TUSTIN, Calif. — When visitors visit the District at Tustin Legacy on Tuesday and beyond, they’ll find something different at the retail center.
The 50 or so social distancing markers on the floor and other six-foot distance reminder signs that were placed at different parts of the retail center will be gone.
Capacity restrictions at the common areas will be lifted, although individual retail businesses in the center may continue to enforce their own rules, said Shannon Campbell, marketing director of Vestar at the District at Tustin.
As California reopens its economy Tuesday, retail center owners and landlords are preparing their centers to welcome back visitors but remain cautious.
“We know there’s going to be some confusion,” Campbell said of the state’s new mandate. “The public themselves will have to decide on whether to wear a mask or not. But we are going to continue to encourage social distancing and mask-wearing until further notice.”
However, mask-wearing for vaccinated people and social distancing at the District at Tustin Legacy and other Vestar properties will not be mandatory, Campbell added.
Vestar owns and operates several retail centers across Southern California, including the Cerritos Towne Center, Long Beach Towne Center, Shops at Rossmoor, Torrance Crossroads, and more.
After more than a year of shutdowns, mask-wearing, social distancing and other safety requirements in the name of public health due to the coronavirus pandemic, California is reopening fully and eliminating restrictions that were part of the process of people venturing outside.
Last month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom told NBC that vaccinated people would be allowed to stop wearing masks in most situations — indoors and outdoors — starting on June 15. Unvaccinated people should continue to wear masks indoors, according to the new state guidelines.
With nearly three-quarters of adult residents in the state having had at least one vaccine shot for COVID-19, Newsom is looking forward to the state’s future.
“It’s been a long road, but our future is bright,” Newsom tweeted Sunday.
According to the guidelines, vaccinated people will not have to wear a mask in most settings. Vaccinated and unvaccinated people will be required to wear a mask when riding public transit, entering a hospital or other health settings, and entering a school.
In government buildings such as Anaheim City Hall, people will not need to wear a mask starting Tuesday, Anaheim spokeswoman Erin Ryan said.
For retail properties, mall owners and landlords, the state's new guidelines regarding masks, socially distancing and other mandates put them in a bit of a quandary.
In the past year, they’ve put up social distancing markers, health advertisement reminders, sanitizing stations and hired security to enforce the state’s mask and public health mandate. Now after 15 months, the state is asking them to double back and comply with a new set of rules, while still in a pandemic environment.
Retail owners said they want to make sure their tenants and visitors are safe and don’t want to go against the new mandate.
“The new ruling is a bit anticlimactic,” said Sandy Sigal, the president and CEO of NewMark Merrill. “People were getting comfortable not wearing a mask or socially distancing, and some don’t even remember about capacity restrictions. But I’m finally happy there’s some clear messaging.”
Sigal, whose company owns and operates several shopping centers in California, said he is letting tenants decide for themselves on what, if any, restrictions they want to incorporate in their stores.
As for common areas, there will be no restrictions, he said.
“If people want to wear a mask or not wear a mask or social distancing, that’s 100% OK with us,” he said. NewMark security and in-house staff will continue to mask up.
While vaccinated people at his retail centers don’t need to wear a mask as per the new guidelines, security will continue to monitor certain situations or dust-ups.
“Our idea of being comfortable doesn’t mean you can make other people feel uncomfortable,” he said.
For now, the socially distancing markers and other advertisements will remain at his retail centers, but one thing could become a permanent fixture — handwashing and sanitizer stations.
“Those might be permanent features,” he said.
“I’m optimistic about the future,” Sigal added. “But is it really realistic that this is the last we’ve heard of COVID? No. There will be changes and [variants]. There is still a lot that we can do better.”
Vestar properties will also continue to keep sanitizer stations throughout their retail centers.
In celebration of California reopening, Campbell said the District at Tustin Legacy is hosting a welcome back party at 6 p.m. Wednesday featuring Grammy-nominated band, Mariachi Sol de Mexico.
Additionally, Vestar is lining up a summer concert series that runs during the weekends to welcome back visitors.
“We know a good majority of people will remain cautious,” Campbell said. “We feel very confident that so many people are vaccinated in Orange County. That helps a little, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get COVID-19. So we’re still taking precautions.”