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City Orders Construction Projects to Follow Coronavirus Protocols

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By Jorge Casuso

April 1, 2020 -- Santa Monica issued an order Wednesday authorizing the City’s Building Officer to shut down construction work on projects that fail to follow social distancing and hygiene requirements.

The order issued by City Manager Rick Cole requires installing handwashing facilities or hand sanitizer at entrances to construction projects and sanitizing shared tools and equipment at the sites.

The order also bars more than three workers from gathering during breaks and requires them to maintain a distance of six feet from each other.

It also requires posting signs informing workers of distancing and sanitation requirements and imposes "entrance limitations" on ill workers or "those in recent close contact" with someone diagnosed with the virus.

“We need all construction sites in Santa Monica to be good neighbors and to take all required steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Cole said in a statement announcing the order.

“We will shut down projects that put our community at risk by not following physical distancing and hygiene measures.”

An executive order issued by Governor Gavin Newsom on March 19 listed construction workers as an essential workforce that can continue functioning during the coronavirus emergency.

On Tuesday, health officials in six San Francisco Bay area counties restricted residential construction in an effort to further clamp down on the spread of the disease.

Some Santa Monica residents, many of whom have been ordered to work from home, have complained about construction noise and there have been calls to halt construction work.

In a update to community members, Council member Sue Himmelrich addressed the complaints.

"I know that Northern California has done a better job on the construction piece," Himmelrich wrote, "but there are also concerns from workers who want to be working.

"Planning is checking permits -- they shut down a site, for example, that had an outdated (but not expired) permit covering different work than was being performed now."

Tricia Crane, a leader of Northeast Neighbors, asked Cole why Santa Monica hasn't followed the lead of Bay area counties and restricted construction projects.

"You will note that PUBLIC HEALTH officials made this decision at the COUNTY LEVEL," Cole responded. "The alternative is 482 city governments making these decisions on whether to keep things open or shut them down on the basis of political clamor."

That, he said, "is a recipe for disaster -- and takes our eye off the ball of what our job actually is and what it is not in city government."

Santa Monica's order -- which is effective through April 30 -- addresses construction taking place within occupied residential buildings, including state mandated seismic retrofits.

In those cases, "steps must be taken to minimize contact with areas within the building but not within the construction site and to clean and sanitize those areas regularly," City officials said.

The City has emailed all active construction projects with detailed requirements and is encouraging the public to report concerns related to non-compliant construction work, officials said.

Santa Monica's order comes one day after LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced new regulations for construction sites during his daily coronavirus briefing Tuesday.

Permit holders must submit comprehensive plans to the City's Department of Building and Safety to ensure construction sites follow social distancing, hygiene requirements and decontamination practices, Garcetti said.

The guidelines will be enforced by City inspectors who will visit construction sites daily, he said.

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