Mark McDermott

Manhattan Beach shuts down construction, urges social distancing on the Strand, due to COVID-19 concerns

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The Manhattan Beach Pier was closed to the public Thursday. Photo by Joel Gitelson

by Mark McDermott

The City of Manhattan Beach issued a new order and a new warning on Friday: a prohibition any but the most necessary construction, and an urgent reminder that people stay six feet from each other on the Strand. 

Both actions come as the city attempts to put in place strong “social distancing” measures to stop the community spread of the novel coronavirus. So far, there are five confirmed cases in Manhattan Beach. 

Mayor Richard Montgomery said the construction prohibition, which goes into effect beginning Saturday, was necessary due in part to the uniqueness of the city’s residential layout. 

 “Manhattan Beach has a unique density where construction projects are close together and social distancing is very difficult to accomplish,” Montgomery said. “Complying with orders to protect against the spread of COVID-19 is of utmost priority right now. The city will continue to take actions to protect the public during this pandemic.” 

The Strand social distancing warning came a day after the city closed all parks, recreational facilities, playing fields, and the pier. Montgomery again emphasized the importance of social distancing. 

“Once again in order to illustrate how seriously we consider ‘social distancing’ we are reminding residents and visitors alike to please be aware of others when on the Strand,” Montgomery said. “We are all in this together.”

Earlier in the week, on Tuesday, the City Council unanimously passed emergency ordinances that at the time went beyond orders issued by Los Angeles County to impose tighter social distancing restrictions during the coronavirus outbreak. 

One ordinance prohibited non-essential retail businesses from being open except for pick-up, delivery and appointments. Essential businesses were deemed to be grocery stores, pharmacies, health care providers, and transportation services. Non-essential businesses include physical health and beauty services, including spas, hair salons, massage establishments, and nail salons. 

Another ordinance was aimed at price-gouging, and limited businesses — including those selling consumer goods and services such as hand sanitizer and toilet paper, construction and repair services, and hotels — from increasing rates by more than 10 percent. A third ordinance will prevent commercial and residential landlords from evicting tenants who struggle to make rent during the coronavirus crisis. 

The council also confirmed that the city would enforce LA County’s order requiring the closures of bars and nightclubs that don’t serve food, gyms, and entertainment venues.

“We want to be on the same page with everybody and do all we can to stop this [virus] in its tracks,” Councilperson Steve Napolitano said. “This the beginning, unfortunately, but necessary.” 

The City declared a local state of emergency last Friday and on Saturday activated its Emergency Operations Center.  All parks and recreation classes and programs were cancelled though April, as were all board and commission meetings except the Planning Commission. 

Napolitano reminded kids out of school that “this is no spring break” and to avoid large gatherings. But he also sought to reassure residents. 

“Let’s stay calm and wash our hands,” he said. “City services are intact, our first responders are intact, and when you turn on the tap, water will flow.” 

City Manager Bruce Moe said there was some good news for residents — city street sweeping parking enforcement will be suspended, and new city fees will be delayed in their implementation until after the coronavirus outbreak fades. 

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