Non-essential travel and moorings major discussion point at Avalon City Council meetings

City-owned moorings in Avalon Harbor opened to the public May 22.

AVALON—Moorings on both ends of Catalina Island are now open to visiting boaters.

“I think the best way to start generating some revenue and bringing people back to town at a slow rate would be through the harbor,” Mayor Pro-Tem Cinde MacGugan-Cassidy said at the May 13 City Council meeting.

Addressing non-essential travel to the island was a major topic of discussion related to the Coronavirus at the May 13 City Council meeting. Several public comments were submitted from visiting boaters expressing their desire to have the harbor opened back up.

“Please open your harbors, shops and restaurants as soon as you can and know that you will be visited,” one commenter from Long Beach wrote in a comment read aloud by city staff at the May 13 meeting. “We have been coming to the island for over 30 years and miss it terribly.”

Another major point of discussion was whether to modify or extend a section of an urgency ordinance limiting hotels and vacation rentals to persons engaging in essential activities only. The ordinance was set to expire May 31.

The topics came back to the council at the May 19 meeting and drew a large amount of public comment. Many Avalon residents, business owners and workers urged the Council to reopen the island.

“There are precautions and safe practice measures that need to be put in place but this continued lockdown is becoming worse than the virus itself. Our beautiful city of Avalon and our treasured history of Catalina Island needs to be appreciated, visited and opened,” one submitted comment read aloud stated.

Others expressed concerns about compliance with safety guidelines, including social distancing, masks, no dinning in and checklists for businesses that are open.

“I believe pushing to open prior to health department inspections governing the opening of businesses is a mistake, we have been given stipulations from the state regarding the requirements for reopening businesses but no one is checking to see if the state’s requirements are being followed,” another comment read into the record stated.

Council members voted 4-1 at the May 19 meeting to lift the section of a city urgency ordinance concerning Covid-19 that prohibited new transient occupancies of city-owned moorings for non-residents, beginning May 22. Councilmember Lisa Lavelle cast the no vote and echoed concerns that health and safety guidelines related to Covid-19 were not being followed.

“My thought had been great, let’s open the harbor and see how that goes, let’s wait a week or two and then go ahead and get everything else open and going again,” Lavelle said. “I don’t see this weekend how we can open at 100 percent safely if the restaurants that are open, the businesses that are choosing to be open and the city pathways for the harbor are not ready yet.”

Shoulder rates (buy four nights get three nights free) will be effective through June 15. After June 15, the nightly rates will take effect and be in place through Oct. 15.

“Avalon will continually evaluate the conditions for keeping the Harbor open and the Harbor Master will develop and implement procedures for safety of Harbor visitors and Harbor Patrol, including such procedures as necessary to safely deliver supplies to boats in the Harbor,” the ordinance read.

Boaters using the moorings will be expected to follow the safety guidelines provided by the harbor master.

At the May 19 meeting, council members also extensively discussed the portion of the urgency ordinance limiting hotel occupancies and vacation rentals to persons engaged in essential activities.

Up for a vote was extending a section of the urgent ordinance limiting non-essential transient occupancies until the end of Los Angeles County’s phase two of safe reopening. Los Angeles County has laid out a five phase plan for safe reopening and is currently at phase two.

After not being able to get to the four votes required to pass, council members voted unanimously to remove the section from the urgency ordinance. The topic could come back to the City Council.

The city still falls under and is aligning with the rules governed by the state and Los Angeles County, including those regarding non-essential travel.

“Sections three and seven follow exactly what the county says right now, that is the same rules the county has,” City Attorney Scott Campbell said. “If you do not pass this, what you’re saying is the city of Avalon is not going to be regulating, not going to be citing anyone, we just defer to the county on this.”

In accordance with Los Angeles County safe reopening guidelines, hiking trails and beaches have reopened for recreational activity on Catalina Island, as well as some retail businesses.


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