Monday’s City Council meeting was an opportunity for City Manager Jenny Haruyama to update the council on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was her chance to talk about city services that are operating in response to the stay-at-home and social distancing policies now in place statewide. For example, the city is using social media to keep people up to date on what’s happening around the city, including lists of local businesses that are still open, such a grocery stores that have set aside hours for seniors to shop for groceries and other necessities.
Tracy is employing the Government Outreach application on the city’s website to take residents’ input on what is still needed from local government during the shutdown. Haruyama noted that the Government Outreach app helps the city track which issues are most important to people, allowing the city staff to direct resources where they are most needed.
She also praised the city workers and first responders who are still on the job, including many on the front lines of the city’s response. The city activated its virtual emergency operations center March 12, which is an online and remote communication system.
“The city’s emergency operations center continues to be operational and is actively coordinating with local public health officials and hospitals, law enforcement, office of emergency services, EMS professionals, around the clock, and I want to commend the men and women of that team. They’re doing an outstanding job,” Haruyama told the council.
City utilities, such as water and sewer service and trash pickup, are still in effect, but all city facilities, including City Hall, are closed, and all city events are canceled for at least another month.
“It is anticipated that closures will be in place slightly longer, and probably will remain in effect until the governor lifts his order,” Haruyama said, referring to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order from March 19.
While people can still go to about 70 city parks in town, the playgrounds and other park equipment are off-limits. So are skate parks and the dog park at El Pescadero Park.
“We are having our park facility attendants go out and monitor sites throughout the city and encourage social distancing and compliance with the new closures of playground and park equipment,” she said, adding that while restrooms were open, and being cleaned and sanitized regularly, that could change. “Given limited cleaning supplies, and this is a statewide issue, we may be in a position where we have to close park restrooms.”
The city is also communicating with businesses around town to determine whether any nonessential services and activities are still being conducted.
“We have a team of economic development, code enforcement and police professionals who are proactively working with local businesses to facilitate compliance,” she said. “While social pressure and education are our primary tools, a stronger enforcement approach is probably likely needed.”
To that end, she noted that local law enforcement, including the Tracy Police Department under Chief Sekou Millington, will play a greater role in encouraging compliance.
“Chief Millington is actively working with the San Joaquin sheriff and area law enforcement agencies to explore a countywide effective approach to address noncompliance issues,” she said.
The Tracy City Council established a 60-day moratorium on evictions at a special meeting March 19. Since then, the governor has established a statewide moratorium on evictions through May 31 and also established an agreement with banks that they will waive mortgage payments for three months.
Haruyama said that the city is also now following up with a state effort to provide hotel rooms and trailers for homeless people.
“While the implementation process is still evolving, the city actively is tracking this opportunity and working closely with the county and the local continuum of care to understand opportunities for housing our homeless here in Tracy,” she told the council.
The city had been working on a long-term homeless strategic plan, which was due for council review on March 17, but that discussion is on hold. A plan to create an overnight warming center for homeless people also saw considerable council discussion before the COVID-19 shutdowns, As of the second week of March, the city had found a local organization willing to operate that center, but that discussion is also now on hold.
In response to an inquiry about the status of the project, city spokeswoman Carissa Higginbotham said it was still a priority for the city.
“However, these items are currently not scheduled for a future council meeting given the urgency surrounding COVID-19 related actions,” she said, adding that the city was still in contact with the organization that responded to the request for proposals.
“The respondent is aware that they may continue to take steps to establish a warming center as it is considered an essential service if they so desire and as long as the selected location is zoned for that type of activity.”