The following updates were provided by Riverside County District 1 Supervisor Kevin Jeffries. District 1 encompasses the cities of Wildomar, Lake Elsinore, Canyon Lake, and most of the City of Riverside. The district also covers several unincorporated communities.
Moving The Goal Posts Or Raising the Bar? Riverside County, like most counties in our state, had been focused on “bending the curve” to prevent our hospitals and their ICU beds from being overrun by critically ill COVID patients. Extra bed capacity at all the public and private hospitals in the county had been planned and developed. Millions of dollars were in play to buy additional ventilators and gear. Hospital administrators, front line doctors, and nurses, as well as state and county emergency coordinators, worked as a unified team in our county.
A few hospitals in Riverside County were pushed right to the edge when patient counts went right up to their capacity limits (from COVID and routine trauma and emergencies). But overall, the public and private healthcare professionals performed at heroic levels. I believe it was 2018 when many hospitals in our county were last at or above capacity from a really nasty flu bug.
With the local hospitals now operating within acceptable levels and trends heading notably downward, we collectively had high hopes that the state would engage with our county as to other steps we could take and start the process of reopening more business sectors and allowing people back into their churches.
Then, at 11 a.m. last Friday, the board was advised that the governor was to announce at noon a significant change in the required tracking and evaluation of COVID, and that while the state was going to allow some more businesses to open on Monday (hair salons and retail stores within malls, limited to 25% capacity), the new changes would likely delay the opening of other currently closed businesses for an extended period, as the county tries to meet the new “metrics.”
From what I can tell, the governor’s change in monitoring and measuring now places the burden directly onto the shoulders of the citizens and businesses of California to meet a new tier of standards. In short, if new overall COVID infection rates and testing positivity rates don’t fall, counties, including Riverside, will be stuck in holding patterns that will prevent currently closed businesses from reopening.
What that essentially means is Riverside County government, on behalf of the California Department of Public Health (counties are required to carry out lawful orders from the state), must convince more and more residents to adhere to the state-required facial covering, social distancing, disinfection, and stay-at-home orders.
With so many residents expressing their skepticism over COVID testing, test results, and cause of death labeling, this will be a Herculean task for many of the 58 counties. Many will call for the heavy hand of county (or city) government to force compliance, via citations, fines and/or jail time. Others will express outrage, raise constitutional concerns, and/or demand litigation to stop the governor. No matter where you stand on this issue, it’s going to be slow and controversial.
Prisoner Dumping? Since April, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has identified approximately 18,000 inmates statewide who are eligible for release under new guidelines implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19 within California correctional facilities.
Unfortunately, those “non-violent, non-sex offending” individuals with 180-365 days left to serve on their terms were turned loose and returned to communities (sometimes literally to the streets) with little planning by CDCR, placing the burden on counties to absorb a large portion of these inmates into their Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS) programs.
Riverside County has received a total of 313 inmates for PRCS by Riverside County Probation and approximately another 235 inmates were released to Riverside County under State Parole supervision. Our Probation Department and sheriff are working together to try to ensure this prisoner dumping doesn’t result in new crime waves in Riverside County.
Hemp Ordinance Coming Soon! Following the legalization of industrial hemp by congress and President Trump in 2018, hemp has been legal to grow in Riverside County more or less like any other agricultural crop, with minimal oversight.
In an effort to reduce some of the negative impacts (mostly odor) of having hemp farms adjacent to residential neighborhoods, the Planning Department has been working on an ordinance to restrict these farms to areas and larger properties where a buffer between homes and hemp is possible.
After multiple Planning Commission hearings and amendments, that ordinance is currently scheduled to come before the board on September 15. You can review the draft ordinance here: https://planning.rctlma.org/Portals/14/AP/348UPD/HEMP_BOS.pdf.
Short Term Rental Ordinance Coming Soon! Many people in Riverside County utilize their properties as short term rentals to supplement their incomes, and many more people use short term rentals for vacations as a more private alternative to hotels.
Unfortunately, some of these property owners and some of these guests do not respect their neighbors, and we regularly get reports of loud and rowdy parties, weddings, and other events being held at some of these short term rental locations.
Our office has been working with residents in the La Cresta and De Luz areas and the Planning Department on an ordinance that will set new parking and guest capacity and noise limitations, and require a higher level of responsiveness from owners of these short term rentals.
The goal is to eliminate the bad actors, while still allowing responsible owners to rent their properties out, and provide welcoming environments for visitors to Riverside County without disrupting the lives of the neighbors. We expect to have the draft language available for review here shortly: https://planning.rctlma.org/Advance-Planning/348UPD.
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