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California

Chair of California Coastal Commission confirms he tested positive for coronavirus

Steve Padilla
Steve Padilla, chairman of the California Coastal Commission, right, has tested positive for coronavirus.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

The chair of the California Coastal Commission has tested positive for coronavirus — after leading the panel’s monthly meeting earlier this week, officials said late Saturday.

Steve Padilla, who also serves on the Chula Vista City Council, left the meeting early after developing symptoms and said he was back home and recovering.

“I feel healthy, strong and safe,” he said in a statement. “Following the guidance of County Public Health officials, I’m self-isolating and working remotely to serve Chula Vista.”

“This is a scary time. My symptoms — fever, body aches, headaches, chills — came on very rapidly,” he said. “My main concern now is for the well-being of others. My friends and family have been informed and are taking the necessary steps — but it’s my duty to be transparent for the entire community. I must be mindful of all I’ve come in contact with in my service as your Councilman and Coastal Commissioner.”

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The coastal commission, the regulatory body tasked with managing development along the state’s 1,200-mile coastline, meets every month for three days in cities up and down the state.

Attendance was lighter than usual at the meeting Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the Hilton Santa Cruz Hotel in Scotts Valley, as heightened anxiety over COVID-19 rippled across the state and world. Still, dozens had shown up to express their concerns about desalination and water treatment infrastructure on the coast, beach parking fees and curfews at Cowell and Main beaches in Santa Cruz.

Many issues on the agenda had been postponed or canceled, and you could almost feel the room jump whenever someone coughed. Lawyers, lobbyists, environmentalists and coastal officials elbow-bumped each other instead of shaking hands, and everyone laughed — but was also relieved — to see commission staff run to the microphone with Clorox wipes in between each person who stepped up to the podium to give their three minutes of public comments.

A longtime coastal commissioner, Padilla was appointed to the 12-member board by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. He was recently elected by fellow commissioners to lead the statewide panel.

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Jack Ainsworth, the commission’s executive director, had informed the staff and the public that amid escalating public health concerns over containing the spread of the coronavirus, the commission was looking into ways to host its April meeting, scheduled to be held in Oxnard City Hall, online instead.

Other government agencies and legislative committees in Sacramento have also been scrambling to find online options for their regularly scheduled meetings.

Padilla said he will keep the public posted on his condition. He urged the community to take precautions.

“Now, is when community really matters. We need to care for others,” he said. “Be mindful of seniors. And look out for one another — even when we have to keep a distance.”


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