Huntington Beach plans June return to in-person City Council meetings

Huntington Beach City Councilman Mike Posey addresses the council during Monday night's virtual meeting.
(Screencap by Matt Szabo)

With things opening up and Orange County moving into the yellow tier for reopening on Wednesday, the Huntington Beach City Council plans to return to chambers for meetings for the first time this year.

City Manager Oliver Chi outlined plans to get off Zoom and back to in-person meetings at Monday night’s meeting. The council members are scheduled to return to the dais on Tuesday, June 1, as Council meetings are also shifting from Mondays to Tuesdays starting in June.

Huntington Beach will also reopen City Hall in a limited capacity on June 1, with in-person operations including utility bill payments and beach permit parking pass sales. A full reopening may occur by June 15, which is the day California is expected to remove its indoor mask mandate.

“We’ll be allowing in-person meetings by appointment, and rolling out in-person services in a phased manner,” Chi said.

City Council meetings have been virtual since January due to the coronavirus pandemic. In late March, the Council explored ways to return to the chambers, but voted to keep meetings virtual indefinitely as Mayor Pro Tem Tito Ortiz stated he would not wear a mask.

Mask wearing is one of three options for Council members to enter the chambers going forward. Chi said in a presentation that they could also enter if they were fully vaccinated, or if they produced a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within the previous 48 hours or a same-day negative rapid antigen test.

The same standards would be true for meeting attendees. Up to 50 members of the public could attend under yellow tier guidelines, though the tier guidelines are also planned to end on June 15.

Huntington Beach board and commission meetings are also slated to go back in-person in June, with the same guidelines: members will be required to wear a mask, be vaccinated or provide a negative COVID-19 test.

“I think it’s important to note that for public comments, we’ll still have the virtual option,” Mayor Kim Carr said. “For anybody that doesn’t want to come down to City Hall, we’ll still have the opportunity to call in using that Zoom feature for public comments. And there’s always the opportunity for the Council members or for any of the boards and commissions, that if you want to Zoom in for that, that’s still an option.”

“I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to see everybody face to face, instead of in these little squares [on Zoom].”

Ortiz, who spoke at a “Let the Kids Breathe” anti-school masks rally earlier Monday, indicated during the City Council meeting that he planned to be tested for COVID-19 prior to coming into the chambers.

Council approves fiber optic communications downtown

The City Council voted 7-0 on Monday night to approve the installation of fiber optic communications at five locations downtown, easing their communication with City Hall.

The equipment would be used to connect the kiosk at Pier Plaza, the Huntington Beach Police Department substation on Fifth Street, the Main Street library branch, the art center and Lake Street Fire Station. The council approved a bid from Elecnor Belco Electric, Inc. in the amount of $626,451.

“Having those connections helps the city with reliable internet service,” Public Works Director Sean Crumby said. “It also helps us provide service to not only our facilities, but also special events, and any sort of cameras that we have done in that area.”

City Councilman Dan Kalmick enthusiastically approved of the item after pulling it for discussion.

“I think this is a great project,” Kalmick said. “I think it really meets our goal to start connecting all of our government facilities together, not just to be able to make phone calls, but to be able to send high-speed data across those connections and hook up some of our public safety [business] buildings.”

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