COVID-19

Three Cities Seek To Handle COVID-19 Recovery at Faster Pace Than Rest of LA County

Mayors of Palmdale, Lancaster and Santa Clarita are collaborating on this venture.

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Contending that they are prepared to move forward safely and should not have to wait, the three northernmost cities of LA County are seeking permission to enter the next phase of COVID-19 recovery.

"The frustrating part is this blanket broad brush that they're painting the entire county with, when it's not the same," Steven Hofbauer, mayor of Palmdale, said. Palmdale is working with Lancaster and Santa Clarita on a regional basis during the pandemic.

Some 600,000 people live in the north county region, a larger population than most California counties, but only 6 percent of LA County.

"Quite frankly, we think we could do it better, at least in regards to the boundaries of Lancaster," said its own Mayor R. Rex Parris. "I don't think we need to go down this hole of economic despair."

Apart from an outbreak of COVID-19 at a state prison that is within Lancaster but outside the city's jurisdiction, "our cases have been really low," said Parris, crediting the city's early face covering requirement.

Parris said the cities are also considering hiring their own public health officer. Among the county's 88 cities, all except two have relied on the county's public
health department, and during the COVID-19 crisis, Long Beach and Pasadena have hewed closed to the county's health orders.

Under Governor Gavin Newsom's statewide guidelines, all counties have moved into phase two, and some one-third of California counties have certified that they meet the prerequisites to go beyond and allow customers inside restaurants and general retail shops, and to allow office workers to return. LA County officials have indicated the state's largest county is not ready for the next step.

The new proposal from north county is the first effort by cities to move ahead separately from the rest of their county.

"Just as every county in California is different, a lot of communities specifically within LA County are different as well," Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth said. This week, its city council approved joining with the two Antelope Valley cities in seeking the variance, and Thursday sent a petition to the area's member of the Board of Supervisors, Kathryn Barger.

"I don't have a position at this point," Barger said Friday during LA County's daily COVID-19 briefing, "other than to ask both County Counsel and Public Health to look at it."

The Santa Clarita mayor indicated they expect to have a detailed proposal ready before the end of the month.

"We're just asking for a little bit of flexibility," Smyth said. "In no way are we trying to return to pre-COVID days. We certainly expect that social distancing and facial masks are all part of that equation."

Smyth likened the alliance of the three cities to the consortium of five Western States, including California, that Gov. Newsom has hailed as an effective means of dealing with common regional issues.

Santa Clarita's economy has been especially hard hit, Smyth said, citing studies that say the city is among the three in the state most affected by unemployment, and 17th nationwide.

Palmdale proposed what it called its Community Renaissance Plan on April 30 and submitted it to the county before teaming with the other cities.

Apart from Long Beach and Pasadena, LA County cities need permission to relax countywide health rules, but can make them stricter.

Although LA County does not require face coverings to be worn in public at all times, the cities of Glendale and Los Angeles do, even if you are away from other people.

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