Council to Meet Next Monday; Crisis, Economic Relief Expected to Dominate

Published : Wednesday, March 25, 2020 | 6:00 AM

The Pasadena City Council plans to hold a regular public meeting next Monday, March, 30, with items related to the coronavirus crisis — including relief efforts to help businesses clobbered by the pandemic’s economic fallout — expected to dominate the discussion.

Don’t be surprised if several or even most of the members participate remotely, as they did for a special meeting last week — taking “social distancing” safeguards against the spread of the virus as the city operates under a strict new “Safer at Home” order from the Health Department.

Last Tuesday, during that special meeting (which followed the cancellation of the regular Monday session), only Vice Mayor Tyron Hampton and Council Member Victor Gordo, among council members, were on hand in person. The other members phoned in and participated via conference call.

Hampton chaired the meeting, with Mayor Terry Tornek absent as he traveled home from Africa, where he headed up a city contingent that visited Pasadena’s sister city, Dakar-Plateau, Senegal. Tornek has since returned.

Don’t be surprised, either, if Tornek’s absence from the city during such a critical time becomes at least a talking point during the meeting, perhaps during public comments.

In an email to Pasadena Now on Monday, city spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said there was “no decision vs. call in or in person yet” as it applies to council members at next Monday’s meeting.

Derderian did confirm that public access will be limited, as it was during last Tuesday’s special session — with seats in the usually crowded audience section of the Council Chambers spaced six feet apart for social-distancing reasons.

In further signs of the new normal during the coronavirus crisis, the two police officers assigned to guard last week’s meeting wore protective face masks throughout, and sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer were in ample supply.

City Manager Steve Mermell, City Clerk Mark Jomsky and City Attorney Michele Bagneris also attended in-person last week.

The agenda for next Monday’s meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, was still being compiled as of Monday, but the coronavirus crisis will surely dominate the evening.

Typically, agendas are made public on the Thursday before a regularly scheduled meeting. They are available at http://ww2.cityofpasadena.net/councilagendas/council_agenda.asp

The meeting will also be broadcast on the city website at https://www.cityofpasadena.net/city-clerk/audio-video-archives/

Last Tuesday, the council passed a series of items aimed at helping Pasadena survive the economic fallout of the crisis, including an eviction moratorium that provides some safeguards for both businesses and residential renters.

Council members also brainstormed other possible relief measures, and those could come up at next Monday’s meeting as well. Among them:

A fund to assist businesses ordered not to operate during the COVID-19 crisis.

Possibly suspending various fees and utility costs for some businesses.

Possibly suspending overnight parking restrictions, and/or relaxing some parking restrictions in the business district.

Exploring rental assistance for tenants.

Exploring emergency loans for businesses.

Securing cleaning supplies for seniors.

Gordo has said the city has about $70 million in its reserve fund, and that some of that money could be ticketed to finance initiatives such as those.

Besides the eviction moratorium, the economic-relief measures approved last week were:

Suspending late fees and penalties for city services such as water, power and garbage pickup.

Suspending utility shutoffs for non-payment.

Modifying various parking rules, including: the temporary suspension of metered parking enforcement to facilitate delivery and curbside pickup zones for food from restaurants; the temporary suspension of non-critical vehicle impounds; and the temporary suspension of impounds of vehicles with five or more past-due parking citations or expired registrations.

The eviction moratorium will be in place as long as the city’s local emergency remains in effect. It safeguards renters from eviction “for non-payment of rent if the tenant is unable to pay due to financial impacts related to COVID-19’’; or, “for a no-fault eviction unless necessary for the health and safety of tenants, neighbors or the landlord.’’

Under the moratorium’s guidelines, renters would still have to settle any unpaid rent within six months of the city officially ending its local emergency.

The council last week also approved using up to $150,000, at least initially, from the city’s general-fund reserves to start a meals program for seniors, the disabled and other vulnerable citizens. That figure will be revisited, and perhaps revised, in future meetings.

Dr. Ying-Ying Goh, the city’s health officer, gave a detailed update last week on the status of the coronavirus’s spread, as well as city, county and state efforts to mitigate the contagion. It’s likely she will participate in next Monday’s meeting as well, for further updates.

The “reassignment” of Fire Chief Bertral Washington was a hot topic at the three previous regular council meetings, and that matter could also arise next Monday, as supporters of Washington have shown up en masse to council sessions and vowed to continue pushing for his reinstatement.

Washington, one of the city’s high-ranking African-American officials, was reassigned to Mermell’s office on Feb. 10 – officially, to perform work on the city’s Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) program.

But at the time, Allen Edson, president of the NAACP, issued a statement saying he viewed the move “suspiciously.”

“It has also been reported to the NAACP by local sources of workplace harassment of Chief Washington by the Pasadena Firefighters Association,” Edson said.

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