Information on construction projects during the coronavirus outbreak

Find out which construction projects are essential and will continue, and get information to keep construction job sites safe.

What to do

March 31, 2020 1pm update — The City's updated public health order will change this page. Updates will be posted shortly.

Essential vs. non-essential construction

Essential construction projects may continue, provided that they carry out the work in compliance with social distancing requirements. These 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. 

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. Or a contractor can finish waterproofing the roof of the building, so that the inside is not damaged if it rains. But a contractor may not perform new parts of a non-essential infrastructure project that are not necessary for site safety. 

Public works construction

Public works construction can continue only if the project is designated as an Essential Governmental Function by the City Administrator in consultation with the Health Officer. 

Mixed use projects

Construction of a mixed use project with commercial uses and a significant housing component is essential infrastructure only if the mixed-use development contains affordable housing that is or will be income-restricted, including at least 10% income-restricted units.

Construction of an office building is not essential infrastructure even if it would produce in lieu affordable housing fees.

All essential infrastructure work must be done in compliance with social distancing requirements to the extent possible.

Residential construction projects

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. 

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.

You must defer your remodel or renovation project unless it is necessary to restore your home to a safe, sanitary, and habitable space. 

New construction of affordable and market rate housing

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. 

All construction projects must follow social distancing protocols to the greatest extent possible.

New residential Building Permit and Development applications

The Department of Building Inspections is closed to visitors. DBI is answering calls and emails and is processing permits and doing inspections of allowed construction projects. If you have permit questions, email the Permit Center team at

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Last updated March 31, 2020