On Tuesday night, the Manhattan Beach City Council drew a line in the sand: When you’re in public, wear a face covering, or face the consequences — a $100 fine, and escalating for repeat offenses.

“I guarantee the word will spread that we’re serious,” Manhattan Beach Mayor Richard Montgomery said at Manhattan’s City Council meeting on Tuesday. “Education days are over. They need to start wearing the facial coverings.” 

The order goes into effect on Saturday.

What You Need To Know

  • Manhattan Beach approved an ordinance requiring masks to be worn in public, including citations and fines starting at $100

  • The ordinance includes exemptions for ocean activity, disabilities, physical conditions, and dining...but runners and cyclists are not exempt

  • Manhattan Beach joins Santa Monica and West Hollywood in ordinances requiring public use of face coverings

  • The mayor hopes widespread mask use will lead to reduced spread of COVID-19 and allow local businesses to open sooner

Manhattan Beach’s council passed the ordinance with a 4-1 vote Tuesday, approving a plan to issue $100 fines to anyone not wearing a mask in public on their first offense, $200 fines on the second, and $350 for each subsequent offense. The lone dissenting vote against the order came from Mayor Pro Tem Suzanne Hadley — and only because she felt the fines were too steep.

Manhattan Beach’s ordinance follows similar must-wear-masks ordinances in Santa Monica ($100 for a first offense) and West Hollywood ($300 for a first offense).

The city’s ordinance comes amid a county-wide explosion in COVID-19 positive test rates. On Thursday, Los Angeles County Public Health officials reported 4,592 new cases on Thursday, a single-day record in positive tests. As of Thursday, Manhattan Beach had 217 cases within its city limits — it was among the first L.A. County cities to report confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Manhattan Beach in March.

Within a few days of the ordinance’s passage, a banner spanning the entrance to downtown Manhattan Beach stretched across Manhattan Beach Boulevard, welcoming people with the message to cover their faces in public. A-frame signs are posted on street corners throughout the heart of the city, and at the city’s iconic pier, reminding pedestrians of the need to wear a mask and observe social distancing.

In bold face, the city’s approved order states that it is “reiterating the face covering requirement” and requires that all people more than two years old wear a cloth mask covering both the nose and mouth when they leave their home, unless they have a medical condition, disability, or physical impairment that prevents them from wearing a face covering. People who are actively engaged in other “water-based activities” (swimming and surfing, for example) are also exempt.

People engaging in other outdoor activities — such as cycling, skateboarding, or running — will find no such carve-out for themselves. That’s by design, a city staff member said. “The goal is to ensure that people are wearing it whenever they’re out,” Manhattan Beach Senior Management Analyst George Gabriel said. 

“If we see someone riding a bike, stopping, talking to people, all without a mask — tell me, how can you ride on that bike path keeping six feet away from other people?” Montgomery said. “I think it’s impossible, unless it’s 4 a.m. If you’re riding a bike, it applies to you.”

Manhattan Beach Police Department Sgt. Mike Sistoni said officers will likely be issuing warnings and education, rather than immediate citations. MBPD, he said, is trying to build a partnership with the community.

When asked to respond, Montgomery said he believes officers will use common sense when dealing with face-covering offenses. “We’re looking for compliance, not money,” Montgomery said. The sooner that Manhattan can prove that its citizens are complying with the mask order and taking care of their own, the sooner Montgomery believes his city can more fully reopen its small businesses.

“We have to show the governor that we deserve our restaurants to open sooner; that numbers have gone down, and we can open up our gyms, our beauty salons, and our yoga studios again,” Montgomery said.