The novel coronavirus has forced cuts in departments and divisions throughout the city, and Santa Monica’s Code Enforcement team is adapting to work during the pandemic.
Code Enforcement Manager Sharon Guidry said officers responded to complaints on a host of issues, which ranged from early morning construction and substandard housing conditions to sidewalk vending and unpermitted occupancies, Code Enforcement employees spent considerable time addressing issues related to electric scooters and home-sharing before COVID-19 changed the lives of everybody back in March.
In the months since the outbreak of COVID in America, the city laid off nearly 250 employees citywide. Code enforcement has six less positions after the restructuring even though a need for building inspections and other essential services remained. Since all Code Enforcement Officers are essential workers, the remaining 15 employees have been in the community throughout the pandemic working to ensure COVID-19 compliance.
“Our focus has of course shifted as the pandemic has shifted,” Guidry said.
He said code enforcement focused on business closures and coronavirus-prevention efforts in construction zones earlier in the safer-at-home orders since so many families were working and learning at home.
“As businesses reopened and adjusted operations, we continued to focus on business compliance for safe reopening,” she said. “Face coverings are also a priority.”
The division has previously held special enforcement operations with unannounced spot checks to ensure visitors are following the face covering requirement and limiting community spread.
Code Enforcement evaluates its available resources on a weekly basis to make sure enforcement officers are assigned to the highest priority areas, which shift day-to-day.
“And we continue to respond to complaints as quickly as we can with a focus on those that present a life or health safety issue,” Guidry said, noting there has been increasing compliance amongst the public since the start of the face covering enforcement operations in early August. “And that’s why we’re looking to expand enforcement capacity on face coverings and business checks.”
Since the division began prioritizing protecting the health of residents, some locals have complained about the lack of enforcement on bans pertaining to smoking in public spaces and noise.
Guidy said Code Enforcement continues to receive a stream of non-COVID-19 citizen complaints.
“Although we have seen a decrease in volume as citizens become more aware of the current enforcement priorities,” he said.
Delays in response to requests that are not related to COVID-19, priority areas or other life and health safety concerns should be expected, she added.
“When less focus on COVID-19 compliance is required, we will shift back to addressing the range of complaints we receive in normal times,” she said.
If a resident has a code enforcement complaint, they can submit it through Santa Monica Works at smgov.net/santamonicaworks, Guidry said as she commended her team for being adaptable in the wake of unprecedented times.
The sentiment was echoed by Interim City Manager Lane Dilg.
“Our code enforcement officers have been on the front lines of COVID-19 as essential workers supporting County efforts to ensure public health guidelines are followed,” said Dilg. “We are grateful to them for their steadfast work throughout the pandemic as well as to residents and business owners for partnering with us to promote public health.”