Open: The doors of Santa Monica’s iconic City Hall have reopened after extended Covid closures. Emily Sawicki

Santa Monica City Hall is back open to the public, with the City Clerk, City Attorney, Rent Control, and City Manager’s Office counters, plus passport services and other offices open once again.

City Hall has been largely closed since March 2020, when state and county regulations designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 caused the City to close non-essential areas of the historic building.

Staff and elected officials who spoke to the Daily Press said they were excited to be back in person, with staff attendance at City Hall expected to slowly ramp up in the coming weeks as employees re-adjust to working out of the office once again.

On Tuesday, Feb. 8, Santa Monica City Council met at City Hall once again, although members of the public are still only able to attend meetings virtually for the time being.

“I am so looking forward to seeing my fellow Santa Monicans back in City Hall,” Mayor Sue Himmelrich wrote in an email. “I urge all of you to tour our Black History Month exhibition in our lobby — it is a treat.”

Some City services will still require appointments for the time being, including permit, mobility and utility services.

City leadership made the decision to reopen City Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 8, citing “COVID-19 cases decreasing in Los Angeles County and more than 84% of Santa Monica residents over the age of 12 fully vaccinated,” according to a press release provided by City staff.

“We’ve been trying to open for a while, but following, now, the Omicron surge and seeing a couple of things in place — the community vaccination rate for people over 12 fully vaccinated is 84 percent, and I think for anyone over with at least one shot it’s even over 90 percent, I believe,” Christopher Smith, chief of staff in the city manager’s office, said on Wednesday. “So that, combined with the fact that our we have falling case rates now so rapidly with Omicron, we determined that it was important to get City Hall open.”

Public Information Coordinator Miranda Iglesias said she personally was looking forward to working out of City Hall on a more regular basis, together with her colleagues.

“It’s such a wonderful feeling when we’re in there,” Iglesias said, adding that she was looking forward to the camaraderie among City staff returning.

Although City Hall has been closed to the public, staff adapted in 2020 and 2021 to offer a range of services, including virtual plan check review, curbside pickup at the library and the 311 program. Smith said he has been involved with 311 since its inception in March 2021.

The program helps residents and business owners navigate city services via phone, email or mobile app.

And because City Hall’s reopening functions more like a dimmer switch than a light switch, Smith suggested residents continue to rely on 311 as some in-person services may be experiencing delays or short staffing in early weeks.

“We encourage people to work through the 311 system to get the latest,” Smith said. “Right now all our services — I don’t want to say they’re fully back online, but you know, I think things are in a pretty good place.”

More information on 311 can be found at santamonica.gov/process-explainers/santa-monica-311.

At the same time, Malibu city officials announced Thursday that Malibu City Hall was to remain closed through at least Feb. 22.

Malibu’s main municipal building, which had remained open through much of the pandemic, closed to the public on Jan 4, 2022, with officials citing the highly transmissible omicron variant. That closure was initially set to be lifted on Jan 28, but it was extended twice — first, through Feb. 11, and again, through Feb. 22.

emily@smdp.com