We Must Act Now

Like many others in town, our group consists of folks who fall into a category that leaves us more vulnerable to the effects of the virus. Age and underlying medical conditions for several of us mean we must take extra-careful, common-sense sanitary measures in our daily lives and during our own, in-house group meetings.

Our group’s members have active social and professional lives. We meet with many people every week, either in social settings or working environments. Looking at it from the health viewpoint, we are exposed to a large number of people from different places and walks of life.

Each week we meet in a different location–usually a member’s house or apartment, or a professional office. Some of them are relatively small enclosed spaces. The size of the rooms, and the distance between members during the meetings are the exact conditions under which the virus can spread.

To reduce the hazard, we’ve decided to take specific steps. Aside from the well-established common-sense sanitary measures (such as frequent handwashing, copious use of hand sanitizer and increased social distance between individuals, during meetings and work), we have temporarily decided to meet in locations that are very-well-ventilated and away from other folks, and preferably outdoors. Suitable locations are parks, back yards and courtyards.  Social distance, size of space, ventilation and sunshine are the primary criteria for locations.

We realize the current situation is temporary. The pandemic might be restrained in our area, and eventually we’ll be returning to our old customs. Or the situation might become more severe, and we might start meeting electronically instead. It’s a fluid time and changes can happen very quickly, so every week we try to anticipate various scenarios for the next meeting. Preparatory planning.

This week we are seeing more attention paid to the COVID-19 virus in our area. Hand sanitizer, which had disappeared from stores in the past weeks, has begun making its appearance again (albeit at high prices). And, anecdotally, many passengers on the Expo Line have been observed using gloves, hand sanitizer and even masks. This is a change from the previous week, and signals a better understanding of measures that must be undertaken. But that consciousness does not appear to be fully shared in many public venues and institutions. A visit to City Hall, for instance, shows a small stack of informative handouts, mirroring information on the City’s web site. These are very useful. But a visit to individual public offices within the building shows no special preparations being implemented, aside from instructional handouts. This makes both staff and the public vulnerable.

We understand that organizational efforts are being made behind the scenes, quietly. And that cleaning activities in public buildings have been stepped up considerably. But anecdotally, it appears that front-line staff have not received special training, and there are almost no bottles of hand sanitizer in view, either for the public or the front-line staff. There are no warning or instructional announcements posted on the windows or doors. There is little, if any, health-related equipment (sanitizing wipes, dedicated enclosed trash cans, etc.) for public use either in City Hall or the public library. These are very basic measures. It’s late in the game.

We expect the City to step up to the challenge immediately. The public must be widely informed of the specific steps being taken on its behalf, and to assist City staff as well, beyond relying on the County’s health authorities for action.

Time is running short.

Daniel Jansenson, Architect, Building and Fire Life-Safety Commission

Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow: Thane Roberts, Architect, Robert H. Taylor AIA, Daniel Jansenson Architect, Building and Fire Life-Safety Commission, Ron Goldman FAIA, Samuel Tolkin Architect, Mario Fonda-Bonardi AIA, Planning Commissioner, Phil Brock, Arts Commissioner

Late Note:
Since this article went to press, the City of Santa Monica announced an extensive series of event cancellations and facility closures to last until the end of March.

  • City Hall will be closed to the public 3/16 through 3/31 (although essential staff and city operations will remain)
  • Santa Monica Public Library branches will be closed 3/14 through 3/31 (Pico branch closing today, Friday)
  • Virgina Avenue Park campus facilities closed 3/13 through 3/16.

For a full list of cancelled events, programs and activites, see:

Daniel Jansenson, Architect, Building and Fire Life-Safety Commission