other cities, and the state continue to implement on an emergency basis. We’ll keep you posted in our weekly updates and will remain available to serve our clients for the duration.
Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP Attorney Tuija Catalano
The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient. Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein. Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP is a full service real estate law firm. We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law. We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.