Newsom approves four-phase reopening plan for beaches in San Clemente, Laguna Beach

On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom's administration approved a plan to reopen beaches in the Orange County cities of Laguna Beach and San Clemente, under certain restrictions. The state's Natural Resources Agency said the cities submitted plans with measures to avoid overcrowding and enable physical distancing.

San Clemente reopened its beaches for active use and will reopen its pier Tuesday but won’t allow fishing yet, the city said in a statement.

Beginning Tuesday morning, all city-controlled beaches in Laguna Beach will reopen weekdays between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. for active recreation only. The beaches will still be closed on weekends, FOX 11's Bill Melugin reported

Some residents in Laguna Beach are looking forward to the reopening.

"We're excited. Any particular phase that means progress, we're all for it. It's been too long," said George and Dedre Sines, Laguna Beach natives.

"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," Laguna Beach City officials explained in a news release.

Mayor Whalen said he worked with Governor Newsom's team over the weekend to get the plan approved.

"I really appreciate the work the Governor's office did over the weekend to get us approved to open. We saw what happened to some of the other beaches over the hot weekend, including our beaches in South Laguna and we just said look let's just take this one step at a time, take it slowly, have some success, build on success, go to the next step," said Whalen.

• Walking Walking/running/jogging
• Ocean recreation: swimming, paddle boarding, surfing, bodyboarding, skimboarding, kayaking
• Physical activity which keeps individuals in non-stationary active motion

• 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

The beaches included in this modified reopening will close promptly at 10 a.m. daily. Laguna Beach public safety staff will be present on beaches to enforce the closures.

Anyone who violates the closure orders outside of the permitted timeframe or on weekends can be cited with a misdemeanor, fined up to $1,000, or arrested, officials with the city of Laguna Beach said.

"Restrictions on morning beach activity are in place to encourage social distancing, protect the community and slow the spread of COVID-19," the city added.

The approvals came days after Newsom ordered all Orange County beaches closed because of large crowds that flocked there during a heatwave late last month. Some people still tried to go to the off-limits beaches this past weekend.

Mayor Whalen said people have been cooperating with the beach closures that were enforced in Laguna Beach on March 23. He said the city has not had any to issue any citations thus far.

State Assemblyman, Bill Brough, from the 73rd district, said he represents the beach communities of San Clemente and Dana Point,  and is hoping to get Dana Point beaches open soon.  

"Dana Point's a little more complicated,  but we are in talks. The water is very valuable to our area. It's very important to people in that district [73rd district], and it's the core of what we are down in South Orange County, said Brough.

The beach reopening plan does not expand to South Laguna beaches because those beaches are controlled by the county.

Newport Beach city spokesman John Pope said lifeguards and police officers asked more than 2,500 people to leave. Huntington Beach police said people were cooperating.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.