Approve consent decree for enhanced psychiatric and medical services for county jail inmates
By Daniel Borsuk
With the COVID-19 pandemic having caused 16,896 cases and 209 deaths in Contra Costa County since March, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday passed its third temporary ordinance banning evictions of commercial and residential tenants on Tuesday, the same day the county’s Public Health Department quietly announced its promotion from Purple ranking to Red, allowing more businesses to open.
According to the staff report on the agenda item, the urgency ordinance authorizes a temporary prohibition on certain “at-fault” evictions of residential tenants in the county and continues a temporary prohibition on certain evictions of small-business commercial tenants in Contra Costa County impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supervisors had previously approved similar temporary ordinances on April 21 and July 14 and voted unanimously to enact a new ordinance that would stay in effect through January 31, 2021. On a separate vote, 4-1, supervisors rejected inserting additional protections to tenants that Supervisor John Gioia wanted to be included in the ordinance.
“I wanted broader protections,” said Supervisor Gioia of Richmond who cast the one dissenting vote. “I wanted to limit evictions to health and safety. There are landlords who don’t exercise good faith behavior.”
But Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, speaking on behalf of both landlords and tenants. wanted to monitor properties that have tenants who don’t put out trash for collection or keep unsafe rental property.
“I am willing to go through January 31, but I am tired of accommodating the bad actors. I won’t support an ordinance that bars landlords from entering property for any reason,” said Mitchoff.
At the same time, the supervisor from Pleasant Hill scolded landlords who do not accept a tenant’s payment for rent. “That is not OK,” she said.
While supervisors listened to a number of renters encouraging the supervisors to provide necessary protections during the ongoing pandemic, the elected officials for the first time heard more landlords loudly object to the residential and commercial ordinance under review.
“You’re taking away property owners’ rights,” Concord property owner Blaine Carter protested. “The sky is not falling. We don’t need to strip away individual property owner rights.”
Concord homeowner Ed White said he could live with the ordinance. “I work with my tenant,” said White, whose long-term tenant of his three-bedroom house, has been a good occupant even though the tenant had lost their job due to the pandemic. The tenant has recently been reemployed and is back making monthly rental payments, White said.
“For someone who has been on both sides of this issue, I can support the proposed ordinance,” said District 5 Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg, who is up for re-election Nov. 3 against Contra Costa County Assessor Gus Kramer.
“This is another way to get property into the hands of government,” said landlord Marilyn Blander. The long-term economic effects will be terrible because government is a terrible way to provide housing.”
PLO Consent Decree for County Jail Inmates OK’d
In another action, supervisors unanimously approved an agreement with the Prison Law Office that will enhance psychiatric and medical services for inmates held at the Martinez Detention Facility and the West County Detention Facility in Richmond. Four years in negotiations, the PLO-Contra Costa County consent decree will be in effect for five years. The consent decree can be mutually ended.
It will cost the county $43.7 million a year to provide improved mental and medical care and pharmaceutical services to prisoners housed in the two county detention facilities. Those costs reflect the addition of the eventual hiring of 125 fulltime Health Services Department employees and 63 fulltime equivalent Sheriff’s Department employees.
So far, the county has hired 42 fulltime equivalent Health Department and 41 fulltime Sheriff’s Department employees.
“This is a roadmap for positive change, one that moves the county forward in further improving the physical space and services provided” said Board Chair Candace Andersen. “We want to stop those with mental illness from repeatedly cycling through our jails. If we can provide them with much needed treatment while incarcerated and ensure that they have supportive services upon re-entry to the community, their lives will substantially improve.”
Prison Law Office Executive Director Donald Spector called and thanked the supervisors for approving the five-year consent decree.