UPDATED: Laguna Beach Will Reopen Beaches For Active Use on Weekday Mornings

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A rare view of an empty Main Beach. Photo by Mitch Ridder

Laguna Beach will reopen its beaches for active recreation on weekday mornings starting Tuesday, city officials said.

State officials approved the city’s beach management plan to open city beaches from 6 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday as consistent with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order, Mark Ghilarducci, director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, wrote in a May 4 letter. Wade Crowfoot, secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, co-signed the letter with Ghilarducci.

“Vigilance will be necessary to support successful implementation and prevent unsafe conditions,” Ghilarducci wrote.

The letter followed an impassioned protest Saturday by about 150 people at Coast Highway and Ocean Avenue.

State officials’ course correction arrived after lobbying by Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach), according to a city press release.

“Our beaches are a respite for many of us – and provide our community with an invaluable outlet for outdoor recreation and mental health,” Petrie-Norris said in a prepared statement Monday. “This progressive plan will re-open Laguna beaches in the most responsible way, ensuring public safety and a continued flattening of the curve.”

Petrie-Norris said in a phone interview Monday that she doubts the governor was aware of Laguna Beach’s city-specific plan to allow active use of its beaches at the time he announced his countywide beach closure last week. On Thursday, Petrie-Norris’ office and Whalen reached out to the Secretary of the Natural Resources Resources Agency to seek approval of the plan outlined by Laguna Beach Marine Safety.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he holds this up as a model for other areas of the state as they look at reopening [beaches],” Petrie-Norris said.

When asked if state officials’ approval of limited beach reopening was influenced by recent protests at Orange County beaches, Petrie-Norris said the Governor’s team, Whalen, and she were clear from the pandemic’s start that they’ll be led by science and facts, not by politics and fear.

“I know for a fact that the governor is not going to be persuaded by political pressure,” she said. “Pragmatic solutions might not be sexy or buy you column inches but that’s what we need.”

The Laguna Beach City Council voted to approve active beaches uses including surfing, swimming, and walking on weekday mornings at its April 28 meeting. Less than two days later, Newsom announced a hard close of Orange County’s 43-mile coastline to protect public health and safety after thousands of people gathered in Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, and to a lesser extend county-owned beaches in South Laguna.

Sunbathing and lounging on the sand will not be permitted under the state-approved plan. Councilmembers authorized City Manager John Pietig to withdraw beach access if city employees see community members aren’t observing social distancing.

Ghilarducci sent an identical letter Monday to San Clemente Interim City Manager Robert Dunek.

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  1. I would love for Laguna beach to reopen. That would be great. BUT.AT WHAT COST YOU KNOW PEOPLE WILL NOT KEEP THEIR DISTANCE OR WARE MASKS..they just dont care..They need their fix..

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