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Council to Resume In-Person Meetings Next Month

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By Jorge Casuso

March 24, 2022 -- After more than two years holding virtual meetings during the coronavirus shutdown, the City Council will open its Chamber doors to the public on April 12.

The move comes as COVD-19 cases have dropped dramatically, prompting the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to relax its mandates, officials said.

"I am thrilled that we can mark the positive change in COVID-19 transmission by returning to in-person public participation,” Santa Monica Mayor Sue Himmelrich said in a statement.

“We look forward to seeing more faces in person and to supporting our community's engagement in the democratic process.”

Meetings of Santa Monica’s Boards and Commissions will remain remote as the City decides "how best to move forward with their format," City officials said.

No Council, commission, board or task force meeting has been open to the public since an emergency order was issued by former City Manager Rick Cole on March 16, 2020 closing City Hall.

Since then, the Council has taken numerous actions while meeting from their homes that would have traditionally drawn large, vocal crowds to the Council Chambers.

They included making dramatic budget cuts in the wake of the coronavirus shutdown and dealing with the fallout of the May 2020 riots that rocked Santa Monica's confidence in its police force.

While meeting remotely, the Council also killed the controversial Plaza project on City owned land Downtown and approved a new Housing Element that attempts to add nearly 9,000 residential units by 2029.

The Council also underwent its biggest overhaul, with five new members -- three elected and two appointed -- sworn in from home.

After the last in-person Council meeting was held on March 10, 2020, the City issued an executive order approved by the Council waiving all physical presence requirements under the Brown Act.

Shortly before the executive order expired September 30, California Governor Gavin Newsom extended the authority of public agencies to continue holding virtual meetings during the ongoing health emergency.

Every 30 days since then, the Council has made the findings required and unanimously approved resolutions that allowed it to continue meeting without the public present.

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