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Santa Monica Closes Pier, City Hall
By Jorge Casuso
March 16, 2020 -- City Hall is closed, so is the Santa Monica Pier, as the City ramped up efforts this weekend to prevent the possible spread of the coronavirus.
The City also halted water shutoffs and late penalties for water bills and parking tickets, and instituted eviction protections against tenants affected by the virus.
The Pier -- a popular destination that draws some 10 million visitors a year -- was temporarily closed at 6 a.m. Monday after the City issued an emergency proclamation one day after declaring a local emergency.
“We welcome thousands of guests to our Pier each and every day, so we take this step out of the deepest desire to keep people at home and healthy,” City Manager Rick Cole.
“We love our Pier and the joy it brings to everyone that visits, but in this moment, we must take aggressive actions to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
At City Hall, only essential staff reported to work Monday, with most municipal employees working from home by teleworking and collaborating through teleconferencing.
As part of the City's emergency operations, planners, administrative assistants, architects and IT experts have become Disaster Service Workers, Cole said.
"All non-essential City travel has been suspended and City staff will not attend in-person events or conferences that gathers people for a non-essential purpose," he said.
In Saturday, the City issued a supplement to the local emergency proclamation that places a temporary moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent by residential tenants impacted by the coronavirus.
Under the order, a landlord also "cannot pursue a no-fault eviction unless necessary for the health and safety of tenants, neighbors, or the landlord," City officials said.
In addition, the order also places a moratorium on shutting off of water service for residents and businesses in the City for non-payment of water and sewer bills or imposing late payment penalties.
It also halts late payment penalties or fees for parking violations for the next 60 days.
The actions come after the City closed its library branches, park buildings, Annenberg Community Beach House and public counters, and canceled it youth programs and suspended all Board and Commission meetings.
Meanwhile, Santa Monica College (SMC) is limiting public access to its main campus at 1900 Pico Boulevard and to its five satellite campuses as the school transitions to a remote learning environment effective Wednesday, college officials said.
All college campuses and facilities -- including exterior walkways and common areas -- have been closed to the general public.
Starting Tuesday, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) will implement full closure of all schools and programs, including child care, the infant toddler center, preschool, TK-12 and adult school, District officials announced Saturday.
The School Board will meet Monday to determine how long the closures will last, officials said.
"The reason to close a school during a pandemic is to prevent the spread of illness, according to the Center for Disease Control," said Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati.
"During this closure we encourage both children and adults to follow social distancing recommendations from Public Health," he said.
Staff and teachers "have thoughtfully developed materials and lessons to continue the continuity of learning" and teachers will be available during school hours for questions through email, Drati said.
All planned athletic activities, including practices and games, have been postponed until further notice, District officials said.
So far no coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the District, SMC or among City workers.
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