Hotel Leaders Sue SF Over Ordinance That Requires More Cleaning

Leaders with the state's hotel industry on Monday announced they've filed a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court, seeking to overturn an emergency ordinance passed earlier this month that increases cleaning at the city's hotels and commercial offices.

In addition to increased cleaning as a precaution against COVID-19, the "Healthy Buildings" ordinance, which was signed by Mayor London Breed last week, also requires that hotel and office employees get training on the new standards and that they be granted protections against retaliation for refusing to perform the work under unsafe conditions.

According to the Hotel Council of San Francisco, the California Hotel and Lodging Association, and the American Hotel and Lodging Association, the ordinance not only endangers workers, it could result in hotels laying off thousands of workers.

The suit alleges the ordinance endangers works and guests by mandating increased contact and fails to align with the federal and state infectious disease guidelines, including ones by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the California Department of Public Health and the Governor's Office of Emergency Services.

"This harmful ordinance left us no option but to defend the safety and well-being of our 25,000 San Francisco employees and our valued hotel guests," said Kevin Carroll, president and CEO of the Hotel Council of San Francisco, in a statement. 

"This dangerous ordinance contradicts the advice of public health experts and would cause enormous economic hardship to our already struggling hotels trying to keep employees on the payroll," Carroll said.

"California hotels' livelihoods depend on being clean and safe," said Lynn Mohrfeld, president and CEO of the California Hotel and Lodging Association. "We have an outstanding track record of following the expertise of federal and state health officials to ensure the well-being of our employees and guests."

"The hotel industry already has launched an industry-wide, enhanced standard of health and safety protocols, called Safe Stay, designed in accordance with the CDC to meet the needs of the current public health crisis and assure our guests and our employees that hotels are safe," said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association. 

“Not only is this ordinance unnecessary and dangerous, but it would force hotels to remain closed, potentially for good, and lay off thousands of our dedicated workers," Rogers said. 

In addition to endangering employees and hotel guests, the group estimates the ordinance will cost the city's 215 hotels $220,000 each, on top of an estimated $498,000 that an average 250-room hotel would already have to spend to install cleaning and social distancing measures recommended by the CDC, the CDPH and hotel associations. 

The rising costs to maintain hotels during the pandemic could result in longer hotel closures and longer unemployment for workers.

The San Francisco City Attorney's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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