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One Tough Job: Ticketing The Unmasked In Manhattan Beach

A sign enforcing mask wearing on Manhattan Beach (Josie Huang/LAist)
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In under an hour Saturday afternoon, Manhattan Beach code enforcement officer Ben Mendoza had cited two people for failing to wear face coverings per the city's pandemic-era mandate.

Well, kind of. One of them was a "walk-off," he explained.

"That's when you tell someone to stop and they just keep walking. They ignore you," Mendoza said.

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He shrugged: "It's not worth trying to tackle somebody for a citation. We just let them walk off."

Not everyone was wearing masks as people crowded downtown Manhattan Beach in search of cooler temperatures. (Josie Huang/LAist)

Mendoza had to pick his battles as thousands converged on the tony beachside community Saturday to escape three-digit temperatures inland. That meant he focused on the unmasked weaving through the crowded sidewalks downtown, where signs warned of citations of up to $350.

Manhattan Beach code enforcement officer Ben Mendoza accepted that some people he cited would walk off. (Josie Huang/LAist)

He had a large lot to pick from. Clusters of unmasked people stood outside restaurants talking to friends.

Mendoza didn't even plan on citing people on the beach, where many of the hundreds frolicking in the water or sunbathing in the sand went unmasked.

"They're maintaining their social distancing out there, because they have a lot more room and they're in the water also," Mendoza said.

Many groups of beachgoers appeared to live together, like roommates Hannah Barnes and Linnea Jaffe who abandoned their stuffy Mar Vista home to go rollerblading along the pier in Manhattan Beach. The two, both masked, thought it would be less crowded than the beach in Santa Monica.

"We figured we might as well be sweating outside instead of inside," Barnes said.

Roommates Hannah Barnes and Linnea Jaffe escaped their hot apartment in Mar Vista to go rollerblading in Manhattan Beach. (Josie Huang/LAist)
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Under the pier, Jason Chan of Silver Lake was enjoying lunch with a pod of friends with whom he and his wife had restricted their socializing during quarantine. The group still wore masks around one another, but for the most part Chan said the Labor Day weekend did not feel much different from those of years past.

"It's even slower than I thought it would be," Chan said. "I thought maybe it would be a little crazier with the heat wave. But yeah, not too bad."

But with temperatures predicted to rise into the 90's at Manhattan beach on Sunday -- and triple digits elsewhere -- crowds may grow thicker as the need to escape rises.

Jason Chan and his friend pod gathered under the Manhattan Beach pier for lunch. (Josie Huang/LAist)