Supes call for stronger SRO safety measures

Photo by "Bludgeoner86" via Flickr

It’s no secret that tenants living in single room occupancy hotels (SROs) often grapple with health and safety issues, from bedbug infestations to plumbing problems.

At a committee hearing this afternoon, members of the Board of Supervisors will consider legislation [PDF] introduced by Sup. Eric Mar that would amend the housing code to require owners of SROs to install grab bars in common-area bathrooms, and to provide working phone jacks in each SRO unit.

These measures may seem relatively small, but Tony Robles of the Senior & Disability Action Housing Collaborative says installing grab bars can go a long way toward preventing falls, a leading cause of injury deaths for people older than 65.

In SROs, “there’s a lot of folks who have mobility problems,” Robles explains. “Many are disabled, or elders." He said knows an elderly woman living in an SRO who recently fell and now faces hip surgery.

“This legislation is about safety, and it’s about quality of life,” Robles said. “It’s not just affluent folks who deserve to live in reasonably habitable conditions.”

Last June, advocates with Senior Action Network and several SRO collaboratives published detailed findings [PDF] from an in-depth survey of 151 SRO residents living in Chinatown, the Mission, SoMa and the Tenderloin. Most respondents were older than 55, and 62 percent identified as having a disability.

The in-depth study found that safety issues topped the list of residents’ concerns. Many respondents said they feared falling on the stairs or in the shower, and less than half reported having grab bars in their bathrooms.

The legislation, which was co-sponsored by Supervisors Jane Kim, David Campos and David Chiu, would also require SRO operators to install working phone jacks in residents’ rooms, which can be critical for tenants who need a way to communicate in case of an emergency.

According to the study findings, these low-income tenants face a host of other issues too:

"About one-third or more of survey respondents said their hotel had a problem with bedbugs, other infestations, visitor policy violations, electrical problems, unsanitary bathrooms, and harassment/ disrespect. One-fifth of respondents also cited problems with heat, plumbing, personal safety, fire safety, and maintenance and repairs. 
More than half (53%) had no access to a kitchen in their building, and 18% of respondents said they skip meals due to lack of resources or facilities."

San Francisco has more than 500 residential hotels, according to city records, with more than 19,000 units. An estimated 8,000 seniors and adults with disabilities live in SROs.

Robles remarked that it took courage for the SRO residents to speak up in hopes of improving their living conditions. “Tenants in theses SROs oftentimes are intimidated to say anything,” he said. “Some folks might have feared reprisal.”


would find themselves with much better services someplace else - like Oakland which is a lot warmer. And those 19,000 units could be rehabbed or combined to create much nicer apartments for families who have been decimated in this city's housing market.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 2:54 pm

relocation of people, an unfortunate and longstanding American tradition.

Posted by Eddie on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

Not like happened to your beloved Native Americans. Just pointing out that's a lot of units.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 3:12 pm

segregation but the reality is more gentle. Changes in demographics and economic trends have always, in every country and in every time, caused people to move to see better opportunity or security.

Were all the immigrants to the US victims of "relocation" or "displacement" just because Europe had it's problems? Maybe you could argue that but, in practice, isn't it just a million families making decisions about changes that will benefit themselves?

If someone moves from SF to Oakland because that will give them more disposable income, in what real sense is that "forced relocation"? Isn't it just reality?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 3:24 pm

different ones conjures up forced relocation to me.

Posted by Eddie on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 3:39 pm

would drive the SRO's out of business, forcing the relocation to Oakland.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 3:56 pm

No one's talking about an SRO-based Trail of Tears across the Bay Bridge there Mr. Eddie I-See-Indians-Everywhere-I-Look of the tribe White Men from San Francisco. You're engaging in mirror imaging - seeing what you want to see in what others are saying. You can gin up the "SRO defense committee" if you want and prolly reel in a bit of city money to help you pay for it - but that doesn't mean anyone's talking about herding SRO denizens from their hovels and planting them somewhere else.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 4:17 pm

working in Boston in the mid to late 80's with rooming house (ie SRO) tenants who landlords were illegally evicting in order to convert the buildings into condominiums or to sell the properties to speculators.

Suspicious fires forced tenants from at least two of the buildings with which I worked.

Posted by Eddie on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 4:49 pm

between restrictive regulations and incidents of "creative" methods of sidestepping the issue.

Any governing body has to draw a line somewhere because excessive regulations and restrictions kills the golden goose. In Boston, evidently, that line was breached.

The hope here is that SF learns from the last time they placed onerous rules on SRO's and found that, not only did that paradoxically make SRO's less safe, but it also directly led to there being less SRO's.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 5:15 pm

last time the city mandated expensive safety "upgrades". Turned out the city's actions actually made buildings LESS safe.

Of course, if the real intent of the city is to strip out all the value of SRO buildings so that Randy Shaw can buy them for a song then this would be an effective way of doing that.

Has anyone asked Randy if he supports this?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 3:00 pm

Put this energy into building affordable and ultra affordable housing. Stop building Market rate housing!

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 9:15 pm

they house that funds "affordable" housing.

The poor need the rich more than the rich need the poor.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 7:11 am

Prop C relieved developers of 1/4 of their affordable obligations in exchange for a $30m claim on the general fund for affordable construction.

It is likely that those $30m will go to the Housing Authority and not to new affordable construction.

So the net new affordable will be less in projects approved this year and beyond year than last and earlier no matter how much new market rate is entitled.

And there is more to it than just affordable, there is transportation and livability too. Nobody wants San Francisco to turn into a concrete, glass and steel jungle except for developers and those who want to create housing to finally water down liberal and progressive political power.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 8:00 am

and much less BMR housing would be built if those towers going up all over SOMA were not being built. Beggars cannot be choosers and if the non-profits and the city wants to build housing that is fundamentally uneconomic, then they have to kiss up to those who have the disposable funds to make that happen.

Remember, those developers can go elsewhere if they don't get the deal they want. We need them more than they need us.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 8:18 am

And this is the crux of how corporate power coopts "activists" and "organizers" in the nonprofits to screw most San Franciscans for the benefit of a few very wealthy and a slightly more very poor.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 8:33 am

The average SF home sells for 750K so it's hardly for the very wealthy, who prefer to drop a few million on a mansion in Pacific Heights, or live in Marin or the Peninsula.

It's not the wealthy buying those SOMA condo's. It's working people and couples, straight and gay, black and white, young and old. Just ordinary San Franciscans.

And yeah, developers make some moolah on the deal. But then they wouldn't build at all were that not the case, and all that BMR housing that comes along with it.

Hate on the man if you like, but then take his money home with you every night.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 8:48 am

Real San Franciscans don't move from real San Francisco housing into craptacular condoplexes.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 9:14 am

They've all left or died. Nowadays, it's just interlopers and immigrants.

In my world, people can choose to live wherever they want. Imagine that.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 9:44 am

We're not dead yet, corporate power has not killed us nor has it yet outnumbered us although that day is drawing near at current rates.

As far as corporate power goes, SPUR, the HAC and Chamber of Commerce--nonprofits all--get tax breaks to ensure greater corporate profits, allegedly in "the public interest."

What a load of horseshit.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 9:56 am

You might not like corporations but it's what pays your bills and builds homes and jobs.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 10:26 am

After almost a quarter of a century, I'm practically a native. The firms with which I work do not try to rig the political game to screw my neighbors.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 10:46 am

yourself as a "real San Franciscan" is a stretch. the real San Franciscans were memebrs of an industrial working class, and they've been driven out by yuppies like you moving here out of some "vision" of this place as being hip.

You've no idea what your employers really get up to behind closed doors.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 11:02 am

The real San Franciscans were the Ohlone Costanoans.

I know what my employers are up to, it is a very small startup company that has no time to lobby, we're too busy engineering an innovation under circumstances that are not hostile to our project.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 11:12 am

Spending all your work day, every day, here.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 4:35 pm

I'm sort of amazed that you say that housing going for $750K is "hardly for the very wealthy." That is a LOT of money. I earn a little less than $60K a year and it would be a very, very long time before I could afford anything close to that. And yet my income is still better than most Americans, and better than a lot of San Franciscans', and let's not even talk about the very poor or the working poor. Do you not see the irony?

When I moved here recently, I had hopes of living in SF. But every search for rentals on Craigslist, when I capped it at $1600, yielded absolutely NOTHING in SF except shoebox studios or shared space. I ended up moving to Oakland, where I nonetheless pay $1400 for about 750 sq. ft.

Bottom line is, maybe you can afford a $750K house in SF and not be "super-rich," meaning a multimillionaire, but you definitely CANNOT be working class or even what we call middle class in America and afford a $750K house. No way. Affordable housing is sorely lacking in SF. And all this talk about "we need the rich more than they need us" is sickening. Sure, it's the wet dream of a lot of developers to move the very poor (and a lot of the working poor) across the bay to Oakland where they would already be in very good company. I don't see how that makes it right. Most SRO landlords are slumlords trying to turn a quick profit by ripping off those who can least afford it. The amount those people actually pay for truly dismal conditions is appalling...but it's still less than a decent space in SF, and thus all they can afford. If SRO landlords refuse to make their properties habitable, they should be taken over by the city, made habitable, and rented to the people who need them at a lower cost than they currently are without the need to "turn a profit" but simply enough to cover the cost incurred to the city.

Posted by Irene on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 4:03 pm

So a couple both making 75K pa, borrowing 4 times their gross income and putting down 20% can afford a 750K house.

Every home in SF sells quickly, so we know many people can afford that even if you cannot.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 4:36 pm

Median household income is something like $75K per annum for a family of two, not average salary.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 5:27 pm

That's what "median" means. Irene claimed that SF homes are unaffordable and yet every home put on the market sells.

The only way 750K for a home could be called unaffordable in SF is if they didn't sell at that price. But people are paying that, ergo, they can afford that.

That you got, Marcos, 2BR condo in the Mission? That's probably 750K right there, even if you are on the worst block in the Mission.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 5:49 pm

Right, average is not median, and individual income in the case you mention is not household income. What you say is wrong and has no meaning.

Household incomes of $150K are another matter entirely. Eyeballing it I'd wager that perhaps 30% of San Francisco households make more than $150K and of them, most already own.

You need to figure out how to use numbers in ways that relate to the underlying facts instead of pulling shit out of your ass and lobbing it at us all.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 6:42 pm

You claim that 30% of SF households make 150K. I'd agree and say that is probably about right, although it may be higher than that.

But only about 30% of SF are owner-occupied anyway; the rest being rentals.

So SF homes are affordable if there are enough people with enough fiscal power to buy these homes at an average of 750K.

It's not necessary for the average person in SF to be able to afford the average home. There are always people who cannot afford the average home.

The point is that there are ENOUGH people who can afford the average SF home. Therefore, the average SF home is affordable, just not to everyone.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 6:56 pm

It is not existing San Franciscans who are purchasing these units, rather those drawn to the region by high wages mostly at jobs in the suburbs who are out-competing existing San Franciscans for housing.

The fact stands that most, 70% of existing San Francisco households cannot afford to purchase even a TIC if they were so anti social as to do so.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 7:13 pm

SF property and, even if that were true, so what? A seller is free to sell to whoever he or she pleases, regardless of origin. To do otherwise would be to practice housing discrimination.

And yes, of course 30% of SF'ers can afford to buy SF homes because 30% of SF homes are owner, rather than rented. There is no city on the planet where 100% of residents can afford to buy the average home.

Every home for sale gets sold, so they are affordable to as many people as matter.

Posted by anon on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 7:51 pm

Put these efforts into building affordable and ultra affordable housing. Stop building Market rate housing!

Posted by Mag on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 9:19 pm

not build any homes? Genius.

That actually means less affordable housing because you no longer get the BMR setasides AND because you have the people the market-rate housing would have housed instead chasing down TIC's in the Mission.

There's a reason why you're not given any decison-making power on such things.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 11:19 am

Preferably spacious, with marble counter tops, views and top-rated appliances too! Garaged parking would be extra nice :-)

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 11:32 am
Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 11:51 am

"gentle relocation" perfect liberal bars and phone jacks, are they really THAT expensive? those rooms rent for at least $700 a month, they have the money.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 9:32 pm

All that crime, drug use, prostitution etc. makes running one a nightmare, and nobody would do it unless it was very profitable

When SF mandated sprinkler systems in all SRO's, many went out of business, throwing their "guests" out on the street.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 7:13 am

Instead of responding to the needs of elderly or disabled residents of the city's SRO hotels and discussing the pros and cons of Mar's proposed legislation, the raving jerks on this site are caught biting each other's rear ends over the so-called issue of relocation! I like living in SF, even in the Tenderloin. I've been a part of this city for nearly 50 years. Try to relocate me and I'll mess you up--self-centered pups.And the inaccuracies and stupidity in the comments are appalling. Grow up. Let's hear from adults, preferably those with some insight and not a dull ax to grind.

Posted by Apthorp on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 11:27 am

Nobody is forcibly relocating you anywhere if you don't want to go. The issue is typically more your quality and standard of living. If you cannot afford SF, then you can still find a way to stay here if it is that important to you. But your life won't be as pleasant as if you lived somewhere that you could afford.

Hey, I can't afford to live in Aspen and, as the saying goes, beggars can't be choosers.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 11:50 am

surrounded by crime when you could go to a nice, spacious apartment in a safe area someplace else? Sometimes people really need a change of scenery to understand what they've been missing. How sad that all one knows is a little room surrounded by the noise and filth of the Tenderloin...

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 6:21 pm

What case managers doing they're job.. checking on residents... Have tenets died in rooms and found till 10 days later.. with other tenets stating " they are missing !

Posted by Gues on Sep. 07, 2013 @ 4:44 pm

The taxpayers are unwilling to vote to pay for more case managers.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 07, 2013 @ 6:21 pm

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