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Santa Monica Issues Ten Citations During Face Mask Crackdown

Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica

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Santa Monica College
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By Jorge Casuso

August 11, 2020 -- Santa Monica issued ten citations and 33 warnings during a "special operation" Thursday to enforce the City's face covering order in public parks and business districts, according to City officials.

During the operation, enforcers visited 533 businesses, and issued seven citations, officials said. Three citations -- with fines starting at $100 -- were issued to individuals in public spaces.

The special operations, led by Code Enforcement with support from Public Services Officers in the Police Department, are similar to those conducted to enforce local electric scooter laws, said Constance Farrell, the City's spokesperson.

"These are special operations in specific locations and are conducted weekly in addition to the regular daily business enforcement the Code Enforcement team does," Farrell said.

Since March 17, Code Enforcement had completed 23,093 business checks and issued 88 citations and 91 stop work orders to local businesses for various COVID-19 violations, the City reported late last month.

These include violations of the face covering order, which carries fines of up to $500 for patrons and $1,000 for businesses, Farrell said.

The code compliance team operates seven days a week and completes targeted education and enforcement checks for all open businesses "to ensure their compliance with changing public health orders," she said.

Santa Monica is among a growing number of California cities and counties that have imposed fines for violating face mask orders during the coronavirus emergency.

It is also one of the most aggressive in enforcing its orders, along with Beverly Hills, which according to Fox LA issued 42 citations in less than one week last month.

On Saturday, Hermosa Beach added as many as four additional health ordinance enforcement officers from a private consulting firm to help the police department enforce the city's face mask order.

But most California cities that have approved fines have not issued citations.

As of Saturday, Berkeley, San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland had not reported having issued any citations, according to ABC7 News in the Bay area.

County sheriffs in Alameda, Napa and Contra Costa counties also had not issued any citations, while Sonoma County had issued four, "but those were related to criminal activity," according to the station.

Some cities have voted to reject fines. Last Thursday, the Carlsbad City Council deadlocked on whether to impose fines for violating the face covering order, effectively killing the measure.

"The council does support wearing face masks, but questions lingered about the constitutionality, enforcement, medical exemptions and how aggressive police should react to those not in compliance," the Coast News Group reported.

According to the staff report issued July 28, no law enforcement agency in San Diego County had cited or arrested anyone for failing to wear a facial covering.

Last Thursday's enforcement operation in Santa Monica came four months after the City issued its first order requiring customers and workers at local businesses to wear face coverings ("Santa Monica Workers, Customers Must Wear Face Coverings or Face Fines," April 9, 2020).

In May the City extended the order and expanded it to include wearing the face coverings outside one's home ("Santa Monica Orders Residents to Wear Face Coverings Outdooors,” May 14, 2020).

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