Top Recent COVID Questions Answered
April 4, 2020 8:00 AM
by Rick Cole
Our City government is focused on four key responsibilities during this unprecedented public health emergency:
- Enforcing the “Stay at Home” emergency orders from the State, LA County, and Santa Monica to protect lives by slowing the spread of COVID-19
- Providing essential city services while responsibly protecting the health of our workforce
- Mitigating the profound economic, social and environmental impacts of this crisis on our community residents and businesses
- Laying the foundation for a collaborative recovery effort to build a more resilient, equitable and sustainable future for our community
Naturally, our residents and business community are asking questions, raising concerns, seeking help, making suggestions, lodging complaints, and demanding action. Our Council and City staff are getting hundreds of emails and calls to our hotline. We are committed to being responsive, even as we focus on accomplishing those four key responsibilities.
Here are some common questions and concerns:
Q: How come we are allowing construction?
A: Both the State and County orders allow construction and we are trying to minimize confusion following those orders. Having 88 cities in the County make up their own rules as they go along creates confusion that adds to challenges for enforcement. The City shares the concern that many construction sites are not practicing appropriate physical distancing nor common courtesy to neighbors. Note: all regular construction permit requirements remain in place, including construction hours of operation.
This week we established stronger local enforcement measures to gain better compliance, recognizing our own inspection staff are pretty stretched and strained right now. To report a construction site that is non-compliant, please email email@example.com.
Q: Why can’t the City just waive or reduce residential rents?
A: The majority of residents in our community are renters and one heartbreaking dilemma is responding to pleas for a rent freeze or waiver from residents who’ve lost their incomes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Aside from the reality that landlords also have to pay their bills, local governments don’t have the power to take such actions. Cities are all dependent on Federal and perhaps State action to try to address the huge economic impact on us all. In the meantime, our local emergency orders have halted both residential and commercial evictions for those affected by this COVID-19 crisis.
Q: Can the City just stop issuing all parking tickets?
A: The City is balancing the need to maintain sensible parking controls that allow for parking turnover, while not penalizing residents. Preferential parking rules in neighborhoods and street sweeping regulations continue to be suspended. Parking restrictions in green zones have also been suspended. Vehicle towing is suspended for abandoned vehicles, expired registration, and delinquent parking citations.
All other parking regulations, including yellow curb zones, time limit zones not within a residential preferential parking zone, and parking meter fees and regulations, are still being enforced.
We recognize that, unfortunately, extenuating circumstances can lead to an infuriating ticket so we’ve waived late penalties during this emergency. We have also identified four parking lots for residents displaying valid preferential parking permits to use 24/7 at no cost, who are unable to find street parking.
Q: How can I get fresh air when the beach and Palisades Park are closed?
A: We have had to make a hard decision to rise to meet what this emergency requires. Fencing off Palisades Park in alignment with the County’s beach closure is certainly one. We’ve received questions about what people can do, particularly with children, to get outdoors. Simply put, you shouldn’t be out very often. When you do, our neighborhood parks remain open and you will see City team members out at neighborhood parks sharing friendly reminders about physical distancing. As a reminder, please keep non-essential trips limited to protect yourself and your loved ones.
New state guidance recommends using face coverings when you venture out among others as an additive measure to prevent the spread of respiratory droplets, but they do not replace the need for a minimum of six feet of physical distance and thoroughly washing our hands.
Q: What can we do to help vulnerable seniors?
A: Our hearts are with our seniors and this is a group we are particularly focused on reaching. I hope everyone is checking-in on our older neighbors to see if they need help with groceries, prescriptions, and feelings of isolation. Due to physical distancing requirements, one of the first services we had to shut down were programs for seniors. Sometimes a shared hot lunch was the only regular social contact in their lives. Fear is running particularly strong among our older population. Our COVID hotline is open daily from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. and trained City staff are ready to connect our seniors to resources and iGoldenTalk (888) 604-6533) is a great 24/7 resource for seniors that just need an ear to listen and provide some company.
We are all affected by this COVID-19, but none more than the most vulnerable in our community. So I encourage us all to stretch toward our better angels, as Lincoln said in a different kind of national crisis long ago. We are Santa Monica. If we pull together, we can emerge from this even stronger and more resilient than before.