City Council OKs letter for Supes on keeping indoor malls open

The front entrance to the Westfield Valencia shopping center just hours before the mall announced that it would be closing amid concerns of COVID-19 on March 18, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

Santa Clarita City Council members approved Tuesday sending a letter to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in support of keeping indoor malls open while urging for consistent guidelines to help prevent further conditions that prevent businesses from full recovery. 

Their unanimous vote comes after county Public Health officials said indoor malls can resume operations, including at the Westfield Valencia Town Center, which reopened last week, after noticing a stabilization with COVID-19 hospitalizations and case and positivity rates. 

Council members’ concerns revolve around potential future closures, as seen in the past, creating uncertainty around business operations and continued financial harm, according to the letter. 

“While we appreciate recent actions taken to reopen indoor malls, we remain concerned that the county public health order may abruptly be revised to reclose indoor malls, creating further uncertainty around business operations that could lead to continued financial harm to many small businesses,” reads the letter. 

On Tuesday, the council heard from representatives of Westfield and the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce, urging them to support sending the letter to supervisors. 

“The Valencia Town Center mall, on its own, generates nearly 3,600 local jobs in the Santa Clarita Valley, in addition to $32 million in annual sales tax revenues, on which we highly rely,” said Peter Warda, vice president of Evolve Business Strategies, which manages the SCV Chamber. “L.A. County needs to formally commit to the dimmer-switch approach as outlined by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, giving malls and most other businesses some level of comfort that they will not be shut down again.” 

Council members have argued that guidelines issued by the county affect cities differently when it comes to case rates and their populations, particularly in north county cities like Santa Clarita, Palmdale and Lancaster, which have lower case rates than other areas of the county. 

“Out of 225,000 people, we’ve had a 1.48% infection rate; we’re only 1.27% of the entire L.A. County infection rate,” said Councilwoman Laurene Weste. “We’ve been doing very, very good here in Santa Clarita, and I’m looking forward to seeing us support and do this.” 

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