The West Hollywood City Council made clear on Feb. 1 that those not wearing a mask or face covering in public have exhausted all warnings. The council voted unanimously to have Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies, who are contracted to serve as the city’s police, issue tickets to those observed not wearing masks.
“This is really essential … Our residents know about our mask ordinance, and there are a lot of residents – and visitors, quite frankly – who are not abiding by our mask ordinance,” Councilwoman Sepi Shyne said. “It’s essential that we now move from doing warnings to giving citations.”
“To me, this is an all-hands-on-deck moment. We need to enforce this and we need to be clear that we want our city open for business, but not for COVID,” Councilman John D’Amico added.
Mayor Lindsey Horvath raised concerns about deputies being the best method for issuing citations.
“Last summer, council had a discussion about taking armed law enforcement out of rotation on traffic stops, and yet here, I think what we’re asking is to increase foot patrols of people with guns to issue citations without warnings,” Horvath said. “I think that is a confusing message to the public. I think it’s a confusing message to law enforcement, the people we’re actually asking to enforce this.”
City Manager Paul Arevalo said that due to issues some city staffers and contractors have had while trying to enforce the city’s mask ordinance, it is necessary for uniformed law enforcement to step in.
“While I hate to elevate it to a deputy, some of the people who refuse to wear masks need to be dealt with by a deputy,” Arevalo said.
Arevalo added that he did not believe that the city would be giving out “a lot of citations.”
“I think there will be citations. I think the word will get out and I think compliance will be the word,” Arevalo said.
In West Hollywood, a first violation will cost $250, plus a fee of $50, for a total of $300. With a $50 fee for each infraction included, a second violation will cost $1,050, a third will cost $2,050 and a fourth will cost $5,050.
The council discussed potentially aligning its citation payment amounts with Santa Monica or Beverly Hills – both of which start at $100 for a first offense and reach $500 for third violations – but changing the amount would require public noticing, which would push the change of the fines into March, Arevalo said. Instead, the council decided to stick with their current fine amount.
“If I got a $300 – or even higher – fine, I definitely wouldn’t do that again,” Councilman John Erickson said.
The council also decided to send a letter to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health regarding its list of outbreak sites and what the city and those businesses can do to keep employees and customers safe.
“Merely listing that the grocery store you go to had an outbreak isn’t helpful,” D’Amico said. “It’s not helpful to the grocery store, it’s not helpful to the resident, it’s not helpful. Unless we have a plan to work with those work sites to help bring them back into compliance, to work with residents to understand what it means that a site is listed on an outbreak list, I think it actually does more harm than good.”
City staff will return to the council with an update on the citations in 90 days.
An earlier version of this story reported that Mayor Lindsey Horvath voted against the mask measure. That is incorrect.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.