Santa Cruz County

Agenda Item

Consider adoption of an urgency ordinance adding Chapter 7.109 to the Santa Cruz County Code to provide remedies for violation of public health orders, as outlined in the memorandum of the County Administrative Officer


Department:County Administrative OfficeSponsors:County Administrative Officer Carlos J. Palacios
Category:CC - Board LetterFunctions:General Government

Board Letter

Recommended Action(s):

Adopt an urgency ordinance adding Chapter 7.109 to the Santa Cruz County Code to provide lower-level remedies for violation of public health orders. 


Executive Summary

Adoption of the presented urgency ordinance will allow enforcement officers to cite those who violate public health orders (e.g., the face covering order). Such violations would constitute infractions and would be punishable by way of a traditional fine (like a traffic ticket) or imposition of an administrative penalty.



As the Board is aware, various state and local public health orders have been issued in order to combat the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. Violation of such orders is classified as a misdemeanor under State law. Misdemeanors come with substantial penalties (up to $1,000 fines and six months in jail). The County Code is currently lacking a provision that would enable enforcement officers to apply a less harsh method of enforcement that could be implemented in the event that education efforts are not effective to positively influence a violator's conduct.  


Under the County Code, an infraction results in a fine of $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense within a year, and $500 for the third offense within a year. Such an infraction can be addressed through traditional methods, such as a ticket issued by a law enforcement officer, or through the alternative method of an administrative citation (more appropriate for code enforcement officers, environmental health division staff, etc.)


The COVID-19 emergency constitutes a serious danger to the health, safety, and welfare of individuals in Santa Cruz County. Recently, we have seen increased community spread, infection rates, and hospitalizations locally and regionally. As expressed in the findings supporting the attached draft urgency ordinance, violation of public health orders presents an immediate threat to the public in that they increase the likelihood that the COVID-19 virus will spread throughout the County in a manner that may overwhelm County health care systems and lead to injury and death that might be substantially reduced through adherence to such orders. Enabling law enforcement officers and County staff to enforce public health orders at a reduced level of severity will allow enforcement officers to quickly address situations without escalating them into a potential custody or arrest situation and will help abate low-level violations that impact the spread of the disease.


Adoption of this ordinance requires a four-fifths vote.


Strategic Plan Element(s)

This item supports the following County Strategic Plan Elements:

              1.A. Comprehensive Health & Safety: Health Equity

              1.C. Comprehensive Health & Safety: Local Justice


Meeting History

Aug 4, 2020 9:00 AM Video Board of Supervisors Regular Meeting

ADOPTED Urgency Ordinance No. 5340 adding Chapter 7.109 to the Santa Cruz County Code to provide lower-level remedies for violation of public health orders

MOVER:John Leopold, First District Supervisor
SECONDER:Ryan Coonerty, Third District Supervisor
AYES:John Leopold, Zach Friend, Ryan Coonerty, Greg Caput, Bruce McPherson