Ban on construction sites could be lifted soon, insiders say

Construction industry officials say they anticipate the ban on most construction in the Bay Area to be lifted soon.

Officials told KTVU on Tuesday they've been talking to elected officials about the changes they've made to be able to safely re-start construction projects and that job sites will look different.

"We built these little hot water stations, insta-hot for us, in washing our hands," said Michael DiNapoli, general manager with Suffolk Construction as he pointed to changes that have been made to protect workers against COVID-19 at a construction site in downtown Oakland.

"I think it's going to change the business forever moving forward," said DiNapoli.

Moving forward for him means bringing his workers back to this site: a 220-unit apartment building on Clay Street, originally scheduled for completion in June, but the shelter in place order stopped all work.  

"Probably appropriate at the time. But at this time, we're convinced that we can work safely on it," said DiNapoli. 

The company has 2,000 workers, including subcontractors, working on 10 Bay Area projects. Most of them are housing.

DiNapoli said the company will show a video to workers about the changes they'll see when they return.

It will show social distancing at the job site and all workers will receive a temperature check by an on-site technician.

"We have proximity sensors on people's hard hats. If they're within six feet, they get a little beep," said DiNapoli. 

Andreas Cluver is with the Alameda County Building Trades Council, a coalition of unions representing construction workers.

He said the ban on most construction is expected to be lifted soon.

"The longer this stays in place, many contractors will go out of business," said Cluver, "We have to remember we have another crisis before the pandemic hit and that was the housing crisis." 

Back at the downtown Oakland construction site, DiNapoli said 150 workers would be back on the job once the ban is lifted. 

"It's been emotional. I think there's a mental health aspect to this for people, sheltering at home. Certainly there has been in my household," said DiNapoli.   

Cluver said lifting the ban would mean bringing 15,000 people back to work in Alameda County alone and up to 60,000 people in the Bay Area.