The Santa Barbara City Council voted Tuesday afternoon to make wearing masks mandatory in grocery stores, restaurants, retail food facilities, taxis, pharmacies and other businesses.
The vote was 7-0. The order technically went into effect on Tuesday, but the city won’t enforce the order until Friday. The council added the item after the regular publication of its agenda, as an emergency item in the late afternoon on Monday.
People not wearing masks are not to be allowed into businesses, according to the emergency proclamation.
People would not have to wear N-95 masks, just any kind of face covering, including a cloth, bandana or garment. Employees of the businesses would also have to comply with the order.
People who disobey the order could face a misdemeanor charge, but would most likely just receive a warning.
City Attorney Ariel Calonne said the city would use discretion before charging any individual with a misdemeanor, and that the law would be most useful with large companies flagrantly disregarding the mask order.
“Our approach throughout this pandemic has been to start heavily with education and seek compliance,” City Administrator Paul Casey said. “We have not written any citations.”
The city also agreed to temporarily suspend the 10-cent tax on plastic and paper bags, since people are no longer allowed to bring in their own reusable bags.
The Santa Barbara Farmers Market would also fall under the order.
The city also plans to reach out to the Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District, a separate agency, to comply with the order.
Eastside resident Natasha Todorovic said the emergency order is necessary.
“You still have a lot of people still congregating and not taking this seriously,” Todorovic said. “It puts our entire city at risk.”
Councilman Eric Friedman, who works at Trader Joe’s, said he supports the move.
“It’s not about just your own personal exposure,” Friedman said. “It’s the amount of exposure the workers have, in some cases, it is hundreds of people in a day.”
Councilwoman Alejandra Gutierrez said she wants to see a dedicated staff member to reach out to the Spanish-speaking population, because it took too long to reach that population when the shelter-in-place orders went out.
“I really want someone on city staff to be in charge of bilingual outreach,” Gutierrez said.
In other emergency action, the council agreed to extend the city’s sit-lie-camping ban to the Cacique Street underpass. Dozens of homeless people have been congregating there, in some cases preventing Eastside residents from being able to use the sidewalk. The vote was 7-0.
The council did not formally adopt an ordinance because it didn’t properly agendize the discussion. The council, however, did direct Casey to issue an order preventing anyone from camping under the bridge.
The council will take up the ordinance formally on May 12.
City crews cleared the bridge underpass of dozens of homeless people on Tuesday. Social workers worked with the county and a local hotel to offer temporary housing options for the homeless, so many of them were able to move into the hotel on Tuesday.
“I think we are on the right track here,” Friedman said.