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New Laguna Beach coronavirus prevention measure halts public from attending council meetings in person

Laguna council meeting.jpg
A sparsely attended Laguna Beach City Council meeting March 17 was evidence of the social distancing in place throughout the state as a response to the coronavirus outbreak.
(Courtesy of city of Laguna Beach)

Laguna Beach’s next City Council meeting March 31 will proceed, but public participation will be limited to electronic communication, with no in-person attendance allowed in hopes of curbing the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Laguna closed its City Hall to the public earlier this month but had kept council meetings open, albeit with limited seating to permit social distancing.

Council meetings are live-streamed on the city’s website at lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/citygov/cityclerk/mam.htm and can be viewed on Cox cable Channel 852.

The city is encouraging the public to email comments about agenda items to City Clerk Lisette Chel-Walker at lchel@lagunabeachcity.net.

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Costa Mesa took a similar action Monday.

An executive order by Gov. Gavin Newsom on March 12 allows local governments to temporarily suspend some of the requirements of the Brown Act, a state law that protects the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings by public bodies.

The order allows agencies to bar in-person public attendance as a precaution against the coronavirus, as long as they provide means to watch and participate remotely.

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The City Council held a meeting March 17 with most of its members calling in. Only Councilman Peter Blake attended in person, and the meeting was sparsely attended by the public.

The city canceled a special meeting scheduled for Tuesday about comprehensive updates to the Downtown Specific Plan, and the agenda for the March 31 meeting will be limited.

Laguna has canceled all Planning Commission, Design Review Board and committee meetings through April.

In addition, it has closed city beaches and adjacent parks and suspended all trolley shuttle services and other city amenities, including the public pool, playgrounds and basketball and volleyball courts.

It also closed the lobby of the Police Department and asked residents to use the intercom at the door to speak to department personnel. Emergency services are continuing as usual.

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