Revised Bay Area Health Order Tightens Restrictions, Limits Construction

April 1, 2020

The following counties in California's Bay Area (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara) issued a modified Shelter-in-Place Order on March 31, 2020 that replaces the original order issued on March 16, 2020, and is effective through May 3. San Francisco's Covid-19 Response website provides the following summary of modifications and clarifications that apply to these counties:

Rule of Interpretation of the Order

When interpreting the order, it is important to keep in mind that the modified order provides explicit guidance on how the order should be interpreted:

The intent of this Order is to ensure that the maximum number of people shelter in their places of residence to the maximum extent feasible to slow the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate the impact on delivery of critical healthcare services to those in need. All provisions of this Order must be interpreted to effectuate this intent. Failure to comply with any of the provisions of this Order constitutes an imminent threat and menace to public health, constitutes a public nuisance, and is punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both.”


  • All essential businesses are encouraged to stay open, but cease non-essential operations. Employees who can work from home must do so. The modified list of essential businesses can be found here.
  • All essential businesses must prepare, post and follow Social Distancing Protocol at every active facility by April 3, 2020. A sample protocol is available here on the City of San Francisco's website and can be downloaded at no charge via the link at the end of this alert under Additional Information.
  • All essential businesses must implement a formal rule for maintaining sanitation and social distancing between employees and any other person. A compilation of COVID-19 safety requirements for essential business operations can be found here
  • Most construction must stop. There are exceptions for projects to help keep people safe and housed. Those include health care projects directly related to addressing the pandemic, construction to house the homeless, affordable housing and multi-unit or mixed-use developments containing at least 10% income-restricted units. Social distancing requirements apply. Detailed information on essential and non-essential construction projects can be found here.
  • Businesses that supply products people need to work from home are no longer essential businesses under the order and must cease storefront sales to the public. Minimum basic operations and delivery directly to residences or businesses may continue.
  • Real estate agents may only show homes to potential residents via video or livestream. When a virtual showing is not feasible, a single agent may show a home in person only to a maximum of two people. Those two people must reside in the same household. And the current occupant must not still reside in the home.

Essential vs. Nonessential Construction

Essential construction projects include:

  • “Public works construction specifically designated an essential government function by the City Administrator in consultation with the Health Officer
  • Affordable housing that is or will be income-restricted, including multi-unit or mixed-use developments containing at least 10% income-restricted units
  • Projects immediately necessary to the maintenance, operation or repair of essential infrastructure
  • Projects associated with health care operations, including creating or expanding health care operations, that are directly related to the COVID-19 response
  • Projects immediately necessary to provide critical non-commercial services to individuals experiencing homelessness, elderly persons, persons who are economically disadvantaged, and persons with special needs
  • Construction necessary to ensure that existing construction sites that must be shut down under this Order are left in a safe and secure manner, but only to the extent necessary to do so
  • Construction or repair necessary to ensure that residences and buildings containing essential businesses are safe, sanitary, or habitable to the extent such construction or repair cannot reasonably be delayed.

Solid waste collection and removal from essential construction projects must continue to ensure safety.”

“The Order also allows new residential construction projects if they are adding to the supply of affordable housing that is or will be income-restricted, including creating at least 10% income-restricted units, or maintaining the habitability of homes to avoid displacement of residents, or will create shelters or temporary housing, not including hotels or motels. For example, a soft story seismic retrofit to a residential property mandated by City law may take place, as such construction is necessary for safe habitability of the home, and the work itself does not displace residents.”

  • “Housing construction projects can begin only if they contribute new housing units that are or will be income-restricted, including at least 10% income-restricted units, to help meet the City’s critical need for additional housing supply. Construction of temporary housing and shelters, not including hotels or motels, is also permitted under the Order.”

Non-essential construction projects:

  • “Other commercial construction projects are non-essential and must stop. Commercial construction projects that produce in-lieu affordable housing fees are not essential, and must stop.
  • Non-essential construction projects that must shut down may continue only to the extent necessary to safely shut down and protect the site. For example, if a contractor has built three walls of a structure, it can finish the fourth wall so that the existing three walls stand secure. A contractor can finish waterproofing the roof of the building, so that the inside is not damaged if it rains. A contractor may not perform new parts of a non-essential infrastructure project that are not necessary for site safety.”
  • “Residential renovation projects of any kind that are currently underway may continue only if necessary for a safe, sanitary, and functional home. Likewise, residential remodeling projects that are partly completed may continue only if delaying their completion would pose a safety, security, or sanitation risk to residents or would impact the habitability of the residence.
  • All other residential remodel projects in progress must stop once they are in a safe and sanitary condition to do so. If a project is purely cosmetic and can be safely delayed, it may not continue.”
  • “You must defer your remodel or renovation project unless it is necessary to restore your home to a safe, sanitary, and habitable space.”

Additional Information