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Local News

Shelter in place is now a county ordinance

April 1, 2020 — The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously March 31 to pass an urgency ordinance that makes the public health officer’s orders during the pandemic a county ordinance, enforceable by county staff, including code enforcement from Planning and Building and all peace officers with jurisdiction in the county. There are also penalties: $10,000 per violation, per day for commercial violations, intended to discourage non-compliant businesses from viewing fines as the cost of doing business and continuing to violate the orders. There’s a lesser amount of $500 per violation per day for non-commercial violations, like having big parties.

The original intent was to shut down vacation rental platforms, which have been the subject of many complaints to the county’s call center and the sheriff’s department as frightened people hunker down, keeping one eye on their neighbors and the other on social media. 

Public comment during this time of social distancing is confined to written messages, and the shutdown was the subject of much of it. One member of the public wrote an email to the Board suggesting that troopers close the roads into the county, writing, “We need to fly the colors for a few days to discourage people to the North and South from fleeing here.” The comments were echoed in two other other messages, with another writer expressing concern about people traveling into the county to stockpile supplies. Others would like some provisions of the order to be relaxed, like a man who wrote that he needs to drive to a location where he can walk on flat ground to exercise, according to advice from his doctor and physical therapist. And another man wrote that law enforcement had told him to stop fishing at Mill Pond, though he said he was doing so to feed his family and is a licensed fishing guide.

Shortly before the meeting adjourned unexpectedly, due to a medical emergency for key personnel,  Senator Mike McGuire got on the line to talk about how the state plans to help localities fund a desired 40% surge in hospital beds and house the homeless. 

The governor’s idea about using fairgrounds to shelter homeless people generated letters of opposition from representatives of the Charter Academy of the Redwoods and Tree of Life Montessori, which use property on or near the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds in Ukiah. A 4-H leader and the president of the fair board also objected to the possibility of using the fairgrounds for the purpose, writing that they were concerned about the possibility of students and members of the 4-H and FFA being exposed to syringes and other debris.

The CDC does not recommend breaking up homeless encampments at this time, for fear of dispersing people who may be infected. A CDC memo attached to the BoS agenda packet yesterday suggested “Encourage (ing) people staying in encampments to set up their tents/sleeping quarters with at least 12 feet x 12 feet of space per individual.” McGuire said there is about $290,000 of state money coming to Mendocino County to put people up in motel rooms.

Congressman Jared Huffman also put in a remote appearance, to talk about congressional actions to help local governments, and take supervisors’ questions. Here’s a half-hour look at more details about the county ordinance, and how our local government fits into the state and federal context.


Details about the new ordinance declaring the public health officer's orders, plus Congressman Jared Huffman and Senator Mike McGuire on state and federal relief.


Local News