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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

S.F. Bedbugs: So Many Cases, So Few Inspectors

Posted By on Wed, Mar 30, 2011 at 4:04 PM

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Like Supervisor Jane Kim, we want to know why there are only two health inspectors dedicated to dealing with the city's 560 SROs, home to most of the bedbug cases. To put that into context: that's one inspector for every 10,000 SRO units.

But more than that, we want to know why the Department of Public Health isn't using more of its dedicated dollars to conduct proactive and aggressive bedbug inspections citywide.

In 2008, city supervisors passed the vector control and healthy housing ordinance for this very purpose. It gave health officials the ability to collect fees from hotel and apartment owners which they could turn around and use specifically to ward of health nuisances, namely bedbugs.

So how is that money being used, if not to hire more inspectors?

Well, the answer isn't that clear. Rajiv Bhatia, director of occupational and environmental health with DPH, tells SF Weekly that there is just enough money from the fees to support three senior inspectors and 10 technicians to work on all public health nuisances, which also includes asbestos and lead hazards.

Yet only 50 to 60 percent of the efforts are dedicated toward bedbug inspections in SROs and hotels. Bhatia pointed out that there were 572 bedbug complaints last year at hotels and shelters, and of those, 30 percent resulted in actual violations.

"We believe we have sufficient enforcement staff at present," Bhatia said.

While health officials might feel that they have a handle on the bedbug situation, others clearly disagree.


Housing Inspector Rosemary Bosque said during a Monday afternoon hearing that in her 26 years doing code enforcement in San Francisco, she's never encountered a public safety

hazard quite like bedbugs -- especially in SRO hotels.

"I've seen no reason why they only have two inspectors," said Jeff Buckley, who sits on the Bedbug Task Force. "The fact that the Department of Public Health is starving SROs of resources needed needs to be explained.

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


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