The Burbank City Council this week didn’t discuss the possibility of fining people who don’t follow face-covering guidelines, as a report on the subject was withdrawn from a meeting’s agenda.
Though he had asked city staff members to look into the possibility of enforcing Los Angeles County masking protocols with a fine at a previous council meeting, Councilman Jess Talamantes requested that the panel withdraw the item at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting.
In response to a caller who asked about the item during public comment, Talamantes said he “didn’t feel it was the right time to discuss it.”
However, some residents expressed frustration with the move, having wanted to see the city follow Glendale, West Hollywood, Santa Monica and other cities that have sought to enforce face-covering requirements with fines.
Burbank resident Brooke Purdy said she was in line to call in her public comment in support of mask enforcement on Tuesday, but became so frustrated when Talamantes pulled the item that she hung up.
“Right now, Burbank numbers are rising of COVID infections, and City Council continues to do nothing,” she said in a phone interview. “My question is, ‘When is the right time?’”
Purdy said she goes on nightly runs along the Chandler bike path to relieve stress, wearing a mask when she does, but finds that “40% to 50%” of people — particularly bikers — aren’t wearing face coverings while on the trail.
According to a fact sheet on the city website, residents are required to have a face covering with them whenever they leave the house, and to wear it when they near someone not part of their household. The bike path is specifically mentioned as an area in which visitors must be wearing face masks if others are on the path.
After taking to social media, Purdy said she found that several others in Burbank Facebook groups shared her concerns about people not wearing masks while outside.
“Money is the only thing that is going to speak to these people, because they obviously don’t care about human lives,” she said.
Talamantes did not respond to requests for comment on the agenda item.
In the withdrawn report, the Burbank Police Department warned against instituting fines, saying its emphasis on education and issuing warnings has proved successful. Most complaints regarding people not wearing face coverings have centered on trails and bike paths, rather than businesses, according to the report.
The report also indicated that calls for service related to COVID-19 have decreased since the end of May and that only four of the 16 coronavirus-related calls received during June and July referenced people not wearing face coverings.
“As with any regulations, it is always challenging to get 100% compliance,” the BPD wrote. “The Police Department finds that the City’s proactive approach is reasonable and is the most productive route, and in general has ensured people and businesses have been properly educated on the Order and most do comply.”
Starting Monday, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department will offer permits to gyms to hold outdoor classes at its ballfields, a move meant to help an industry severely limited by the coronavirus pandemic.
The resolution, which the City Council approved unanimously, will allow fitness centers to use one of the city’s 15 ballfields for their services. Permits will be offered by the department for an affordable fee, according to its director, Marisa Garcia.
The city also uses the ballfields for its own programs, such as limited youth sports, which take priority over those of businesses, but Garcia said she believes there are enough areas to go around.
Gyms and other fitness centers have been faced with health orders that have closed their doors to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have offered virtual fitness classes, but Mayor Sharon Springer noted that those may not be ideal for everyone.
“They have clients who are used to supervised, guided exercise and this is a way for them to continue,” she said.
Talamantes voiced concern about how Garcia’s department would enforce the permit requirement, with the director agreeing that some businesses are already holding fitness classes in the parks. Her department and the BPD will be keeping an eye on the area to make sure groups have permits, she explained.
“What we’re trying to do is manage those groups instead of just kicking them out,” she said.