Mayor Garcetti says L.A. considering closing some streets for pedestrian use

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday said the city is considering closing some streets to give residents more space to exercise amid the pandemic.

“So as the beaches open, we can also have places for inland folks to walk safely — not events, not gathering places — but places where we can make sure we get outside and enjoy L.A.,” he said.

This would mean restricting traffic on certain streets, especially in densely-populated areas, to create more space for pedestrians, the mayor said.

“We’re working with council members like Mike Bonin, and council members around the San Fernando Valley, central parts, south parts of our cities to find those neighborhoods that are ready,” he said.

Bonin represents Del Rey, which last month was planning on restricting traffic on about a dozen residential streets to give residents more walking space, saying sidewalks have become so crowded in the evenings that people are forced into the street to maintain physical distancing guidelines, the Los Angeles Times reported.

L.A. city officials later put the plan on hold.

Garcetti had told the Times last week that he was “very supportive” of limiting traffic on some L.A. streets but that county health officials advised that it could draw too many people to one area.

The mayor on Monday didn’t provide a timeline for when streets might close to traffic or which were being considered.

With gyms closed and people hunkered down at home, public health officials have advised residents to exercise outside —but keep a safe distance away from others.

L.A. County officials on Monday announced that beaches can reopen for active-use only starting Wednesday. People can walk, run, swim and surf, but they can’t lounge and sunbathe. 

After being closed for a month, beaches are the latest recreational areas in the county to get the green light to reopen. On Friday, most trails and golf courses were allowed to reopen, with social distancing rules in place.

On the trails, most people adhered to public safety rules over the weekend, Garcetti said.

“Many people wore masks, and most people physical distanced, but it needs to be all people wearing masks and all people physically distancing,” he said.

He reminded residents that they have to wear masks and keep 6 feet away from others on the trails.

“If necessary, we will shut those down, the trails that get too busy, but so far so good,” he said.

Curbside pickups were also allowed Friday at stores that sell books, clothing, toys, shoes, sporting goods and flowers.

And with florists reopening for business just in time for Mother’s Day, a lot of people flocked to the L.A. Flower Market to pick up bouquets for their loved ones, according to the mayor.

To mitigate crowding on the weekend, the city and county ended up sending inspectors to the market, where 27 businesses got notices of violations, Garcetti said.

L.A. County’s public health director Barbara Ferrer said that more than a third of reopened businesses surveyed by health inspectors countywide over the weekend were in violation of policies like requiring customers to wear face coverings.

Ferrer has stressed that adherence to social distancing guidelines will help shape how the county will move forward with reopening.

And even as local and state officials inch toward easing some restrictions to allow certain locations to reopen with modifications, officials have warned that densely-populated L.A. could transition through the phases of reopening at a much slower pace than other counties in the state, especially as having more people out and about creates the risk of a spike in cases.

The county remains the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in California, with about half the state’s known infections.

A total of 32,258 people in L.A. County have tested positive for the coronavirus and 1,569 people have died because of the respiratory illness it causes.

Officials confirmed 591 new cases and 39 deaths in the past 24 hours.

Answering a question about whether allowing businesses to reopen was premature, Garcetti said the numbers have been stable in recent weeks.

“We hit our peak, and it’s come down a little bit, in terms of our deaths, and it’s not going up,” Garcetti said.

But he emphasized officials will keep monitoring the numbers to make decisions about reopening the economy.

“It’s only successful if people adhere to the guidance given out there,” he said.

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