LOS ANGELES - In a near-empty chamber, the Los Angeles City Council voted to approve several emergency motions Tuesday addressing the rapidly worsening coronavirus pandemic.
The motions included having the city create a temporary restriction on evictions for people affected by the loss or reduction of work hours because of the outbreak, and providing people with at least 14 days of paid sick leave during a public health crisis or major disaster, Council President Nury Martinez' office said.
"There are a lot of uncertainties out there, but I think today, with all the motions that we filed, we want to assure the public that this council is here to move this city forward," Martinez said. "We will get through this together."
The moratorium does not eliminate the money people must pay for rent, but rather is a deferral for people whose jobs have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak. It would give people up to six months to fulfill their payment obligations.
For every renter not paying, there will be a landlord not getting the money that they need, said Rushmore Cervantes, the general manager of the city's Housing and Community Investment Department.
The motions would require landlords and tenants to figure out a payment plan, and would authorize the city attorney to issue penalties to landlords who do not notify their tenants of their rights.
Councilman David Ryu said he's been working with the mayor's office to secure more coronavirus testing kits, and he filed a motion to identify funding to order kits immediately and to implement public testing, including drive-through stations.
Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez introduced several motions that included a moratorium on street vending, one to provide financial assistance to families and businesses in her Seventh Council District, economic relief for restaurants and to establish hand sanitizing stations at bus shelters.
"COVID-19 is unlike any crisis our city has ever experienced and we must do everything we can to ensure the public's health and safety." Rodriguez said. "Relief to individuals and families impacted by this global pandemic is our goal post, the immediate priority of doing everything possible to mitigate any further exposure and spread of coronavirus."
The council also voted to continue paying city workers whose jobs are affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
Council members filed about 45 emergency motions related to the virus, and the City Council is expected to put many of those provisions in effect at its next meeting or subsequent meetings.
Councilman Herb Wesson said the council has to act quickly on the motions in order to help the city's most vulnerable residents survive and he wants to discuss these issues with stakeholders. Wesson filed a motion to provide rental assistance to low-income people and students, particularly in college, who have been affected by the outbreak.
The council also said cleaning will continue to take place at homeless encampments, and a motion to allow homeless people to leave their tents up during the day was approved for further consideration.
Councilman Mitch O'Farrell said he wants to make sure people understand the emergency provisions.
"I can't think of a worse time to be confused in our approach to the homeless encampments," O'Farrell said. "Let's just not kid ourselves, there are dangers and hazards out there, and we have to keep (the cleanups) going.
This will pass, the arch will flatten... what decisions we make will have consequences for life afterward."
Restrooms at city parks may also be allowed to be open 24 hours and security would be provided, but funding for that still needs to be identified.
The Emergency Management Department will report back to the City Council next Tuesday on the cost of opening emergency child-care centers that care for children of first responders, city employees and health care workers.
Members of the public were not allowed into the Council Chamber during the meeting but they could still make comments remotely, and the chamber was limited to fewer than 50 people, distancing themselves at least six feet apart.
Television crews and photographers were not allowed in the council horseshoe area or on the risers, unlike regular council meetings.
Mayor Eric Garcetti closed Civic Center buildings to the public last week, including City Hall.
One public speaker said people who work for her are going to be affected, and she said she was in favor of putting a moratorium on evictions.
"I can't breathe ... there's no income coming into my restaurant. People are so terrified, they're not even doing delivery," the speaker said.
Another person said she wouldn't be able to pay her rent if she can't work.
Martinez canceled all council meetings through the rest of the month, except for Tuesday, March 24 and 31. Council committees are also canceled as are council presentations.
Martinez said she could change this timeline given the rapidly changing news on the coronavirus pandemic, and whether the council will continue to meet this month will depend on how much the virus spreads.