California beach could close on weekends because of overcrowding amid coronavirus concerns

Newport Beach’s shoreline and ocean could be off limits on weekends, a decision that will be taken up by city officials in a special meeting called for Tuesday, April 28, to address crowds that showed up on beaches during the recent heat wave.

The Newport council meeting will focus on whether to close beaches for three weekends – on Saturdays and Sundays from May 2 through May 17 – the city said in a news release on Sunday, April 26. Another idea could be to close roadways leading into popular beach spots along the peninsula and Corona del Mar.

Crowds in Newport Beach swelled to an estimated 40,000 on both Friday and Saturday as a heat wave hit and residents and visitors flocked to the seaside town, one of the handful still accessible.

People gather in Newport Beach to cool off on a hot day onSaturday, April 25, 2020. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG) 

Other Orange County officials said Sunday that while public health during the coronavirus pandemic is a priority, they haven’t heard anything that suggests they should immediately tighten rules or shut down additional beaches.

Beach towns, popular attractions across Southern California that draw millions of visitors each year, are trying to find just the right recipe to balance places where people can find open space to exercise and breathe fresh air, while limiting areas that might become hot spots for crowds.

Some areas like Los Angeles, Seal Beach, Laguna Beach and San Diego County opted to close beaches completely, not allowing anyone on the sand or in the water. San Clemente shut down for two weeks before deciding to open back up on  April 25, but only for “active recreation” like surfing, walking or jogging.

Other places like Huntington Beach, county beaches like Salt Creek and Aliso Beach, and Newport Beach did softer closures by shutting down beachside parking lots and piers.

But some residents thought the weekend beach crowds reflected careless or selfish disregard for public health.

“I’m seeing families with kids, they’ve got their coolers, they’ve got their beach chairs – to me, the beach is pretty big, but they all seem to be going to the same locations,” Huntington Beach resident Albert Rivera said Sunday. “I just don’t understand how the city of Huntington Beach is allowing this.”

Huntington Beach Councilwoman Jill Hardy said while plenty of people came to the city’s shoreline on Saturday, most didn’t appear to be breaking social distancing rules. Based on aerial photos she saw, “it was interesting to see how well separated they were,” she said.

Goosey crosses the street to get to the other side with owners Psyche Lynch, left, and Tom, center, in a crowded downtown Huntington Beach on Sunday, April 26, 2020. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG) 

Hardy said her city is in a tough spot. Gov. Gavin Newsom has recommended people get outside and be active, and with Huntington and Bolsa Chica state beaches remaining open, it “makes it complicated to close the city beach when we have open beaches on either side.”

Having different governmental agencies in charge of different slices of the coast means rules and regulations can vary, sometimes even within the same city.

When the crowds started arriving as heat descended on the region, Newport Beach saw such an influx of visitors officials opted to open up a parking lots, including Balboa Pier and Corona del Mar, because of the pressure on residential neighborhoods and streets.

Once beachgoers find parking, they make the trek to the shore on narrow sidewalks that pass close by yards that residents may be trying to enjoy, Newport Beach Councilwoman Diane Dixon said.

“We want our beaches to be there for people to get their exercise and seek their fresh air enjoyment,” she said.

“When people don’t respect the Governor’s order it becomes something we need to manage in a different way.”

Sunday’s cool, foggy weather helped lessen crowds across Southern California, with Newport’s shoreline only seeing about 25 percent of the previous day’s crowd, city spokesman John Pope said.

Lighter crowds also were seen at other beaches, including Huntington State Beach and Bolsa Chica.

“The fog today worked out really well for us,” said Kevin Pearsall, State Parks Orange Coast District superintendent. “It was a slower day today. We were still doing the social distancing PAs, but it was dramatically less today than yesterday.”

Some officials are still evaluating whether the crowds pose a public health threat.

County Supervisor Don Wagner said that while he doesn’t want to make policy decisions based on news photos of beach crowds, after the weekend, “It’s fair to take a look at the situation and decide if we have a problem.”

Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said San Clemente’s active recreation policy, which some San Diego County beaches will implement starting Monday, “seems to make a lot of sense.” In those communities, beachgoers can do active things like jogging or standup paddleboarding, but they’re not welcome to lounge and hang out.

Last week, Bartlett’s colleagues rejected her suggestion to close county beaches for two weeks to minimize crowds. She said Sunday that she hasn’t decided if she’ll propose a San Clemente-style policy at the board’s Tuesday meeting.

With public health authorities recommending both keeping a distance from others and getting outside for sun and exercise, Wagner said, “You’ve gotta do a tradeoff.”

Also Tuesday, Newport officials will discuss creating an ad hoc City Council committee to guide the reopening of businesses, with discussions including the county’s reopening and recovery plan.

To watch the meeting, go to


Source: mercurynews
California beach could close on weekends because of overcrowding amid coronavirus concerns