Local Government During the COVID-19 Crisis: A Conversation with San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney

As one of the first municipalities in the nation to declare a shelter in place order, San Francisco has been on the frontline as a public policy leader during the COVID-19 crisis. Join us for a discussion with Board Supervisor Matt Haney about the challenges facing the City by the Bay, from the decision to shut down, to controlling the disease for all citizens including the growing homeless population, to how to open up schools and businesses safely.

This episode originally aired on SiriusXM on May 30, 2020.

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Local Government during the COVID-19 Crisis: A Conversation with San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney
Local Government during the COVID-19 Crisis: A Conversation with San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney

On this episode of Stanford Legal, hosts Pam Karlan and Joe Bankman are joined by SLS alumnus and San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Matt Haney. During this installment of their ongoing series around the legal issues and questions arising from the COVID-19 crisis, the three delve into the particular challenges that various populations face in San Francisco and the Bay Area, and in particular, the homeless population in Matt’s district.

Matt begins by mentioning the need for counties and cities to work together in order to combat the virus, more so than normal: “…but from day one in this crisis, we’ve really been forced to work together because COVID-19 doesn’t respect county lines. You know, this is not a virus that knows which district I represent nor which county and finds itself in. If San Francisco is doing something completely different than Alameda County or San Mateo, it wouldn’t be effective.” Varying challenges are ubiquitous amongst the counties, ranging from questions on reopening schools to catering to more vulnerable populations.

Matt represents District Six, which includes the Tenderloin and some of downtown San Francisco. This area is known for having high portions of San Francisco’s homeless population, which Haney reports has more than tripled since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. He underscores the importance of helping these vulnerable populations, from the homeless to those living in SROs, as without aid they may contribute to a resurgence of the virus for the entire population. One solution is placing homeless individuals in the empty hotel rooms in San Francisco, allowing them to isolate and be safe— a solution which Matt has been actively working towards, even volunteering with hotels that have begun to offer this service.

When Pam asks Matt about the opportunity to rethink several longstanding norms, such as summer break or complete in-person education, during this pandemic, Matt is a fan: “I hope that we rethink a lot of things. I mean, there were a lot of things that didn’t make a whole lot of sense to begin with.” The three discuss possibilities for change, including providing better mental and physical health support to vulnerable populations. Above all, the three express their desire and hope for solutions through unity in the time to come.

—Max Smith

Matt Haney on Stanford Legal Podcast