Credit: Joey Neugebauer

With many moving pieces, California’s safer-at-home orders continue to evolve, now trending toward reopening areas of the state showing improvement.

However, for residents in the Santa Clarita Valley and surrounding areas, movement to reopen is more of a tug-of-war between cities, counties and the state. 

Ultimately, there can be up to four or five different sets of guidelines, depending on where you are at any given time. To understand them, it’s important to explain where they originated and know it’s not based on where you live –– it’s based on where you are at a given point in time.

Here’s the background

When safer-at-home orders began to take shape, Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti was first to announce a widespread and swift closure of businesses. 

But, note the distinction –– Garcetti is mayor of the CITY of Los Angeles, not the county, nor the city of Santa Clarita. What happens there, typically stays there –– within their city limits.

Los Angeles County followed shortly after. Their rules only applied for areas covered under their Department of Public Health –– basically every city in the county except Long Beach and Pasadena. This includes the city of Santa Clarita and unincorporated areas like Stevenson Ranch, Castaic, Westridge, north Saugus, east Canyon Country, north Canyon Country, Agua Dulce and so on.

The state quickly followed the city of Los Angeles and the county of Los Angeles. At that point, all counties and cities fall under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s jurisdiction. However, counties and cities can add tighter restrictions –– and Los Angeles County has, on a longer, more cautious timetable.

City of Santa Clarita

The city of Santa Clarita continues its efforts to reopen the local economy. With this in mind, there’s quite a bit of confusion within the community about which health orders the city of Santa Clarita follows. 

“Many residents have called City Hall with questions about who has the jurisdiction to issue health orders for the City of Santa Clarita,” Mayor Cameron Smyth said. 

Many people within Santa Clarita believe that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s health orders apply to Santa Clarita. While Los Angeles county orders apply to the city of Santa Clarita, Los Angeles city orders do not. 

Currently, Santa Clarita is subject to the guidelines implemented by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. People are required to stay home unless they engage in activities deemed essential by the county while following social distancing rules. 

  • Essential services like grocery stores, convenience stores, pharmacies, doctor’s appointments. 
  • People can leave the house to exercise, pick up food and other essential activities. 
  • Maintain six feet of physical distance while in public.

People should avoid: 

  • Visiting friends or family if there is no urgent need
  • Going to work if someone isn’t considered an essential worker
  • Getting a haircut or getting their dog groomed, as hair salons and grooming businesses are not considered essential businesses according to the stay-at-home order.


Going into stores and maintaining a distance of six feet isn’t all that is needed. Wearing a mask or cloth face covering is required whenever leaving the house to perform essential activities. All essential workers are required to wear face coverings by the Los Angeles County health order. 

Santa Clarita City Limits

Unincorporated Los Angeles County 

As for Santa Clarita Valley communities that fall within unincorporated Los Angeles County, rules continue to apply. 

  • Essential services like grocery stores, convenience stores, pharmacies, doctor’s appointments. 
  • People can leave the house to exercise, pick up food and other essential activities. 
  • Maintain six feet of physical distance while in public.

People should avoid: 

  • Visiting friends or family if there is no urgent need
  • Going to work if someone isn’t considered an essential worker
  • Getting a haircut or getting their dog groomed, as hair salons and grooming businesses are not considered essential businesses according to the stay-at-home order.

Going into stores and maintaining a distance of six feet isn’t all that is needed. Wearing a mask or cloth face covering is required whenever leaving the house to perform essential activities. All essential workers are required to wear face coverings by the Los Angeles County health order. 

The Letter

Although signs point to the economy reopening slowly, Los Angeles County has been slower to enact a process when compared to the state of California. County officials expressed a likeliness that the stay-at-home order will be extended until July. 

Santa Clarita residents and city officials have been critical of the county’s announcement. 

On May 13, the Santa Clarita City Council sent a letter to Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger officially opposing the extension of the stay-at-home order.

The letter, signed by Mayor Cameron Smyth, asks for flexibility for the city to comply with Los Angeles County and state regulations, based on its independent merits and data. Claiming Santa Clarita is less affected by COVID-19, it asks for allowance for cities in the north county region to begin the economic recovery process before the rest of harder hit Los Angeles County.

If Santa Clarita complies with the county’s tighter restrictions, businesses will continue to struggle and people will remain unemployed. 

In the letter, the Santa Clarita City Council requested the city have more flexibility. They note the city was the third hardest hit in California by unemployment rates, according to WalletHub. A fear permeates the city from business owners anxious they may be permanently closed.

Santa Clarita is looking for a timeline which safely honors its lower infection rates while balancing its delicate economy.

“We requested that the (county) supervisor allow our city a variance to relax the restrictions on a timeline that makes sense for our community,” Smyth said. 

Although the letter only applies to the City of Santa Clarita, the city council mentioned a desire for the special rules to be applied in a more geographical region, including cities like Lancaster and Palmdale, which also fall under Los Angeles County’s public health orders. 

A solution that treats northern Los Angeles County as a separate region could possibly solve the problem for communities within Unincorporated Los Angeles County. Stevenson Ranch, Castaic, etc. would be following health orders that are more geographically-based, rather than being arbitrarily included with communities in the Los Angeles Basin or San Fernando Valley. 

Where are we for now?

Recently officials have announced that Los Angeles County is aiming for a safe reopening as early as July 4. Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger expressed that goal after meeting with the Los Angeles County Economic Resiliency Task Force. 

In terms of reopening, on May 18, Newsom laid out an early guidance for much of the state to move further in the process. This criteria applies to counties that want to reopen faster than the state itself.

Santa Clarita wants to be a part of that, but until the county allows that, they have been slowly reopening locations.

“As Santa Clarita continues re-opening of city operations, today we are reopening the following to the public: City Hall, libraries, dog parks and the skateparks. Please continue to follow safety protocols when visiting and using the facilities,”  Santa Clarita’s Mayor Cameron Smyth said.

Canyons News reporters Joey Neugebauer, Emily Berryhill, and Sasha Strater contributed to this story

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