As an emergency measure in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Fresno City Council approved a 30-day moratorium on evictions for residential and commercial tenants Thursday.
The 7-0 vote requires renters affected to show in writing that their rent cannot be paid because of the coronavirus. The measure allows renters up to six months to repay their missed rent after the city’s state of emergency ends. City Attorney Douglas Sloan said it is a deferral of payments, not a waiver.
The council can renew the moratoriums every 30 days.
The moratorium also applies to home mortgages.
“We don’t want to be in a situation where homeowners also lose their homes because of loss of wages given this emergency,” councilwoman Esmeralda Soria said after the vote.
The council also made it official that there will be no shut-off of city utilities such as trash, water, and sewer service. Furthermore, there will be no late fees, interest, or reconnection fees in relation to utility services.
Apartment Association Approves
The trade group representing landlords also supports the measure.
“The California Apartment Association understands this is a national emergency and in a time of so much uncertainty, housing should be every family’s last concern. We understand Fresno’s actions and appreciate their balanced approach in addressing COVID19-related evictions. We are all in this together,” CAA Senior Vice President Greg Terzakis told GV Wire via text message.
Other Emergency Actions
Today’s emergency ordinance covered many aspects including:
— As of March, 4, there will be a rate freeze on consumer goods and lodging facilities.
— City buses will be sanitized daily. Bus service remains running during the city’s State of Emergency and shelter-in-place order. Bus routes could be altered to meet needs.
— Non-essential city services will be suspended, including fulfilling Public Records Act requests. A PRA is a state law allowing anyone to access any written city record.
— Senior hot meal programs will continue, with proper safety precautions.
The ordinance will last through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Regular Council Meeting
The council held a regular meeting in addition to a special meeting to vote on the latest emergency ordinance. Members wrapped up both meetings in less than two hours.
This is the third meeting this week, with emergency meetings held Monday and Wednesday.
At today’s meeting, all seven councilmembers were present, with Nelson Esparza and Paul Caprioglio calling in.
Among today’s items:
— Approved, 6-1, to raise fire department fees on fireworks stands. Caprioglio voted no.
— Approved, 7-0, Mayor Lee Brand’s appointment of Pastor D.J. Criner to the planning commission.
Limited Access at City Hall
Fresno City Hall is effectively closed for most business to the public. However, the public will be allowed to attend governmental meetings, like council meetings.
As has been the case since January, the public still must go through a security screening. Guards may ask visitors what their purpose is for coming to City Hall. Recently, drop boxes to pay bills have been moved in front of the security line.
New City Hall Visitor Policy
From a Fresno city email explaining the new policy:
“The City of Fresno suspended public-facing counter service at all City facilities, effective Wednesday, March 18, 2020. The Administration is doing everything it can to protect the public with social distancing strategies. During this temporary closure, City staff will still provide services electronically and via telephone.
“City Hall will remain closed to the public until further notice. The public can drop off items for City Departments/Employees but they will need to note in writing who the item is for. Security will then notify the Department/Employee and place the item on a table.
“Employees will also be meeting members of the public at the front doors so they can pick up items. There will be a separate table for these exchanges. City Hall departments and their respective divisions are responsible for providing the Facilities Management Division with a list of staff contacts for various types of submissions. Outside public agency representatives shall not enter the building without City Manager approval.
“Members of the public shall be allowed to enter the building for public meetings such as City Council and Planning Commission. The time of the public meeting shall be provided to City Hall Security and Facilities Management. All members of the public arriving for such meetings will be screened consistent with the security ordinance and resolution. All counters will be closed even for those entering the building.
“Media will be allowed in City Hall for press events as well as scheduled public meetings and hearings. All members of the public including media shall be screened consistent with the security ordinance and resolution.”