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Laguna Beach considers seeking renter relief amid coronavirus; governor orders statewide ban on evictions

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The Cliff, an outdoor restaurant and music venue in Laguna Beach, is empty of patrons on the view deck as restaurants around the region comply with orders to stop dine-in service during the coronavirus outbreak.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The city of Laguna Beach may join several other cities in Southern California in seeking relief for renters and businesses impacted by the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus, even as Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday announced a temporary statewide ban on evictions of those affected by the virus.

The governor’s executive order will prevent evictions over nonpayment of rent through May. It will cover those who have lost work, become sick or had to take care of ill family members because of the pandemic and the associated closures and restrictions intended to inhibit the spread of the virus.

Law enforcement and the courts will be prohibited from executing evictions while the order is in effect.

Renters will still be required to eventually pay all the rent they owe, and they must notify their landlords in writing within seven days of nonpayment.

The Laguna Beach City Council is scheduled Tuesday to consider authorizing sending a letter to local residential and commercial landlords, asking them to defer rent collection through May and forgo evictions for nonpayments related to the virus.

City staff’s recommendation did not include an eviction moratorium like that approved by Costa Mesa but rather to seek cooperation from landlords.

“This pandemic and the mitigation measures necessary to slow and reduce the spread of COVID-19 have significant financial impacts to residents and businesses in Laguna Beach,” according to a staff report prepared for Tuesday’s meeting. “Many tenants have lost their income as a result of their businesses closing, being laid off or furloughed or complying with [Gov. Gavin Newsom’s] stay-at-home order.”

“It is expected that tenants will experience increasing hardship from being sick with COVID-19 and caring for a household or family member who is sick with COVID-19,” the report said.

The report references closures throughout the city of businesses considered nonessential and restaurants’ shift to relying on delivery and takeout while dine-in services are suspended.

The actions encouraged in the letter would prevent avoidable homelessness and allow for those whose income and ability to work are affected by the virus to remain in their homes while offering greater stability for commercial tenants, city staff said.

Proposed tourism marketing district

Visit Laguna Beach, the city’s tourism arm, is proposing converting the city’s business improvement district into a tourism marketing district.

The business improvement district was adopted in April 2001 with the intent of using additional taxes on businesses to promote offseason cultural events and encourage hotel occupancy.

Converting to a tourism marketing district would allow the district a five-year term instead of being renewed annually. If approved, the term would begin July 1 and end June 30, 2025.

The City Council on Tuesday will receive comments about forming the district but will not take action.

The proposed tourism marketing district would include all lodging businesses within city borders. An annual assessment of 2% of gross short-term room rental revenue would fund sales, marketing and communications and programs by the city Arts Commission, Laguna College of Art + Design, Laguna Playhouse and Laguna Art Museum.

Meeting viewing

Tuesday’s council meeting begins at 5 p.m. at City Hall, 505 Forest Ave. However, the council chamber will be closed to the public as a measure to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

Residents are encouraged to email comments about agenda items to City Clerk Lisette Chel-Walker at lchel@lagunabeachcity.net. All communications must be received by noon Tuesday.

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

The city also is experimenting with new methods of communication. Residents can call (669) 900-9128 to listen to the meeting and comment during designated periods.

When calling, wait for a prompt to dial the meeting ID — 998209353# — and press *9 to comment about an item. Time for remarks may be limited.

The public also can participate through Zoom at zoom.us/J/998209353.

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Updates:
3:34 PM, Mar. 27, 2020: This article was originally published at 1:37 p.m. and has been updated with new information.

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