City Council voices need for ‘greater transparency’ from county about indoor malls

Shoppers in the Westfield Valencia Town Center on Wednesday, June 10, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

Santa Clarita City Council members want “greater transparency” and “consistent guidance” from Los Angeles County in its handling of indoor shopping mall reopenings, citing concerns over potential future closures and conditions that may further hinder businesses from fully recovering.  

Their concerns were laid out in a pre-written letter addressed to L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose 5th District includes the Santa Clarita Valley, and her fellow supervisors. The council is expected to vote on the letter Tuesday.

The letter comes after Mayor Cameron Smyth proposed Sept. 22 council members formulate direct support for reopening both indoor malls and breweries following several months of ever-changing regulations and restricted operations. A week later, county officials announced those sectors and others could resume operations with modifications. 

“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,” read the letter. 

L.A. County has remained under California’s most restrictive reopening tier, a level in which shopping malls could reopen statewide, since Aug. 28, with modifications such as limited capacity at 25% and closing food courts. Wednesday marked the official date the county allowed indoor mall operations to resume, a decision based on a stabilization with COVID-19 hospitalizations and case and positivity rates, according to county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. 

Council members expressed in the letter that they are confident Westfield Valencia Town Center has the capacity to safely reopen in compliance with all guidelines, and urged the county to align its public health order with the state’s plans and protocols around indoor malls. 

“We respectfully request for greater transparency, uniformity, and guidance related to policies on the operation of indoor malls, like the Westfield Valencia Town Center,” read the letter. 

The Valencia mall, which generates nearly 3,600 jobs, opened Wednesday with several protocols in place as seen when it briefly reopened in June, such as limiting capacity, requiring face masks and closing common areas, according to its website.

The City Council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday. 

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