COVID-19 Leads West Hollywood to Declare a State of Emergency

The West Hollywood City Council voted tonight to declare a local state of emergency to help the city better respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

A memo to the City Council from City Manager Paul Arevalo notes that “an emergency exists when conditions are beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment, and facilities of this city. This resolution is an acknowledgement of the need for the combined forces of other political subdivisions to combat and respond to the novel coronavirus (‘COVID-19’).”

“The city’s ability to mobilize local resources, coordinate interagency response, accelerate procurement of vital supplies, use mutual aid, and allow for future reimbursement by the state and federal governments, are critical to successfully responding to COVID-19,” the memo states.

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on March 4 in response to the increased spread of COVID-19. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors and the Department of Public Health also have declared a local and public health emergency in response to increased spread of COVID-19 across the country and in Los Angeles County. The county has ordered the closure of all bars and gyms and is allowing restaurants and coffee shops to stay open only to offer take-out or delivery service. Earlier today the Public Health Department released a list of cities and communities in Los Angeles County where coronavirus infections have been confirmed which showed five of the 94 cases in the county are associated with West Hollywood.

The resolution passed by the City Council will be in effect for 60 days, at which point it can decide whether or not to extend it. In addition to embracing the county’s decision to shut down bars, nightclubs, gyms, theaters and other such public spaces, the Council last night also prohibited sports and other group activities in the city’s parks. It also agreed to ban landlords from evicting tenants who are unable to pay their rent because of the coronavirus, which could be the result of loss of income from losing a job, being required at home to stay in isolation, being infected with the virus or having to leave work to take care of a family member infected by the virus or a child whose school has closed. Another reason that would protect the tenant would be the burden of excessive out-of-pocket medical expenses. Tenants would have six months after the end of the emergency period to pay their overdue rent.

The resolution also:

  • Authorizes the City Manager, Social Services staff and Sheriff’s Department to shelter homeless individuals who are unable to care for themselves to prevent the spread of the virus among the homeless population.
  • Establishes an emergency fund of up to $50,000 to assist residents and employees in West Hollywood who are in need because of lost jobs and income and create an opportunity for residents and businesses to donate to help members of the community who are adversely impacted by business shutdowns and layoffs.
  • Authorizes the City Manager to consider temporarily reducing certain taxes for businesses if they agree to not lay off employees.
  • Asks that the city create volunteer opportunities for people in the community who are able to help deliver meals and other items to those who are in need of assistance.
  • Asks the city to coordinate with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to determine if it needs volunteers and develop programs to train individuals to assist.
  • Authorizes the City Manager to approve the use of public or private property for emergency temporary medical facilities.
  • Authorize the City Manager to provide appropriate assistance to local grocery stores who are dealing with panic-buying in response to fears of COVI D-19 and to consider senior-only access during certain morning hours at the grocery stores and markets.
  • Consider providing direction to limit public access to City Hall and to allow eligible employees to work remotely, and allocate a technology allowance up to $150,000 for the City Manager to ensure constituent and employee remote access. The city already has announced the closing of City Hall.

City Council members made a number of suggestions and raised a number of concerns about the impact of the coronavirus during tonight’s meeting, which Mayor John D’Amico participated in remotely because he has not been feeling well. Councilmember Lauren Meister asked that the city consider helping employees of businesses forced to close navigate the process of applying for unemployment compensation. She also stated that residents have expressed concern about being approached by people trying to get their signatures on petitions to put proposals to revise the city’s cannabis law on the ballot. Councilmember John Heilman asked that the city work harder to keep the Russian-speaking community informed about the virus issue and make sure that all relevant posters are in multiple languages. Councilmember John Duran asked whether Sheriff’s deputies could use greater power to remove homeless people from the city’s sidewalks. And Councilmember Lindsey Horvath asked a question submitted to the. Council by a local resident who wondered whether there was a way the city could limit the number of non-residents entering West Hollywood in the COVID-19 epidemic ended up being like that in New Rochelle, N.Y.

While the passage of the emergency measure gives City Manager Paul Arevalo greater authority to deal with coronavirus issues, the city already has taken a number of steps to address the spread of the virus.  On Thursday, the city cancelled or postponed all non-essential city events and meetings until June 30 as part of an effort to create the “social distancing” that public health experts are saying is essential to keep people from transmitting the virus to one another. It also has closed City Hall to the public and is suspending all in-person transactions. All public city buildings and facilities will be closed. City parks will remain open, but members of the public should follow social distancing guidelines of at least six feet of separation, staying home if not feeling well, washing hands often, and covering all coughs or sneezes. City Hall will remain accessible for business and essential services with transactions to be conducted by phone (323) 848-6400 and via the City’s website at www.weho.org.

City Hall staff also has been working over the past three weeks with federal, state, and county agencies, other local governments and local non-profits and businesses and health care providers to address the ever-evolving COVID-19 crisis.

“The first priority is the health and welfare of the community and employees and, concurrently, monitoring the economic impacts to our local economy and planning for recovery efforts,” says a statement from City Hall.

The city staff efforts have included weekly calls with leaders of other cities on the Westside of Los Angeles County and regular communication with local business leaders and with schools and non-profit organizations associated with the city.

The city also is working with its contracted social service providers like Jewish Family Services that provide services for seniors, the homeless, and people with disabilities,

The city has been establishing sub-committees to find ways to address the economic impacts that may arise in coming weeks as businesses are forced to close and to assist those who work in the city. Given that travel, tourism, and nightlife and entertainment are major contributors to the city’s economy, the coronavirus is expected to have an especially big impact on West Hollywood, with hotels already seeing room reservation cancellations and bars and restaurants closing. That is likely to leave a large number of people at least temporarily unemployed.

The city also has been exploring ways to keep residents up to date on what is going on. It will post updates on its website at www.weho.org/coronavirus and encourages residents to follow @WeHoCity on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and turn on notifications for up-to-date information.  For notifications by email, residents can subscribe to the city’s E-Notifications at www.weho.org/email. Visit the City’s event and meetings calendar at www.weho.org/calendar and news archive at www.weho.org/news.

Other websites that the City of West Hollywood recommends residents visit for updates and information about the current numbers of COVID-19 cases in the United States and in Los Angeles County include the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus  and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

The city also is reminding residents that they can watch City Council meetings and other board and commission meetings whose agendas have essential items on them on television or online. They can be accessed on the following platforms:

The city also recently launched an online form that residents can use to submit comments on items on the City Council agenda that will be read aloud during the Council meetings. That form can be accessed here. (Such comments must be submitted by 8 p.m. on the night of the meeting).  City Hall is working on making the comment system available for those following Planning Commission and other essential meetings as well.

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story stated that City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath asked if the city could limit the number of non-residents entering West Hollywood if the coronavirus epidemic reaches the level of that in New Rochelle, N.Y. In fact, Horvath was submitting a question submitted to the Council by a resident rather than asking that herself. The story has been updated to clarify that.

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Rob Vela
10 months ago

Hi… Very thorough report. Thanks,
https://www.softwarexprts.com/b2b-travel-portal

Myra
Myra
2 years ago

What about considering something for commercial rents

LaDeBug
LaDeBug
2 years ago

Extraordinary measures, some of them not popular, though so necessary indeed.
The only way is to unite, keep calm and do one’s best to prevent spreading the disease.
I’m happy the companies from different business verticals respond to the situation with such tutorials, tips and tricks like this https://litslink.com/blog/crisis-management-for-startups-to-handle-their-costs-in-coronavirus-crisis

Rick Watts
Rick Watts
2 years ago

Perhaps once the hospitals are overwhelmed, Council could invoke Eminent Domain to seize EVERY last property where tenants were evicted by predatory landlords illegally converting to AirBnB; and turn the property over to medical providers for emergency use as overflow satellite convalescent hospital rooms.

I say this only part in jest: During WW2, the military seized control of many resorts to convert them for medical & convalescent purposes for wounded service members. (It would also be an effective way to add teeth to enforce against illegal short-term rentals.)

MisTBlu
MisTBlu
2 years ago

Very thorough report. Thank you.

Eric Jon Schmidt
Eric Jon Schmidt
2 years ago

This is real leadership, albeit a couple weeks late it shows concern for everyone affected. I truly hope that through these measures, with resident and business compliance and cooperation the number of those who fall ill will be kept to a minimum with speedy recoveries. While West Hollywood has a lot of gamous bars, hotels and businesses that attract non-Residents we are still a small town made up of people who show concern and compassion for one another and the community as a whole.

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
2 years ago

I am so proud of the many wonderful programs and initiatives, save for Duran’s obscene idea of using this crisis as a vehicle for removing homeless people and Horvath’s disgusting idea of building a wall around West Hollywood.

Observer
Observer
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

San Francisco went on lockdown. SAN FRANCISCO !! If they can do it, so should we. These are perilous times. Extraordinary actions must be taken to contain COVID-19.

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
2 years ago
Reply to  Observer

An entire six-county region went into a shelter in place program, which I fully support and must be done on a regional level. Shelter in place is much different than the call to limit people coming into WeHo, which can only be achieved through a physical barrier. Then what? Checkpoint Charlie staffed by sheriff’s deputies? The question was naive and absurd and almost trumpian in its small-mindedness. I applaud the steps the city has taken overall, and the need to treat this regionally. We are not an island.

Michael Grace
Michael Grace
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

WEHO should build a wall around all developers and their lobbyists.. So they won’t be allowed to give money to Lindsay Horvath. They put her in office. They are obviously to be blamed for her naive, insensitive and idiotic proposal to wall in the city. As for John Durand’s proposal, I totally agree the homeless should be put off the street. But how are we going to rely upon the City of Los Angeles or the Stare of California to do that? They haven’t gotten that act together for years. The one thing that this is proving… Don’t rely on… Read more »

Woody McBreairty
Woody McBreairty
2 years ago

Certainly hope Mayor D’Amico has a fast recovery. I wish him the very, very best. And that everyone else stays happy & healthy. These are uncertain times to say the least, & pretty scary.

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