Santa Monica’s civic meetings will universally return to in-person participation on March 1 following the expiration of the statewide COVID-19 Emergency Order.

While the City Council has operated in person since April of last year, the City’s boards and commissions have remained virtual. However, that option will be unavailable once the emergency order ends.

“When the State order sunsets, COVID-19 will no longer be a valid basis for public bodies to hold meetings virtually under AB 361, adopted by the State Legislature to provide more flexibility for public bodies to facilitate virtual meetings during the pandemic,” said the city in a Thursday announcement. “Thus, all public bodies will return to holding public meetings in accordance with the Brown Act. The Brown Act does allow for public bodies to hold meetings via teleconference however certain stipulations apply.”

Live meetings will require public comment to be in-person or submitted in writing prior to the meeting. As was the case in pre-pandemic times, individuals who need accommodation for a disability or language interpretation services can contact city staff 72 hours in advance of a meeting.

While council previously debated hybrid meetings, cost and staffing limitations prevented the city from adopting a mixed model.

“While COVID transmission is low, there is an understanding that this seasonal fluctuation has simply become our new normal and the general public is fully aware of how to protect themselves and others,” said the city’s statement. “The Santa Monica community is encouraged to be up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations, including a bivalent booster, and follow current LA County Department of Public Health face mask guidance.”

The County currently requires a mask in health care facilities, places that require it on their own (like schools or private worksites), if you have COVID or if you are a close contact of someone with COVID. Masks are strongly recommended in indoor settings if you are at risk for severe illness, on public transport or in transit hubs.

During her weekly briefing, Barbara Ferrer, Director of the LA County Department of Public Health said that with the lifting of emergency declarations, her office remains focused on ensuring easy access to vaccines, testing and therapeutics as they are the tools that will continue to make it safer for everyone to engage in activities.

“I know that for many COVID is no longer top of mind and this is actually a good thing,” she said. “I also appreciate for others, especially those who are more vulnerable or living with long COVID there remains a need for accurate information, access to live-saving resources and community support for their special needs.”

Ferrer said mask rules in some settings, such as health care facilities, may persist beyond the COVID pandemic as they are tools to prevent other communicable diseases but those decisions will be made as needed.

“As I look forward, relieved that COVID causes less devastation, I see a couple of things as essential in allowing us to reduce the harms that are caused by this virus,” she said. “First the easiest way to reduce the risk of getting seriously ill from COVID is to be up to date on our vaccine coverage. This means that the millions of people in LA county who have not been vaccinated since August of last year, especially for residents over 65, they should go ahead and get the bivalent booster, and second if you think you have COVID-19, please take steps to limit your exposure to others.”

For more information or to find the schedule of board and commission meetings, visit or

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Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...