Ryan McDonald

Hermosa Beach City Council meetings leave chambers for screens

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Hermosa Beach City Hall. Photo by Ryan McDonald

by Ryan McDonald

Public meetings in Hermosa Beach will take place via videoconference in order to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The city announced that all public meetings, starting with Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, will feature officials calling in from remote locations to hear reports from staff and vote on issues. The meetings will continue to be broadcast on local television and streamed on the city’s website. Members of the public who wish to provide comment will be able to do so through a telephonic dial-in system.

The last public meeting, which occurred Monday after an emergency declaration from Mayor Mary Campbell, took place in a Council Chambers that had been rearranged to allow for social distancing among elected officials. But the foyer, where members of the public could stand while waiting to provide public comment on the ordinances, was crowded before the meeting began. Some items on that agenda drew considerable interest, and a light rain discouraged people from waiting outside, making it difficult for people to maintain the six-foot distance recommended by public health authorities.

The decision follows a series of emergency ordinances cancelling city events and closing city facilities. While public safety offices remain open, the finance, planning and public works desks at City Hall are all closed to the public, with operations moving online.

Although California state law typically requires government bodies to hold their meetings in public, with elected officials appearing in person and members of the public provided an opportunity to offer their thoughts in person, Gov. Gavin Newsom temporarily suspended those laws last week in one of a series of executive orders. Hermosa’s plans, which along with the call-in option gives members of the public the chance to submit comments electronically, appear to fall well within the broad confines of Newsom’s order, which asks local governments to “adhere as closely as reasonably possible” to public meeting laws, “in order to maximize transparency and provide the public access.” Meetings of the city’s planning and public works commissions, which had been scheduled in the past week before the issuance of Newsom’s order, have been cancelled for lack of a quorum.

In a statement, the city said that it intends to resume in-person meetings as soon as “the current public health emergency ends.”

To view the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting and to find detailed instructions on how to telephonically provide comment, click here.

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