Indoor events will soon be allowed in LA County, but Long Beach’s civic chamber is still empty—for now

While crowds will be allowed back inside Staples Center, Disneyland and even some concert venues this week, Long Beach residents will have to wait longer before being allowed back inside the civic chambers for public meetings, according to a city official.

City Hall has been closed to the public for over a year due to COVID-19 restrictions on indoor gatherings, but officials initiated an effort to bring City Council meetings back to an in-person setting last month.

A memo sent to city management last week outlined a number of obstacles that the city says still remain, including contact tracing, capacity limits, health screenings and possible furniture rearrangement, and assessing the chambers’ ventilation needs.

City Manager Tom Modica said nothing was “imminent” and it could still be a few weeks before these issues are worked out.

In addition to working out technical kinks, the city must also meet with its various employee unions to notice them of changes to their work environment, the memo said.

Councilman Al Austin requested at the beginning of March that city management look at ways to bring the council back inside the civic chambers to host their weekly meetings and other committee meetings after a year of meeting virtually. There’s also been a large public push for greater access to meetings with community advocates charging that the digital setting has diminished the democratic process.

However, Austin’s request faced pushback from other council members who said that much of their staff had yet to be vaccinated and forcing them into an indoor setting in the council chambers could endanger them. The council voted instead to pivot to live-video meetings while it waited for a report from city management.

Long Beach last week opened up vaccinations to all adults over the age of 16. It’s unclear how many city employees have yet to be vaccinated.

Los Angeles County officials said Monday that it would largely adopt statewide rules that will allow for indoor events like concerts and attending sporting events, but with a stricter limit on capacity. However, Long Beach, which has its own health department, has yet to announce how it would implement the new guidelines for indoor events.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.