Pandemic Protocols and Face Mask Chic

Posted by Mike Michalski on Saturday, April 11th, 2020.

While everyone is in lock-down mode, the pace of current events seems to have actually sped up.  Each day brings new data (for example, COVID-19 deaths nationwide are now looking like they'll be well below 100,000, compared to original estimates just a month ago of as many as 2.2 million deaths), new protocols (social distancing and face masks are trending, reusable grocery bags are now out of favor) and even new fashion statements (see above).
And with both LA County and the Manhattan Beach City Council focusing their energies almost exclusively on the pandemic (our City Council now meets 3 times a week during the crisis), there are new announcements virtually every day from City Hall and/or LA County.
Here are some of the most recent issues -
  1. Face Masks - Critical PPE item or 'Coronavirus couture'?

    Actually, it appears they're now both.  Certainly, face masks are an essential item in our first responders' protective gear, particularly the disposable N95 respirators that have been in such short supply.

    And as we write this post, the County of Los Angeles has now mandated that all residents throughout Los Angeles County, including Manhattan Beach, must wear a face covering over their noses and mouths when entering businesses, such as, grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, hardware stores, laundry services, and restaurants.  These do not have to be medical grade surgical masks or N95 respirators (which are needed on the medical front lines) and can even be homemade face cloths.

    In many Asian countries, donning a mask before going outside is as routine as putting on a pair of shoes, widely considered a civic duty to protect others. As the coronavirus threat continues, the West is now catching up to this custom.

    But could wearing a face covering be a new fashion statement as well?  Face coverings were  already an extreme fashion statement for some prior to the coronavirus outbreak. In January, pop star Billie Eilish donned a Gucci face mask at the Grammy Awards.

    Now it's looking like face coverings could become a permanent lifestyle accessory.
      Maybe it's time.

    Construction Sites - Essential business activity or Pandemic Central?

    These are tough times for everyone but particularly so for spec developers or any homeowner attempting to build his/her own custom home or to remodel an existing home here in Manhattan Beach. It appears that the anti-construction and anti-development crowd has gained a foothold at City Hall in their efforts to curtail all construction activity locally.

    As we detailed in a prior blog post (see Burning Down The Village), City Council had initially voted to ban all residential construction in Manhattan Beach in their over-reaction to the pandemic, only to be reminded by Governor Newsom that residential construction is an essential business activity (so is real estate sales, by the way).  A few days later, the ban was lifted.

    Just this past Friday, Council was set to reconsider a proposal that was first introduced last year well before the pandemic to reduce the number of permissible construction days in Manhattan Beach from  6 days to 5.  However, after significant opposition from the development and real estate communities, the proposal was tabled.

    In place of banning all residential construction in the city or reducing the number of permissible construction days, Council imposed a stringent set of construction site protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.   Each site is required to implement an Exposure Control Plan to protect both the workers and the community.  These include rules about social distancing and handwashing or hand-sanitizing stations at every site, the wearing of masks and gloves and appropriate on-site signage detailing all the new rules.  Failure to abide by these rules can result in some hefty fines as well as a temporary closure of the site.  

    The new protocols are sensible and a reasonable alternative to banning or limiting construction, given that residential construction is almost universally recognized as a cornerstone of most communities' economic vitality and a pillar of support for property values, the property taxes on which are most communities' primary source of revenue (including Manhattan Beach where 44% of the general fund's revenues for fiscal year 2019-20 are derived from property taxes).

    But none of this registers with the anti-construction NIMBY's (Not In My BackYard) whose real objections are more parochial and not related to the coronavirus at all - they simply don't like the noise and the impact on street parking from those construction sites.  Now they feel they've been empowered with a new weapon in their arsenal to shut down construction - social distance snitching.

    So they'll hover around the construction sites - the ones closest to their own homes, naturally - like virtue-signaling gnats, waiting for an opportunity, with cell phone cameras in hand, to snap two workers who happen to meander too close to each other just so they can submit their ‘evidence’ to the Building Department and/or Council as well as call the police dispatch number (which is currently overwhelmed with such calls).

    We know of at least one construction project that has opted to go on hiatus rather than contend with intrusive NIMBY neighbors itching for a reason to complain to the City.

    Amazingly, some on Council actually support this sort of thing and seem to view the development community as the enemy.  Councilmember Hersman, for example, made reference to the builders and their workers playing a 'cat-and-mouse game' with the new COVID-19 compliance rules (right, Nancy, because they've got nothing better to do than to flaunt the rules and risk having their site shut down).  

    In a letter to Council, one local builder/realtor said it best, "Simply put, construction workers are not an enemy but an essential contributor to the economic health and well being of our community."  One would think this would be self-evident to our Council but apparently not to everyone.

  2.  Strand Homes - Desirable beachfront location or the Venus flytrap of homes?

    Is living on the Manhattan Beach Strand the ultimate dream?  Those sweeping vistas of the beach and the ocean, which serve as your backyard and your own saltwater pool, the walk strip adjacent to your patio for strolling downtown or jogging, the nearby bike path as well, all of which can be enjoyed while soaking up that fresh ocean air.

    Now the beach and the ocean are off limits; you can't even go out onto the adjoining Strand walk strip or bike path.  For that matter, you can't even hang out in back of your home on Ocean Avenue - $1000 ticket either way you go.

    Suddenly, all the outdoor amenities of the Strand are tantalizingly out of reach.  Enjoy them at your pocketbook's peril.

    And unless your home sits on one of those super nice extra-large corner lots with a nice sideyard and walkstreet access, you really have few outdoor options other than maybe a small 1st floor patio or an upper floor deck. 

    It's as if your beachfront home has suddenly become a residential version of a Venus flytrap, the flower that's attractive to insects and small rodents who, once they enter, are entrapped and can't leave.

    But all this has to end at some point, right?  Currently, LA County is under a "Safer at Home" order that is tentatively scheduled to be lifted May 15.

    We'll see.  

    In the meantime, we're just throwing this out there but we own a nice, 5000 sqft Cape Cod-style Tree section home, built in 2012, that we might consider doing a straight-up trade if you're getting claustrophobic.  Bigger than average Tree section lot with a nice backyard space that's fully landscaped with covered patio and open-air fire pit, plus you can walk out your front door without risking a ticket.  Easy access to the greenbelt for exercise as well.

    Again, just running it up the flagpole.  Serious inquiries only.

    In all seriousness, stay safe and enjoy the holiday weekend.

This entry was posted under Realty Bites, Manhattan Beach, and New Construction.