By Caleb Lunetta & Tammy Murga
With a projected $10 million revenue loss for Santa Clarita, the City Council is sending a letter to Los Angeles County expressing opposition to any additional extensions of its safer-at-home order that expires Friday, which has kept people in quarantine and temporarily closed multiple businesses since March.
The decision comes after the City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to send the county the letter, as well as coordinate a meeting with county Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose 5th District includes the Santa Clarita Valley, to further voice the community’s concerns about reopening. Council members also discussed reaching out to the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster about possibly starting a coalition.
Tuesday’s City Council meeting was primarily scheduled for a discussion on the state and county phased plans aimed at incrementally reopening California and its local governments’ economies. On Friday, the state and the county entered into a new phase, where higher-risk businesses, such as bookstores, florists and retail, received the green light to reopen, albeit with the directive to operate with safety measures in place.
But after comments made by the county’s Department of Public Health director earlier on Tuesday, which prompted a clarification by the county Board of Supervisors, the council prioritized a discussion about the resolution to oppose safer-at-home extensions.
“I think a lot of residents previously were under the impression that they have to bring an end to the state or the county ‘Safer-At-Home’ order, even though I think we expected that there probably would be an extension,” said Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth. “(But) the comments from the public health officer today certainly raises concerns.”
“I think we all agree that we should send correspondence to the county, prior to May 15, voicing Santa Clarita is in opposition to any extension of the order without specific guidelines or roadmaps that are clear for businesses,” said Smyth.
Smyth then voiced his support for a more regional approach to the orders, and suggested a possible discussion in the future about northern L.A. County — with Santa Clarita, Palmdale and Lancaster — creating its own “North County Coalition.”
The governor, as well as health officers, are allowed to issue orders in the event of a health crisis, said Santa Clarita City Attorney Joseph Montes. Some people may question the extent to which the orders are allowed to extend, but Santa Clarita, Montes added, would be subject to the orders.
“Under the current circumstances, the county health orders govern conduct in the city and are enforceable by the Sheriff’s (Department),” said Montes.
City Manager Ken Striplin said the city of Santa Clarita is subject to the state and county’s orders, but had not been consulted on the creation of the stay-at-home orders. This fiscal year, Striplin said, the city would be losing revenue of about $10 million and it probably will be similar for the next fiscal year.
“In 25 years I’ve never seen inside of my computer and watched emails come in, back to back to back,” said Striplin, in regard to the amount of feedback residents sent to City Hall after news broke of a possible extension to the county stay-at-home order.
During the Board of Supervisors’ meeting, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said there would be a health officer order in place over the next three months. Multiple media reports later suggested the county was extending its “Safer at Home” order through the end of July, which Barger, said was taken out of context. Her statement read:
“Relaxing the restrictions in the ‘Safer at Home’ order is an important focus for the county, which will be done gradually over the next few months. I am eager to reopen more of L.A. County as soon as it’s safe to do so, in collaboration with our health experts, community leaders, businesses and residents, with best practices in place to ensure our overall health and well-being. These decisions will be guided by the latest science and data collected. I’m confident that the more our communities continue to comply, the sooner we can resume normalcy.”
A number of residents and business leaders entered public comments during the meeting regarding the decision by the council on whether to voice opposition to any extension to the stay-at-home order. And of those who submitted written comments, 25 supported some form of action being taken by the council and one in opposition.