SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- After a lengthy Tuesday night debate, the Santa Barbara City Council voted unanimously to give police officers and trained downtown ambassadors the power to enforce wearing masks to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
"The city will do targeted outreach and education in high risk areas with writing citations as a last resort," said Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo.
They will enforce mask wearing in targeted areas with a lot of foot traffic such as the 500 block of State Street when people knowingly do not follow the governor's mask order.
The mayor said the goal is to reopen.
"We want our schools open, we want all of our businesses to open. Our message is we want everyone to be wearing a mask in public places."
During public comment, some people favored the motion in an effort to save lives, others said it was too heavy-handed.
There are signs up asking people to wear masks in areas where businesses offer outdoor service. The city is making new signs that will be placed throughout out the city to educate people about the mask requirement.
City staff found about 90% compliance with the mask order last weekend on State Street, Rob Dayton, Santa Barbara's transportation planning and parking manager, said during the meeting.
He said they were out on State Street from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday handing out masks and educating people on the requirement.
Dayton said they conducted a survey to figure out why some people were not wearing a mask. He said 38% of people who were not wearing a mask were aware of the mask order and 62% said they were not aware.
People who were not wearing a mask gave a variety of reasons why: they said they forgot to bring a mask, intended to keep six foot distancing, were engaged in outdoor recreation, said masks are uncomfortable or were not aware of the governor's order, Dayton said.
The council did not decide on a fine structure but city staff members said it would be similar to getting a parking infraction or ticket.
Masks are required to be worn if you are outdoors and cannot stay six feet away from others, near other people at work or in common areas, inside any indoor public space like a grocery store or on public transportation.
Other cities have passed similar measures.