The Big Bear Lake City Council unanimously approved a statement that allows businesses and residents within the city of Big Bear Lake to take their own action in regard to the governor’s stay at home order. There are effectively no rules being enforced, no plan and no enforcement in the city of Big Bear Lake effective immediately.
During a special meeting May 21, the council approved a statement that reads “City will not enforce governor’s orders, encourages all businesses and residents to maintain 6 feet of separation, wear face coverings and practice good hygiene as outlined in city plan.”
Frank Rush, city manager, said because of the low number of cases in the Valley and the tremendous economic and social harm to businesses, the legal option is to state that the city will not enforce the governor’s orders. But that doesn’t mean the city is going to enforce the plan the City Council adopted a couple of weeks ago, at least not now. If the governor adopts the plan submitted to the state or the county receives a variance and the state adopts its plan, the city will absolutely enforce its plan at that time, Rush said.
Big Bear businesses and individual are encouraged to adopt the guidelines included in city’s plan even though it is not being implemented nor enforced. Business owners are reminded to take personal responsibility in making decisions to open their business, consider the risks to their staff, customers and their licenses, Rush said.
City attorney Steve Deitsch said there are risks to the city’s action and business owners should also consider their individual risks.
Councilman Dave Caretto said he has heard both sides of the argument after being closed down for weeks. Businesses are hanging on by a thread in some cases and he understands the need to re-open. Caretto said residents on the other side are concerned that there is no enforcement of the governor’s order or the city’s plan and it will be “wild, wild west” out there with no rules. “Everybody can do what they want,” Caretto said.
The city cannot implement its plan without the governor or county’s blessing. It can be recommended, Rush said, but the council action with issuing the statement stops short of enforcement to avoid the legal risk. It crosses a line to replace the city’s plan with the governor’s order that creates more risk, Rush said.
Deitsch said the city is not under any legal obligation to enforce the governor’s order.
Rush said it is his intent to rely on educating the public, but if the governor were to suddenly adopt the city’s plan, it would absolutely be enforced.
Under the action taken by the council, the city only states it will not enforce Governor Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order that keeps businesses closed. The governor has created a phased approach to re-opening businesses based on science and data. The City Council’s action allows Big Bear Lake businesses the freedom to make their own decision regarding whether to open or not, including all retail, dine-in restaurants, gyms, churches, salons. The decision is only applicable to the city of Big Bear Lake. Any business in the unincorporated areas still falls under San Bernardino County authority and the governor’s order.
Rush said in his conversations with business owners, he feels they appreciate the concern and the importance of keeping staff and customers safe and he is highly confident they will do the right thing.
Councilman Randy Putz said he wanted to clarify that the city is not re-opening businesses nor is it defying the governor’s order. The city is just not enforcing the governor’s orders and encouraging city business owners if they are considering re-opening to do so carefully based on their own circumstances and knowing the risks. Putz said the city is walking a fine line in a tricky time to support the business community and minimize the risk to the city. “Time will tell,” Putz said.
Mayor Rick Herrick asked the council members, city staff and the 80 something people on the Zoom meeting, many of whom are business owners, to set a good example and wear face coverings in public. The city can mandate face coverings, according to Deitsch, but the council chose not to do so at this time.
Matt Scriven, who owns multiple businesses in the city, urged the council to adopt a face-covering mandate to avoid confusion. He said his store will require them, but the business next door may not. It will create confusion and animosity, Scriven said. Asking won’t get compliance, he said.
Bob Ybarra also urged the council to adopt a mandatory face-covering rule.
Herrick said his intent is to set a good example, but if things unravel after this weekend, then the council can come back and make it mandatory.
Bob Pool, president of the Visit Big Bear board, thanked the City Council for its efforts in allowing for the safe and slow re-opening of Big Bear business and “we will follow” the city’s plan. He Pool did not indicate who “we” referred to.
While not being enforced, the city is encouraging businesses in the city of Big Bear Lake to follow the city’s plan for re-opening in terms of 50 percent occupancy, maintaining physical distancing, wearing face coverings and practicing good hygiene.