Barger to bring motion that pushes CA to allow for variances for local communities

FILE PHOTO Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger speaks at the Hyatt Regency Valencia. Eddy Martinez/The Signal.

After hearing from Santa Clarita and other cities in northern Los Angeles County, county Supervisor Kathryn Barger announced Friday she is moving forward with efforts to push California to allow for local communities to expedite reopening. 

“(Supervisor) Janice Hahn and I are bringing a motion, in fact, to push the state to allow for variances within L.A. County,” she said during a webinar with the city of Santa Clarita, the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce and the SCV Economic Development Corp.

The county Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on the motion on Tuesday, which would particularly advocate for the opening of Palmdale, Lancaster and the entire Santa Clarita Valley region. 

Earlier this week, L.A. County targeted July 4 as a potential countywide reopening date but the three northern cities voiced that they would like to reopen sooner based on their COVID-19 numbers, which officials have reiterated are far lower than other areas in the county. 

“I agree that given the size, topography and diversity of our county, it is reasonable to explore how we may legally provide a variance to certain regions or cities who meet the established public health guidelines,” said Barger in a May 15 letter to Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth in response to a May 14 City Council letter to her about Santa Clarita’s opposition to any further extension of the Safer at Home order. 

Santa Clarita is ready to reopen because residents have done their part in adhering to health orders, said Smyth. 

“I have always said Santa Clarita in particular, (has) aggressively followed those orders…people were wearing their facial coverings, they stayed at home doing the distance learning with their kids, really putting in the work and it is reflected in the data,” he said while acknowledging that the SCV’s tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases had surpassed 1,000 diagnoses. 

“I know that yesterday, the Santa Clarita Valley hit the cumulative total of roughly 1,000 confirmed cases since we started tracking in early March but, as noted, roughly a quarter of that are inmates at our correctional facilities. That’s obviously a very isolated and controlled population.”   

Barger added that after “crunching the numbers,” data from the region “really don’t show that there is a significant risk for reopening safely.” 

“By way of example, the northern area of Los Angeles County, comprised of the cities of Santa Clarita, Lancaster and Palmdale, along with the surrounding unincorporated areas, make up only 4% of confirmed COVID-19 cases in L.A. County,” Barger said in a letter to the county counsel and Department of Public Health asking for a legal analysis of the feasibility of crafting a variance for cities within a week. 

“While the health impact has been low, the economic impact has been significant,” she added. 

Santa Clarita is facing a projected $10 million revenue loss and increasing unemployment rate brought forth by the closure of many workplaces and orders for residents to stay home in an effort to help limit the spread of COVID-19 amid an ongoing pandemic. 

The City Council is expected to review any updates to Friday’s announcement on Tuesday as the Board of Supervisors take up a vote that same morning, as well as discuss short and long-term planning for city programming and events.

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