Packed strand in Hermosa

As coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County increase the Strand in Hermosa Beach was packed with people on Thursday July 23, 2020 with people not wearings masks nor social distancing. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

Hermosa Beach will enforce a face mask requirement in crowded parts of the city with a $100 fine for the first offense, following a decision by its City Council Tuesday evening.

The urgency ordinance passed Tuesday, to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, immediately requires face masks be worn at all times on the beach when not in the water, greenbelt, the Strand, all city parks, Pier Plaza, and downtown.

The downtown area is defined as Pier Avenue between Valley Drive and Hermosa Avenue as well as the area bordering the Strand on the west, 14th Street on the north, Hermosa Avenue on the east and 10th Street on the south.

The city of Manhattan Beach approved fines earlier in the month for not wearing face masks in public throughout the entire city including the beach, greenbelt and parks. Fines in Manhattan Beach are $100 for first offenses, increase to $200 for the second and $350 for each incident thereafter. In Hermosa Beach, fines will be the same as Manhattan Beach for the first and second offenses. For the third and subsequent violations within a calendar year, the fine is $500 in Hermosa Beach.

According to City Manager Suja Lowenthal, the city plans to contract with a private firm to hire code enforcement officers to enforce the urgency ordinance because of the city's limited resources. At the meeting Tuesday, Lowenthal said she would follow suit with Manhattan Beach, who had also hired contract code enforcement officers.

“We want our community to be absolutely safe and as safe as possible,” Lowenthal said. “We'd like to support that as much as we can. But I appreciate our neighbors acknowledgment that they too were not able to do that with their resources on hand and have extended themselves to hire team members.”

In June, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced face masks were required to be worn in most public places. Soon after, the Los Angeles County Health Officer announced that face masks were required when leaving homes.

The Hermosa Beach ordinance allows the code enforcement officers to issue the fines, or administrative citations, to those who do not wear a face mask in the designated areas or are not physically distancing in other areas of the city as required by county and state health orders.

At the meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Justin Massey and Councilmember Stacey Armato argued for an order similar to Manhattan Beach's requiring face masks in all public places. Mayor Mary Campbell and Councilmembers Mike Detoy and Hany Fangary advocated for a less stricter ordinance.

Armato said at the meeting people will need to get use to wearing masks, as the “new normal.”

“The sooner we can just get comfortable doing it, the better it's going to be for everyone and our collective public health,” Armato said.

But to get the ordinance passed, the council needed at least four yes votes. Without the votes, the city would have to enforce the Los Angeles County Department of Health Order, which is a civil misdemeanor with fines up to $1,000, and/or six months in county jail, according to City Attorney Mike Jenkins.

“The adoption of this ordinance would reduce the potential fines to which violators are subject, not enhance them,” Jenkins said.

“It was important for us to have a city ordinance so that we could enforce it with civil penalties rather than through misdemeanor fine,” said Massey on Wednesday. “The ultimate compromise that emerged was having an absolute requirement in the areas we designated and everywhere else in the city, aligning ourselves with the county health order.”

The ordinance passed with a 4-1 vote, with Fangary voting no. Before the compromise was reached, Fangary said he would not support going to the extreme that Manhattan Beach did, where a resident could potentially get a fine for not wearing a mask walking out their front door.

“When you're in Pier Plaza, greenbelt, you clearly are in the area where you're likely to be in contact with somebody else,” Fangary said. “And therefore, that's the area where masks make more sense and masks will be enforced.”

Residents spoke on both sides of the issues, some supporting the ordinance for public health reasons while, for others, being forced to wear masks was overreaching for the city and might impact small businesses especially restaurants.

“It may be putting a nail in the coffin for them,” said one resident, about the small businesses. “And it may not be necessary. You know a lot of consumers are going to choose to go to Redondo.”

Contact this reporter at mhixon@tbrnews.com or on Twitter @michaeljhixon.com.

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