Restrictive orders mandated by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health have caused some local elected officials to consider breaking away from the agency, exploring other alternatives that might better serve the cities they represent.
Beverly Hills is the most prominent locale contemplating such a change, where councilmembers unanimously passed a resolution opposing the county’s three-week ban on outdoor dining during a meeting on Tuesday. City leaders are demanding the powerful L.A. County Board of Supervisors repeal the directive, which they say is not backed by scientific evidence and is damaging small businesses.
Council has approved a resolution requesting IMMEDIATE repeal of County’s order that prohibits outdoor dining. Also exploring legal action and creation of a local Health Dept in BH. We are committed to public health while ensuring well-being of our local businesses and employees pic.twitter.com/x4WDst0EJB
— Lili Bosse (@LiliBosse1) December 2, 2020
“I am enraged by what the majority of county supervisors voted on without having the data to do so, especially after all of us, these many, many months, have learned that eating outdoors was the safest way during COVID,” said Beverly Hills Councilmember Lili Bosse.
Steve Scott Springer, general manager of Spago Beverly Hills, said during public comment that the restaurant has had to lay off at least 160 employees because of strict guidelines imposed by the county that “devastated” the eatery.
“I think the premise is that the decisions that were made for the entire county may not be the best decision for each of the cities and I think that we need to have an independent voice,” said Beverly Hills Mayor Lester Friedman.
The Los Angeles Times reports that councilmembers asked city staff “to research the idea of forming a Beverly Hills public health department, which would allow the city to set its own rules for combating a pandemic.”
Beverly Hills is not alone. There are 88 cities in L.A. County, the most populous in the nation, with more than ten million people residing in a vast territory. Those communities, however, are not monolithic. That realization has resulted in a growing number of mayors and councilmembers publicly concluding that local health decisions should be based on local data.
“I think the supervisors need to come look at each region individually and see how we’re faring,” said West Covina Councilman Dario Castellanos. “What we’re seeing here is not the same thing they may be seeing in Downtown L.A.”
West Covina Mayor Tony Wu described the county’s order as “one policy fits all,” claiming local businesses “have been jerked around, back and forth.” He also said L.A. Public Health decisions are harming children, most of whom have not been inside a school for several months.
West Covina Mayor Tony Wu says: In the first several months we did everything [the county] requests.. they've come back multiple times and what's happening isn't working.. we should still have the local control.
— AirTalk with Larry Mantle (@AirTalk) December 2, 2020
“As their mayor, I cannot take it,” Mayor Wu said. “We have to do something.”
Wu said the city could establish its own agency or collaborate with existing health departments in other cities, like Pasadena, the only city in L.A. County that currently allows outdoor dining.
The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports that Wu also wants to explore creating a regional health department that could also serve neighboring cities, such as Glendora, Azusa, La Puente, Baldwin Park, Irwindale, Covina, the City of Industry, and Walnut.
Several Los Angeles County cities are considering breaking away from the county's health department and establishing their own after the latest round of pandemic restrictions went into effect https://t.co/Pv91fvJ9Gb
— CBS Los Angeles (@CBSLA) December 2, 2020
According to CBS2 News, Lancaster Mayor Rex Perris said he’s in discussions with the mayors of Palmdale and Santa Clarita about creating a smaller, regional health department. Lancaster is about a 70-mile drive from L.A.
ABC7 reports the cities of Whittier and Hawaiian Gardens are also exploring other options.
On Tuesday, L.A. Public Health recorded the highest number of new COVID-19 cases (7,593) and hospitalizations (2,316) since the pandemic began.
In a statement to ABC7, the department said: “Cities can only establish their own health departments with state approval and demonstrated capacity to perform essential public health functions. Given the alarming surge in cases and hospitalizations across every part of the county, we would urge city managers and elected officials to support the necessary public health measures as this is our best effort to stop the surge. At this point, working together is the most sensible path forward.”