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Politics & Policy

San Francisco to rubber-stamp another $9M in hotel damage settlements

The Good Hotel is located on Minna Street in San Francisco's SoMa District. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is set to approve another $9 million in damage claims filed by owners of hotels leased by the city as emergency shelters during the height of the Covid pandemic, a grim subtext for what will be a mostly routine meeting. 

Supervisors are also expected to pass a handful of resolutions that reflect the current state of some of the city’s important communities, including the city’s Asian American Pacific Islanders and the beleaguered Tenderloin neighborhood. 

As always, the wonks can digest all the details in this week’s full agenda

More Hotel Settlements 

Approving settlements is an important but routine part of the Board of Supervisors job. The City Attorney’s Office does most of the work, and supervisors review them in committee, often in closed session.

The full board normally rubber-stamps settlements with parties that sue the city without discussion. This week's agenda, however, shows a number of payouts that could spark some chatter. 

Namely, there’s the $9,204,973 in additional damage claims from owners of hotels that participated in the city’s Shelter-in-Place (SIP) Hotel Program—and this is just the latest batch to come before the board. 

This week’s figure includes claims from owners of the Kimpton Buchanan Hotel in Japantown, the Executive Hotel Vintage Court in Nob Hill and the Americania Hotel in South of Market. 

The Standard has confirmed that at least one of these hotels, the Kimpton Buchanan, has already reopened as a tourist hotel, now known as the Kimpton Enso. 

The Shelter-in-Place Hotel Program, which ran from April 2020 to last December, temporarily housed over 3,000 medically vulnerable people who would otherwise have been living on the street during the Covid pandemic. 

According to a city dashboard, 65% of people housed by the program went on to other housing solutions, 43% of them permanent. 

But several hotel owners wound up filing claims against the city for extensive damage incurred in the program. The board has already approved over $11 million in claims; a report issued by the Controller’s Office in February predicted up to $26 million in liabilities. 

At least one more hotel damage claim will be introduced tomorrow: That's a settlement of $3.8 million to the owners of the Good Hotel in South of Market, for $3.8 million, to be voted on in the coming weeks.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to reimburse the city for operating costs related to the Shelter-in-Place Hotel Program; whether it will cover the damage claims isn’t clear yet. 

“We have been engaged in negotiations with multiple SIP hotels to both protect the city’s interests and ensure a fair resolution to these matters,” Jen Kwart, spokesperson for City Attorney David Chiu told The Standard. 

Other notable settlements to be approved this week include $200,000 to Lyn Rawles, over abuses she suffered while in jail in 2019, and $436,000 to Christopher Wirowek. 

Wirowek, a former Chief Medical Examiner’s Office director, alleged that he was fired in 2019 after refusing to falsify the autopsy report of former public defender Jeff Adachi. 

Wiriowek determined the cause of Adachi’s death to be a drug overdose, which was challenged by Adachi’s colleagues. Douglas Tennenbaum, a police officer accused of leaking Wirowek’s autopsy, is also suing the city. He has not admitted or denied leaking the report. 

In 2019, a $369,000 settlement was paid to a local reporter, Bryan Carmody, over being  arrested in a spectacular raid on his home after he had obtained the leaked report. 

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Other Votes

Pedestrians walk below a mural in San Francisco Chinatown on Dec. 13, 2022. | Benjamin Fanjoy/The Standard

Supervisors will declare May Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the 18th such celebration in San Francisco. Three local Asian community nonprofits will also be honored. 

Supervisor Ahsha Safaí, who represents the Excelsior, will be bringing another milestone to the neighborhood. Supervisors are expected to adopt his resolution, which will get the ball rolling on establishing an Excelsior Community Benefit District. 

The resolution of intent to form the benefit district is just the beginning of a process that will include a public hearing and stakeholder vote in July. 

Once that process is done, the community benefit district will be able to leverage public and private assets to provide the neighborhood with amenities such as street-cleaning services. 

The city currently hosts 16 community benefit districts, most of which are located in the northeast part of the city, apart from the Ocean Avenue Community Benefit District, which borders Safaí’s district. 

Finally, supervisors will also vote on a resolution declaring this week as “I Love Tenderloin Week,” sponsored by that neighborhood’s supervisor, Dean Preston. 

Last week Preston sent letters of inquiry to a number of agencies about the deployment of the California Highway Patrol to combat open-air drug dealing in the Tenderloin. Among other inquiries, the letters included questions about whether the Drug Enforcement Agency could eventually become involved. 

As the board’s leading police skeptic, Preston has already begun voicing concerns over the deployment over social media.