ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. - State officials on Thursday approved Orange County's active-use plans for its 16% of shoreline, reopening all of the county's beaches a week after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered them shut down when throngs crowded beaches in defiance of COVID-19-prompted stay-at-home orders.
Orange County's plans mirror the same hours and restrictions in each of the cities where the county has jurisdiction. Last week, Newsom scolded Orange County officials for not doing more to discourage large gatherings on its beaches. The county had closed parking lots, but officials were not willing to close access to the beaches, and large crowds gathered there when they could not visit beaches in neighboring Los Angeles County.
Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel and Supervisor Don Wagner complained that the governor made his decision based on newspaper photographs that they argued were deceptive since a telephoto lens made it appear beachgoers were closer together. But some Newport Beach City Council members said the crowds were so large it felt like the Fourth of July.
Huntington Beach and Dana Point sued to block the governor's order, but failed to win a temporary restraining order on Friday. Huntington Beach officials, however, were continuing to go forward with the lawsuit, the city attorney Michael Gates said, and Newport Beach City Councilman Kevin Muldoon, on his own, sued in federal court.
On Wednesday, Newport Beach received permission from Newsom to reopen its seven miles of oceanfront for active use only. With Newport Beach's shoreline reopened, the county's 16% of oceanfront was the last to reopen.
The Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted 3-2 after a fiery debate to direct staff to submit a plan for the reopening of its beaches. Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, who represents much of the south county beaches, pushed for the active-use plan.
Newport Beach city spokesman John Pope said the new beach hours there will be 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day of the week to match the same plan in San Clemente and Huntington Beach.
"The city is very pleased to reopen our beaches for the physical and mental well being of our residents,'' Newport Beach Mayor Will O'Neill said. "While the active recreation model was not the preferred choice by the City Council, after discussions with our public safety personnel, we are confident that city staff will manage the beaches effectively under the approved plan.''
Newsom on Wednesday praised Newport Beach officials for their "collaborative spirit'' in working out its plan. "That's the spirit that will allow us in real time to make judicious decisions,'' Newsom said.
Mayor O'Neill said the city will try to get beachgoers to voluntarily comply with the new rules before having to resort to citations.
The active uses approved include walking, running, hiking, bicycling, swimming, surfing, bodysurfing, boogie boarding, kite surfing, paddle boarding, skim boarding and kayaking. Sunbathing is not allowed.
The city's boardwalk on the peninsula, the popular Wedge surfing spot and the parking lots will remain closed, Pope said.
Seal Beach, Huntington Beach and Dana Point reopened their beaches for active use Tuesday.