Councilmembers ask for report on the legislative power of the city council, gym owners chime in with support

Gyms+have+been+closed+since+March+due+to+both+state+and+county+health+orders.+The+Long+Beach+City+Council+approved+an+item+directing+city+staff+to+look+into+the+legislative+power+of+the+city+council+to+weigh+in+on+openings+and+closures+in+the+region.++%28Illustration+by+Emma+DiMaggio+%7C+Signal+Tribune%29

Gyms have been closed since March due to both state and county health orders. The Long Beach City Council approved an item directing city staff to look into the legislative power of the city council to weigh in on openings and closures in the region. (Illustration by Emma DiMaggio | Signal Tribune)

As businesses like gyms struggle with reopening guidelines, or the lack thereof, Councilmember Suzie Price proposed an informational item directing city staff to report back on the legislative power of the council at their Tuesday, Oct. 20 meeting.

“We have been told since day one of this pandemic in mid-March that the city council really has no standing to weigh in on the issues regarding the openings and closures of our small businesses,” Price said, noting the guidelines for openings, closures and mask-wearing.

So far, she said, councilmembers have been advised that the City’s Health Department has the final say-so on reopening.

As neighboring Orange County begins to reopen more segments of the economy, councilmembers are curious to figure out how much power the city council can wield in terms of reopening.

“I don’t believe that is our responsibility to only follow the leadership of the city manager,” Councilmember Stacy Mungo said. “We are to lead and quite frankly, I don’t believe the citizens of Long Beach feel as though certain individuals, who have no accountability to residents, should be making these types of decisions.”

The loss of business revenue, personal income, payroll and jobs due to this shutdown in our industry are irreparable.”

— Lisa Kammel, co-owner of Executive Fitness in Naples

The report back from the city attorney will be an “informational item” that will help guide councilmembers’ decision-making and explain the scope of their power.

The item comes after a discussion at last week’s meeting where Price questioned the health orders, particularly in their application across similar businesses. For example, massage studios run by physical therapists are considered an essential medical service, while non-medical massages are considered “personal care” under the guidelines.

This week, gym owners joined the conversation. Many haven’t been open since March 17, the last day of a three-week reopening that was quickly shuttered by the state health mandate.

During public comment, multiple gym owners from Naples enumerated their grievances about the closures. All voiced support of the item in hopes that the findings of the report will allow gyms to reopen.

“The loss of business revenue, personal income, payroll and jobs due to this shutdown in our industry are irreparable,” Lisa Kammel, co-owner of Executive Fitness in Naples, said.

“One mile away from my brick and mortar studio, fitness facilities are open,” she said. “Orange County is repairing the benefits financially due to this demise.”

Long Beach stuck in restrictive “purple tier” due to Los Angeles County daily case count

Orange County is one step closer to fully reopening. The county has entered the “red tier” of the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, representing a substantial risk level.

According to state data from Oct. 10, Orange County has had 4.6 new COVID-19 cases per day per 100,000 residents, a 3.2% positivity rate.

The red tier comes with extra perks– they’ve been able to open up gyms at 10% capacity to the dismay of nearby Long Beach gyms.

Clarissa Bauer is the owner of a 9Round kickboxing franchise location in Naples, Long Beach.

During public comment, she said that her business has lost 60% of its revenue compared to this time last year. She’s had to fire half of her trainers to cut expenses and her manager is leaving at the end of the month “to work in Orange County where he can get more hours.”

Meanwhile. Long Beach, which belongs to Los Angeles County, still remains in the restrictive “purple tier,” where risk is still considered widespread. Under this tier, many non-essential business operations are closed, according to the state’s blueprint.

The numbers reflected here are from the State of California Blueprint for a Safer Economy. The data used to create this graphic is from October 10, 2020.

According to state data from Oct. 10, Los Angeles County has had 10.1 new covid cases per day per 100,000 residents, a 3.4% positivity rate.

Though the positivity rate is only slightly higher than Orange County’s, the daily case numbers have been preventative in allowing Los Angeles County to enter into the red tier.

These designations, which come down from the state, are meant to categorize counties in a tiered approach that allows for reopening as counties reduce their case numbers.

The four tiers of reopening are guidelines set forth by the State of California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. (Emma DiMaggio)

As of Oct. 20, Long Beach has had 12,805 positive cases, but Los Angeles County overall has had over 290,000 cases. Orange County has had 57,635 cases.

Long Beach is one of the few cities in the state that have their own health department. So far, they’ve been subject to both state and county health orders.

As the health order currently states, Los Angeles County will have to lower their daily new case count down to 4 to 7 cases per day to enter the red tier and further reopen businesses.

Gym owners chime in with support

For Bauer, the financial losses of the pandemic have been substantial. Her PPE loans were extended in June, four months ago.

“The idle advance wasn’t even enough to cover one month’s rent here on Naples Island,” Bauer said. “The multiple shutdowns of gyms this year has caused me tens of thousands of dollars in membership refunds.”

She said they’d tried both virtual and outdoor workouts, but neither were successful enough to offset the business’s losses.

“With no planned reopening of Long Beach fitness studios in the near term, the sustainability of our business is in serious doubt,” Bauer said.

David Rosett, owner of Naples Fitness Studio, is now tens of thousands of dollars in debt to maintain the lease of his storefront on Second Street.

During the three-week reopening period, he said his business spent thousands of dollars ensuring that the location could follow safety protocols. He bought plexiglass partitions, signage, air purification systems, sanitizers and touchless sanitizer dispensers.

Since March, his gym has been closed.

The gym owners all expressed hope that the report from the city attorney will help answer questions about the council’s authority and potentially pave the way to reopening.

“We are trying to balance the health and well-being of every single resident before anything else,” Councilmember Jeannine Pearce said.

The item was approved unanimously with no particular due date for the report to come back to council.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Long Beach City Council will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 17.