In light of concern over possible conflicting orders, Santa Clarita has taken its first steps in an attempt to reopen faster than other local governments restricted under Los Angeles County and state directives.
Mayor Cameron Smyth during a livestream Wednesday addressed a list of decisions the City Council made Tuesday night, starting with sending a letter Wednesday to the county formally opposing any new extensions of the Safer at Home order, which is scheduled to expire Friday.
“Nobody is saying that communities should be reopened automatically and go back to pre-COVID circumstances, but to not provide a roadmap, a guideline for communities, businesses to plan for how they can reopen and protect their employees, protect their customers, and in the city’s case, continue to try and provide services to our community, is just untenable,” Smyth said during the livestream.
Santa Clarita will also petition for a waiver to allow the City Council to decide whether to follow the state or county amended orders of reopening because the expectation is that there will come a point where all of those orders will conflict with each other, placing cities and residents in a difficult decision-making position.
“What is going to happen, I believe, very quickly is Los Angeles County and others are going to be in a position where their order is in conflict with the state, and that’s going to put communities like Santa Clarita, Antelope Valley, Palmdale, Lancaster, Burbank (and) other communities in Los Angeles County in a difficult position because you’re going to have the state outlining a set of orders and you’re going to have the county of Los Angeles having another set of orders, and it’s going to force people to make a decision on whether or not they are going to be following state law but then being in conflict with the county law, and could be subjecting themselves to some type of enforcement,” he said.
Smyth added that, if the waiver is granted, the City Council would determine for its community, in a public hearing/public vote, which order to follow.
The city’s decision to ask for some flexibility and accelerate a reopening comes as Gov. Gavin Newsom approved a variance for seven northern California counties to start reopening their economies quicker than the state altogether. More closely, Santa Clarita’s decision is largely based on its COVID-19 numbers, which Smyth has indicated are “much more positive” than the countywide total.
“When you see (the numbers), you can see the Santa Clarita Valley is accounting for such a small percentage of the total number of cases in Los Angeles County,” he said Wednesday. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Santa Clarita (Valley) represents 1.6% of the county’s total confirmed cases, according to a city agenda report.
To help fortify the city’s efforts, Smyth reiterated Tuesday’s decision to reach out to Palmdale and Lancaster to start a coalition and create a regional approach to how the northern part of the county can “safely and productively look to reopen our communities.”
All three cities combined have a population of more than 542,000 residents, which is larger than several counties across California. These three cities, together, are different than others in the county, something Smyth said is reason to allow the northern area to receive flexibility in reopening.
“We have regions, from the beaches to the mountains to the deserts. So, it’s hard to say that the entire county of Los Angeles should be treated the same way,” he said.
In creating that partnership, the City Council also considered pitching the idea of creating a northern county department of public health, since the three cities must currently adhere to the county’s Public Health Department.
As Santa Clarita awaits a response from the county and changes to its Safer at Home order, Smyth said City Hall will reopen its doors on Monday, May 18, so the public can access city services such as permits and registrations.
Safety protocols, such as physical distancing measures and the face-covering requirement, will be in place for those who plan to enter the building. Residents are still advised to make an appointment to keep traffic flow at City Hall moving.
For all local coronavirus-related stories, visit: signalscv.com/2020/03/covid-19-coverage-summary.