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City attorney: Company overcharged for showers at Convention Center shelter

A mask covers a security office check-in window opening at a homeless shelter inside the San Diego Convention Center. Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020.
Gregory Bull
/
Associated Press
A mask covers a security office check-in window opening at a homeless shelter inside the San Diego Convention Center. Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020.

The San Diego City Attorney's Office announced on Tuesday that it's suing a company that allegedly overcharged the city for portable showers at the San Diego Convention Center when it was converted into a homeless shelter during the pandemic.

The City Attorney's Office alleges that United Site Services of California charged "hundreds of thousands of dollars" more than usual pre-pandemic prices for shower trailers the city sought for the homeless at the onset of the pandemic.

United Site Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The city attorney alleges that pre-pandemic pricing for a six-stall shower trailer ranged from $8,000 to $9,500 per month, but United's quote was for $19,320 per month, plus a $500 fee for delivery, setup and removal.

"The company provided no explanation for its inflated price," according to a city statement, which characterized the increased prices as an example of price gouging. Under the state's price gouging law, consumer goods and services cannot be raised by more than 10% after a state of emergency is declared.

The initial prices were for showers provided to bridge shelter residents initially relocated to Golden Hall. The City Attorney's Office said that once the homeless were relocated to the convention center, additional shower trailers were sought, but prices remained "vastly inflated."

The company allegedly explained that prices were high because "the trailers were in high demand because of the pandemic. They also made it clear they would rent the trailers to other customers if the city did not rent them," according to a city attorney's statement.

The lawsuit seeks restitution for the amount allegedly overcharged for seven portable shower trailers, as well as civil penalties.

"This price gouging by United Site Services was calculated and unconscionable," City Attorney Mara Elliott said. "They knew that homeless shelters cannot function without shower facilities. They knew about the COVID health and safety issues. And they knew the city had no other options to acquire these necessary supplies."