SF Hotel Groups Disapprove of New Cleaning Ordinance

SAN FRANCISCO—According to members of the Hotel Council of San Francisco, the California Hotel and Lodging Association (CHLA), workplace safety experts and San Francisco’s business community, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ approval of the Healthy Buildings ordinance puts hotel employees at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19. According to these groups, the ordinance will also delay those workers’ return to work and adds costly and unnecessary cleaning requirements to a single industry while exempting the supervisors’ own offices.

The groups reiterated their strong opposition to the ordinance’s mandates that require repeated cleaning of low-touch hotel walls and chandeliers that exceed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and California’s Department of Public Health (CDPH) recommendations.

“This ordinance does little to serve the public good, harms the No. 1 industry in San Francisco and further delays the return of more than 25,000 San Francisco hotel employees to work,” said Kevin Carroll, president/CEO of the Hotel Council of San Francisco.

“Today’s supervisors’ vote may be the death knell for several San Francisco hotels and their employees,” said Lynn S. Mohrfeld, president/CEO of the CHLA. “The ordinance’s overreaching and costly standards will delay San Francisco hotels’ ability to reopen, pushing some of them to the breaking point of survival in an already overregulated, overtaxed city.”

The ordinance, Cleaning and Disease Prevention Standards in Tourist Hotels and Large Commercial Office Buildings, was proposed by Supervisor Aaron Peskin on behalf of supporters at labor union UniteHere Local 2. The ordinance demands that employees clean occupied rooms when a guest stays multiple days, unless the occupant refuses daily cleaning, dramatically increasing potential exposure risks for employees.

“There is no need to increase the number of times a hotel employee must enter and clean a guestroom when it is not changing occupants, risking exposure to the coronavirus should it be present,” said Len Welsh, former chief of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), the state agency responsible for employee health and safety standards. “This ordinance appears well-intentioned, but some of its provisions could be thought out more carefully.”

The ordinance will add $220,000 in costs for the average 250-room hotel, according to an independent study by  Hotel Asset Value Enhancement (HotelAVE), which calculated costs per occupied room of the incremental cleaning and operating requirements such as labor, materials and laundry, unique to the ordinance. These costs are on top of an estimated $498,000 that the average 250-room hotel will incur to install the best practices for cleaning and social distancing as recommended by CDC, CDPH and the hotel associations and major hotel brands. 

San Francisco hotels have worked closely with CDC recommendations, Gov. Gavin Newsom, CDPH, Cal/OSHA and San Francisco’s public health office to develop health safety standards that exceed any other industry, short of hospitals. Those Clean + Safe guidelines were issued April 30, more than two months before Peskin introduced his ordinance, which came almost three weeks after Gov. Newsom allowed counties to reopen hotels. The hotel standards include the following:

  • Customized COVID-19 plans for hotels
  • Employee safety trainings in English and Spanish
  • Clear and appropriate social-distancing signage
  • Delivery and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees
  • Cleaning directions that keep employees and guests safe

The hotel standards follow the CDC, CDPH and Cal/OSHA recommendations that have been utilized as guidance by 54 of 58 California counties.