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City of Laguna Beach gains Governor’s support to reopen City beaches for active recreation under phased plan

Release from John Pietig, City Manager

Today, May 4, the City of Laguna Beach received approval from the State for a progressive four-phase plan to reopen all Laguna Beach-controlled City beaches. 

Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris started working with the City last Friday and was instrumental in getting the City’s plan reviewed by California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot and other state officials. Congressman Harley Rouda has also supported the City’s effort to reopen City beaches.

Governor Newsom’s team and Secretary Crowfoot reviewed the City’s plan and fully support the City’s phased approach to responsibly and gradually reopen City beaches. Click here to read the City’s entire reopening plan submitted to the Governor and a letter from Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen to Governor Newsom.

South Laguna beaches are controlled by the County of Orange and will remain closed at this time until the County submits a plan to the state and receives approval from the Governor’s office to reopen County beaches.

“We appreciate the Governor’s willingness to work with us to provide a responsible, gradual approach to reopening all beaches in Laguna Beach for active recreation,” said Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen. “This will allow people the opportunity to walk, jog, swim and surf and get some fresh air and exercise on a limited basis, but not congregate or gather in large groups.”

City of Laguna Beach gains

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

City-owned beaches will reopen May 5 from 6 to 10 a.m. for active recreation; County of Orange beaches in South Laguna will remain closed at this time

“Our beaches are a respite for many of us – and provide our community with an invaluable outlet for outdoor recreation and mental health,” said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, who worked with local leaders to safely reopen Orange County beaches. “This progressive plan will reopen Laguna beaches in the most responsible way, ensuring public safety and a continued flattening of the curve. I commend Mayor Whalen and the City Council for their thoughtful, judicious, and strategic response, now and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As we navigate this unprecedented crisis, we will continue to be led by science and facts – not by politics and not by fear.”

“Throughout the coronavirus crisis, Laguna Beach has served as an example of common-sense city governance,” said Congressman Harley Rouda. “Coastal communities across the United States should follow in their footsteps by proposing multi-stage reopening plans, which include limited hours and active use only.”

Phase one of the City’s beach reopening plan includes limited beach hours on weekdays only for active use; phase two includes limited beach hours on weekdays and weekends for active use; phase three includes regular hours on weekdays and weekends for active use; and phase four includes the return to regular hours on weekdays and weekends for active and passive use of the beach. 

Under phase one, Laguna Beach City Beaches will reopen weekdays starting Tuesday, May 5 from 6 – 10 a.m. for active recreation only. City beaches will remain CLOSED on weekends. Adjacent City beach parks remain closed at all times. 

Each weekday the City beaches and ocean water will close promptly at 10 a.m. and Laguna Beach public safety staff will be present on beaches to enforce the closures. Those violating the closure orders outside of the permitted timeframe or on weekends can be cited with a misdemeanor, fined up to $1,000, or arrested. Restrictions on morning beach activity are in place to encourage social distancing, protect the community, and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Walking ACTIVE RECREATION PERMITTED BEACH ACTIVITIES (including, but not limited to):

--Walking Walking/running/jogging

--Ocean recreation: swimming, paddle boarding, surfing, bodyboarding, skim boarding, kayaking

--Physical activity that keeps individuals in non-stationary active motion

NON-PERMITTED BEACH ACTIVITIES:

--Gatherings 

--Beach towels, blankets, easy-ups, tents, umbrellas, etc. – items used for settling in place

--Sitting or lying on beach

--Setting up chairs and staying in place

--Picnics/coolers/tables

This is an adaptive management plan and each phase will be enacted on a trial basis. The City will move to the next phase only if it believes the activities can be managed to comply with current directives regarding physical distancing and large gatherings. If it is determined that a phase is creating an environment whereby physical distancing cannot be maintained, the City will consider further limiting beach access or closing the beach until compliance can be attained.