Employees and customers of certain businesses are now required to wear face masks after the Santa Barbara City Council authorized an emergency order Tuesday from City Administrator Paul Casey.
“Our city council and our city administrators received many communications urging us to require face coverings or masks when people are in a congregate setting, so at a grocery store or at any essential business,” said Mayor Cathy Murillo.
According to the order, face masks are now required for workers and customers of certain essential businesses.
The businesses covered in the order include pharmacies, grocery stores, convenience stores, food banks, farmers’ markets, organizations and businesses that provide food to the public, hardware and building supply stores, nurseries, laundromats and dry cleaners, restaurants, taxis, ride sharing services, car rental companies, publicly accessible areas in hotels and motels, stores that sell pet food and medication, and more.
Businesses must now prohibit entry of anyone who is not wearing a face mask.
They must also provide face masks without charge to employees, and may either provide masks without charge or sell them to customers.
Reusable face masks used by employees must be washed and sanitized at least daily.
“The order takes care to say that face masks need not be medical grade or N-95,” said City Attorney Ariel Calonne.
Acceptable masks include cloth masks, scarves, bandanas or other face coverings over the mouth and nose of a person, according to the order.
“This is similar to what a number of cities have adopted trying to address where people are congregating together where social distancing may not be practiced. It’s been advisory, especially in grocery stores and pharmacies. We’ve heard that a lot over the last couple weeks. This essentially would say in the city of Santa Barbara you do need to wear a mask when you approach those,” said Mr. Casey.
The order is a modification to the City Emergency Orders issued March 17 and is modeled after a similar order issued by the city of Los Angeles April 7.
Violations are punishable as a misdemeanor, although Mr. Calonne stressed that that would likely be reserved for large businesses that are openly violating the order and are uncooperative.
“My office, the prosecutors in this office, would use their discretion very carefully before bringing misdemeanor action for a face mask violation. I can guarantee that a casual face mask violation by an individual customer is not going to result in misdemeanor filing,” said Mr. Calonne.
Several city council members expressed concern over the possibility that non-compliance can result in a misdemeanor charge.
The reason for including the misdemeanor penalty is to distinguish the order from a voluntary declaration through some form of enforcement, explained Mr. Calonne.
“Our approach throughout this pandemic is to start heavily with education and information and get compliance,” said Mr. Casey. “We haven’t written any citations for folks in the community. We find that when we talk to them in person we get compliance so that certainly would be our approach here as well.”
To address the council’s concerns, language was added to the order saying a warning would be issued to businesses in violation before any charge was made.
The council also added language ensuring robust bilingual outreach to ensure the public is informed about the order.
The order applies to essential businesses as defined by the County Health Officer, and does not apply to public spaces like parks or beaches.
Additionally, the order suspended the city’s 10 cent charge for business-provided reusable or recyclable paper carryout bags for the duration of the public health emergency.
In other news Tuesday, the council received an update on the Paseo Nuevo development agreement with Paseo Nuevo Owners and the outdoor mall’s current renovation project, which is expected to be completed by June.
The proposed lease would last until 2065, with a one-time option for the owners to extend the lease for 28 years.
The owners would invest $20,000,000 dollars into the renovation project, consistent with plans approved by the city’s Historical Landmark Commission in 2018, and said they would “operate and maintain the mall as a ‘first-class’ retail center consistent with specified retail centers in southern California.”
In addition, the mall would pay Parking and Business Improvement Area assessments up to $300,000 annually, adjusted for the Consumer Price Index, in the fifth assessment year after agreement.
If approved, the agreement would include a one time donation of $200,00 from the owners to the city to assist with homeless solutions. They would also reimburse the city for all third party expenses, including $150,000 for outside legal and consulting services.
City staff and the owners are still finalizing the draft development agreement.
When it is completed, it will be processed by the Community Development Department and sent to the Planning Commission, where it will be presented at a public hearing. The Planning Commission will then recommend that the city council either adopt or disapprove of the agreement in a subsequent public hearing.