Senators Wiener and Gonzalez Introduce Legislation to Halt Commercial Evictions for the Duration of the COVID-19 Emergency

March 20, 2020

Sacramento - Today, Senators Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) introduced SB 939, which places a moratorium on commercial evictions, including small businesses and nonprofits, for the duration of the COVID-19 health emergency. (We anticipate that the bill we be in print by Monday evening. Attached is a copy of the legislation.)

This legislation comes at a time of unprecedented challenge to our economy, and particularly to small businesses and nonprofits and their employees. With stay-at-home orders in place across the state, mandating that all non-essential businesses close and that people stay inside, many businesses are closing or dramatically scaling back. In addition, many nonprofits are laying off staff and facing closure.

SB 939 helps these businesses and nonprofits stay afloat by ensuring they are safe from eviction for the duration of the COVID-19 State of Emergency. It places a moratorium on commercial evictions as long as Governor Newsom’s State of Emergency, declared March 4th, 2020, is in effect. SB 939 gives small businesses and nonprofits a fighting chance to survive and reopen after the emergency ends.

Pausing commercial evictions will also help businesses and nonprofits focus their financial resources on workers, who are suffering due to lost wages from closures and hour cuts. Right now, only some businesses can afford to keep paying their workforce, and SB 939 will help ease some of the financial pressure facing small businesses trying to support workers with pay and benefits. Right now, businesses should be focused on weathering the storm, without having to fear eviction.

Governor Newsom gave local governments authority to halt commercial and residential evictions, and some cities have decided to implement these moratoriums. Mayor London Breed of San Francisco and Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, among others, have announced commercial eviction moratoriums. SB 939, if passed, would — by statute — protect all California businesses and nonprofits from eviction, even if a city has not or is not able to take action.

SB 939 is one part of a larger package of emergency legislation meant to help Californians face the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) will introduce AB 828, with Senator Wiener as a principal co-author, to halt residential evictions during the COVID-19 State of Emergency and 15 days afterwards. Both bills will help those struggling financially due to the pandemic, but from different angles. Assemblymember Ting is a principal co-author of SB 939.

In addition to joint author Senator Gonzalez and Assemblymember Ting, Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Assemblymembers Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood), David Chiu (D-San Francisco), and Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) are principal co-authors of SB 939.

Senator Scott Wiener said: 

“COVID-19 is a disaster for our entire economy, but particularly for small businesses, nonprofits, and their workers. The last thing we need is permanent mass closure of small businesses and nonprofits, many of which provide critical services for our community. It will be hard enough for these businesses and nonprofits to stabilize and reopen after the emergency. If they lose their retail, office, or manufacturing spaces, they may never be able to reopen. Hitting the pause button on commercial evictions gives businesses and nonprofits a fighting chance to survive.”

Senator Lena Gonzalez said:

“I am proud to be joint author of SB 939 with Senator Wiener. This emergency legislation will freeze all commercial evictions pertaining to our small businesses in California during the public health emergency related to COVID-19. We know small businesses are the backbone for our community & workforce. This critical legislation will help during a difficult time for our communities.”

Assemblymember Phil Ting said:

“Businesses and nonprofits are vital to our communities. When we get through the pandemic, we will want those jobs and services to still be there. Suspending commercial evictions under SB 939 helps our favorite shops and restaurants weather this crisis.”

Maryo Mogannam, President of the San Francisco Council of District Merchants Associations, said:

“I believe strongly that a clear, and concise, moratorium on commercial evictions is essential to the well-being of our small business community.  With the emergency payroll requirements being issued at various levels of government which impact businesses, whether open or closed, many merchants, restaurants and retail shops will need time to get funding to save their businesses.”

Carlos Solorzano, the CEO of the Hispanic Chambers of Commerce – San Francisco, said:

“The Hispanic Chambers of Commerce San Francisco (HCCSF), and its board of directors congratulate our local and state government leaders for their prompt response to this crisis. We urge our membership and friends to ensure proper precautions, follow the rules, stay safe at home, support small businesses by patronizing their services, and practice social distancing. Working together as a community we can make a difference. Siempre P’lante!”

Betty Jo Toccoli, President of the California Small Business Association, said:

“The California Small Business Association supports the legislation by Senator Wiener for a moratorium on commercial evictions. This legislation will help alleviate the burden on small business owners to not only survive but protect their employees.”

Scott Hauge, President of Small Business California, said: 

“Small businesses have been tremendously impacted by the requirement to close their doors, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The struggle to make payroll and pay the rent when your business isn’t operating has tremendously impacted the 3.9 million small businesses in this state. We commend Senator Wiener for his leadership in pushing California and the federal government to immediately place an urgent moratorium on renters’ and businesses’ evictions, and on home foreclosures.”

Gwen Kaplan, the CEO of Ace Mailing and member of the North East Mission Business Association, said: 

"Doing business in San Francisco, and California, has always been tough when it comes to the cost of commercial leases and skyrocketing rents.  We are in the midst of an unparalleled crisis both in terms of public, and economic, health. While it is unfortunate that it needs to be a law, we simply must have a moratorium on commercial evictions during this time of great peril.”