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Local government goes virtual in the COVID-19 era

Relief for renters, suspension of water shut-offs top agendas this week

Thanks to COVID-19, participating in local government in the city of Davis will be markedly different for the foreseeable future.

There will be no packed community chambers at City Hall on Tuesday evenings, no lines of people waiting their turns to approach the microphone to weigh in on the topic at hand. In fact, nobody will be allowed in the chambers at all.

365体育投注Instead, following the governor’s orders on social distancing aimed at slowing spread of the novel coronavirus, Davis City Council meetings will take place entirely online.

365体育投注Members of the public will be able to participate remotely via zoom video-conferencing or by teleconference, allowed in either option to provide public comment for all participants to hear.

365体育投注Council members themselves will be participating remotely as well.

Similarly, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors will kick off local governance in the age of COVID-19 on Tuesday morning with a board meeting that will take place via video and teleconference as well.

And while both the City Council and the Board of Supervisors will make their way through the myriad municipal matters they deal with regularly, the primary topic for both on Tuesday will be the coronavirus — its impact, the response, and measures local officials can still take to mitigate the impact on city and county residents.

365体育投注Those measures include temporary moratoriums by both the city and county on evictions of both residential and commercial tenants impacted by the pandemic.

The City Council also will consider allowing Davis residents to defer paying their utility bills through the end of May without fear of late charges or having their water shut off and allowing local hotels to defer payment of transient occupancy taxes given that those hotels sit largely empty right now.

City measures:

The statewide shelter-in-place order that has resulted in the shuttering of many businesses in Davis has also resulted in significant income loss for employees of those businesses, many of whom are renters.

365体育投注“Further economic impacts are anticipated in the coming weeks and months, leaving tenants vulnerable to eviction,” notes city staff in the report prepared for Tuesday’s council meeting.

“Such impacts are also expected to be felt by the city’s commercial tenants, most of which are now required to cease (or at least substantially limit) their operations for the duration of the pandemic.”

Under the ordinance council members will consider Tuesday, landlords will be prohibited from evicting a residential or commercial tenant if the tenant demonstrates an inability to pay rent due to financial impacts related to COVID-19.

Financial impacts would include being sick with COVID-19; caring for a household or family member who is sick; a layoff, loss of hours or other income reduction resulting from business closure or other economic or employer impacts; compliance with the shelter-in-place; extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expense; or child care needs arising from school closures related to the pandemic.

Both residential and commercial tenants “shall pay the portion of the rent that the tenant is able to pay,” according to the ordinance.

Additionally, the tenant is not relieved of liability for the unpaid rent, which the landlord may seek after expiration of the local emergency and the tenant must pay within six months of the expiration of the local emergency.

365体育投注Also on Tuesday, the council will consider a resolution authorizing the city manager to provide fee deferrals and other economic relief from the effects of the pandemic.

Those include suspending city water shut-offs and new late fees for city services bills that include water, wastewater, stormwater and garbage services.

Normally customers are charged a 10 percent late fee if the monthly bill is not paid on time and water may be shut off after 60 days of non-payment.

City staff has proposed suspending late fees for both residential and commercial customers through the end of May, with the option for the city manager to extend the resolution further if circumstances warrant.

“Customers are ultimately still responsible to pay their services bill … however, this action would provide temporary relief to current ratepayers,” staff note.

The city billed more than $4 million in utility bills last month.

365体育投注Meanwhile, Pacific Gas and Electric has instituted a similar policy voluntarily — a moratorium on service disconnections for non-payment, effective until further notice.

City officials also may give local hoteliers a break by allowing them to defer taxes they normally pay based on occupancy.

Under the current shelter-in-place restrictions, hotel occupancy has dropped from the typical 70 to 80 percent to 10 percent, according to city staff.

“In order to assist hotels through this time, staff recommends allowing hotels to defer the payment of their transient occupancy tax through May … and to develop a payment plan and timeline for each hotel to pay the (transient occupancy tax) for that time period,” according to the staff report.

That tax is a critical revenue source for the city’s General Fund — providing about $2.2 million annually with the spring and early summer months generating the highest occupancy thanks to everything from Picnic Day to the Whole Earth Festival to graduation festivities.

However, with occupancy levels at unprecedented lows, city staff note, the amount of revenue the city would collect this year would likely be quite low as well.

Tuesday’s City Council meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. with several remote options for the public to watch and listen. They include:

1. Televised live on City of Davis Government Channel 16 (available to those who subscribe to cable television)

2. Livestream online at http://cityofdavis.org/city-hall/city-council/city-council- meetings/meeting-videos

3. Joining the meeting via Zoom — from a PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone or Android device with high-speed internet, use http://zoom.us/j/695588537, Meeting ID: 695 588 537

To provide public comment:

1. Submit written public comments to [email protected] Emails are distributed to City Council and staff but to ensure the council has the opportunity to review information prior to the meeting, send emails by 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

2. Live remote public comments (available if joining the meeting via zoom):

a. PC device with mic: Press the “raise a hand” button.
365体育投注 b. Phone: Press *9 to indicate a desire to make comment.

The mayor or assigned staff will call on speakers when it is their turn to comment. Speakers will be limited to no more than two minutes.

Board of Supervisors:

Like the Davis City Council, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday morning will consider a resolution temporarily restricting residential and commercial evictions and foreclosures in unincorporated areas of the county.

The resolution would suspend evictions caused by a decline in income or increased personal medical costs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and suspend judicial foreclosures as well.

365体育投注Specifically, the resolution suspends through May 31 evictions on the basis of non-payment of rent arising out of a substantial decrease in household or business income or substantial out-of-pocket medical expenses, all of which was caused by the pandemic itself or the local, state or federal government response to it.

365体育投注“Nothing in this resolution shall relieve a tenant of the obligation to pay rent, nor restrict a landlord’s ability to recover rent due,” the resolution states.

365体育投注The resolution also calls on all financial institutions in the county holding home or commercial mortgages to implement an immediate moratorium on foreclosures and related evictions that were caused by a decrease in personal or commercial income related to the pandemic.

Tuesday’s board meeting also will feature an update on the spread of the virus in Yolo County and the county’s response.

365体育投注As of Saturday afternoon, the county had reported six confirmed cases countywide, the latest being and “an elderly adult with chronic health problems” who has been discharged from the hospital and is isolating at home.

To participate in Tuesday’s meeting, the Board of Supervisors is providing the following options:

365体育投注* Live stream at http://yolocounty.zoom.us/j/678772526, Meeting ID: 678 772 526; or

* Phone in via 1-408-638-0968, Meeting ID: 678 772 526.

365体育投注Those joining the meeting via zoom who wish to make a comment on an item should press the “raise a hand” button. Those joining by phone should press *9 to indicate a desire to make a comment. The chair will call people by name or phone number to comment. Speakers will be limited to three minutes.

“If you choose not to observe the Board of Supervisors meeting but wish to make a comment on a specific agenda item, submit your comment via email by 5 p.m. on Monday to the clerk of the board at [email protected]365体育投注 Your comment will be placed into the record at the board meeting,” staff said.

“If you are watching or listening to the live stream of the board meeting and wish to make either a general public comment or to comment on a specific agenda item as it is being heard, you may also submit your comment, limited to 250 words or less, to the clerk at [email protected]365体育投注 Every effort will be made to read your comment into the record, but some comments may not be read due to time limitations. Comments received after an agenda item will be made part of the record if received prior to the end of the meeting.”

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy. We’ve put all COVID-19 news stories and local columns outside our paywall, to make sure all the information on local coronavirus response gets disseminated as widely as possible. To subscribe to The Enterprise and support local journalism, click here.

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