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  • Jason Tuvia

LA, San Diego Join Moves to Prevent Coronavirus-Related Property Evictions

Los Angeles and San Diego city officials announced emergency measures placing moratoriums on residential and business evictions, as major California cities continue efforts to minimize potentially dire economic consequences from the coronavirus pandemic.

San Francisco took similar measures earlier this week after California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an order clearing the way for such local responses in the event that large swaths of the population find themselves out of work and unable to make rent or mortgage payments.

"Angelenos who own businesses in our city deserve peace of mind," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement late Tuesday, after adding commercial evictions to an earlier edict involving residential evictions. "The moratorium will help ease some of the deepest concerns while we get through this crisis together."

Los Angeles officials are working to make $11 million available for microloans to help businesses with bills, payroll, rent and other expenses. Garcetti said efforts are aimed at helping the city's 2,000 businesses, especially smaller firms, weather financial impacts as cities nationwide ban large public social gatherings in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Earlier this week, Garcetti ordered all high-traffic businesses — such as bars, restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues — to shut down. The mayor's latest order on commercial evictions also gives eligible tenants up to three months after the expiration of local emergency measures to pay back any rent that is still due.

Also late Tuesday, San Diego's mayor and City Council unanimously backed similar emergency preventive measures. The council voted to have city staff draft final language that could be voted on next week, preventing rental evictions provided that residents and small-business owners are able to document the loss of income or the imposition of burdensome expenses tied to the coronavirus outbreak.

"We need to act to assist San Diegans who are hurting," San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said at a Tuesday hearing of the City Council. "As jobs disappear, rent payments do not."

San Diego's public hearing was closed to the public as city officials encouraged residents to watch the city's streaming feed online and send in questions by email, with large crowds now banned in the city. The city clerk read more than 140 messages, including several from landlords.

Early indications are that San Diego's eviction moratorium, and likely those in other cities, could face resistance from property owners if provisions are not made to also protect them financially in the event of widespread economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

"If my renter stops paying rent, I cannot pay by mortgage," said one commenter. Another said tenants will seek to take advantage of the "poorly thought out idea" and others expressed concerns about renters just walking away from their obligations.

Under the governor's order this week, California moratoriums can only freeze evictions for renters, but do not relieve them from their financial obligations.

San Diego City Council President Georgette Gomez, who originally proposed the local moratorium measures, said keeping people in their homes was the primary focus. However, the city will also seek emergency state and federal funding to assist unpaid landlords, and she has asked the mayor and the city's Economic Development Department to work with banks and lenders to arrange temporary halts on property mortgage payments or foreclosures.

Other San Diego County cities, along with county supervisors who oversee unincorporated communities, are considering similar measures that are expected to be reviewed or approved within the next week.

Several utility, internet and cell phone providers have said they will not disconnect service to residents due to nonpayment of bills during the coronavirus outbreak in San Diego and other California cities. The state's Public Utilities Commission also acted this week to prevent service disruptions by utility providers under its jurisdiction.

According to health officials, Los Angeles County as of Wednesday morning had 144 documented cases of coronavirus and one death. San Diego County had 60 infections, all of them identified in just the past week.

The coronavirus has now been detected in all 50 states, with a total of 7,324 confirmed infections and 108 deaths as of Wednesday morning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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