Coronavirus adds to uncertainty for residents of San Pablo senior center facing eviction

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March 17, 2020

March 17, 2020

Sarah Ravani

Nearly a dozen seniors living in an assisted living facility in San Pablo face potential eviction in about two weeks, amid a deepening health crisis surrounding the new coronavirus and calls for a temporary halt on all displacement of tenants. The looming eviction comes after the property owners decided last year to sell the building.

Most of the residents moved away, but for the last remaining seniors, their futures are uncertain as concerns rise over the rapid spread of the coronavirus. Many of the residents don’t know where to go amid both the public health and housing crisis.

“We are not just worried about the eviction itself, but the virus makes everything so much more difficult for us,” said Carley Angell, 82, one of the residents. “I have pretty severe lung and kidney problems and I’m also over 80. So that puts me in the most susceptible group.”

Contra Costa County is one of six Bay Area counties that announced a shelter-in-place order until at least April 7. The residents at Brookdale are seniors, many of whom have health conditions and are a “high-risk” population.

City officials throughout California are passing emergency ordinances to stop evictions and others are calling for eviction moratoriums. Gov. Gavin Newsom authorized local governments to halt evictions for residents affected by COVID-19 through May. But some city leaders and advocates say the order doesn’t go far enough in protecting people during a volatile crisis. And instead of enforcing a sweeping order that postpones all evictions, local jurisdictions that are already scrambling to deal with the public health crisis are left to interpret the order.

“The executive order that he issued … to address evictions did almost nothing, as far as we can tell, and basically said local jurisdictions you figure it out,” said Meghan Gordon, director of the housing team at East Bay Community Law Center. Tenants “need to be responding depending on which county they live in and whether those courts are open. He could’ve done something and he didn’t.”

In Contra Costa County, the courts are closed until April 1. During that time, all evictions were postponed by the Sheriff’s Department.

Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia said the county is working with the health department to develop an eviction moratorium based on the governor’s order. Gioia said the county’s attorneys are determining what jurisdiction they have over cities and certain facilities, including Brookdale San Pablo.

“What I’m unclear is what is authority and scope do we have and what kind of facilities does it cover,” he said. “The goal is to give the maximum amount of eviction protection to residents, especially to vulnerable populations.”

Elsewhere in the Bay Area, similar measures are being taken to curb evictions and help tame the uncertainty that some tenants are feeling. City leaders are taking the governor’s directive and trying to figure out how they can apply it to their city.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed issued a moratorium on evictions last week, but it only applies to tenants who lose income related to a business closure, loss of employment or hours or out-of-pocket medical costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, Supervisor Dean Preston said he plans to take the moratorium a step further by introducing an emergency ordinance to include no-fault evictions, which isn’t covered under Breed’s order. Preston said he hopes to have the emergency ordinance passed within a few weeks and also plans to send a resolution to the governor calling for stronger action on evictions.

“Passing these kinds of laws is really disappointing and (it’s) kind of ridiculous that right now a residential landlord would move forward with an eviction,” Preston said. “We’ve got a city order telling people not to leave their homes.”

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has also issued similar eviction moratorium for people affected by coronavirus-related issues.

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