Council confirms recent emergency orders

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The Seal Beach City Council on Tuesday, April 21, unanimously confirmed supplemental orders to the city manager’s original emergency proclamation. Those orders included the recent closure of the city’s beaches. The council members did not discuss or comment on the issue before them.

A Seal Beach resident emailed the council asking them to reopen the beaches.

In related news, some Seal Beach residents have launched a petition drive calling for the reopening of the beaches.

There were 443 signatures on the petition as of 8:26 a.m., Wednesday, April 22.

The council did not discuss the petition during the meeting.

First, a look at the meeting, then the petition.

The meeting

Background: City Manager proclaimed a local emergency (specifically, the COVID-19 pandemic) on March 19.

The City Council later approved that decision.

Since March 19, the city manager has issued three supplements to the proclamation. One of those supplemental orders included the closing of parks, and beaches.

According to the staff report by City Attorney Craig Steele:

“Supplement Two, issued March 23, 2020 closed a number of public facilities where gatherings in violation of applicable public health orders could occur.

“Supplement Three, issued April 10, 2020 required that the parking lots at certain public parks be closed for the Easter holiday weekend to prevent traditional large gatherings in the parks.”

“Supplement Four, issued April 11, 2020 requires that people wear face coverings when they leave their homes for various permitted purposes, and that specified Essential Workers in grocery stores, drug stores, pharmacies and restaurants wear gloves and face masks when working.”

The closure of parking lots for parks was temporary and expired on Monday, April 13.

The mask mandate remains in place. (See Ongoing and upcoming issues, page 4.)

State law requires reviewing local emergency proclamations every 60 days. “Although Governor [Gavin] Newsom has waived that time requirement for the duration of this emergency, the City Manager and City Attorney believe that periodic review by the City Council is a good practice that should be maintained,” Steele wrote.

After the three supplemental emergency orders were approved in a

Like every council meeting since the closure, the council met by teleconference. One member of the public, Aimee Barber (who uses her maiden name Sugar on social media) emailed a request to the council on Monday, April 20 to reopen the beaches. (Barber asked the Sun to refer to her by her surname.) Later that day, Barber emailed a link to the Change.org petition to City Clerk Gloria Harper.

The letter and apparently the link were forwarded to the council members and made available to the public on the city website. It was not read out loud to the council.

Each of the five council members was given an opportunity to comment. Each in turn declined to comment.

District One Councilman Joe Kalmick made a motion to approve the resolution to confirm the supplemental emergency orders.

District Two Councilman Thomas Moore seconded.

The motion passed 5-0.

The council then met in closed session.

The petition

Other communities across the country have seen opposition to COVID-19 related restrictions. Now some Seal Beach residents are doing the same.

“The OC Board of Supervisors voted to open county beaches and golf courses Tuesday April 21, 2020,” according to the Seal Beach petition, which was apparently updated at that time.

According to Barber, she and Stephanie Wells were spearheading the petition, known as “Seal Beach City Council Open Our Beaches.”

Barber said they were doing this “because we want our beaches open.”

Barber said people who don’t agree with her have the freedom to not go to the beach. She said people should be able to to go the beach, which she described as “our back yard.”

Barber said she felt that Seal Beach “jumped the gun” by shutting down the beaches before the public had a chance to behave better. She said the city’s green areas were filling up. After taking a moment to think about it, she used the word “disheartening” to describe the city’s decision.

She argued that getting fresh air and viatamin D from the sun were good for everyone’s immune system and their mental health.

“And to be frank, the beaches are not that crowded in Seal Beach,” she said.

“We’re not a major attraction beach like Huntington Beach or Newport Beach,” she said.

Barber has five children. She said she is not comfortable going to the Greenbelt with her toddler because of the cars going by. She said if feels safer on the beach where she can practice social distancing and not worry about cars.

Barber said the decision to close the beaches felt like a violation. “We were just told to go and time out like little kids,” Barber said.

Assistant City Manager Patrick Gallegos said: “The city does not have a specific comment regarding the petition. However, any proactive measures taken by the city as result of the COVID-19 pandemic have been with the community’s  health and safety in mind. The decisions have not been taken lightly and involved numerous discussions and research with state county and other municipal agency representatives.”