After a nearly four-hour special council meeting, including 90 minutes of public comment, the Newport Beach City Council voted 5 to 2 to maintain accessibility to the Newport Beach coastline for exercise and recreation, with a greater police and lifeguard presence to more actively enforce social distancing directives.
The Council action followed a busy weekend in Newport Beach as thousands of visitors sought to escape the Southern California heatwave. The vast majority of the beach visitors this weekend were practicing social distancing, but many were not.
The Council majority expressed a strong desire to keep most public beaches, parks and open spaces accessible for the mental health and physical wellbeing of residents. Council members supported having City staff manage the beaches at a level similar to the crowded 4th of July weekend, and issue citations for those in violation of the social distancing order.
All City parking lots in the beach areas will be closed to limit the number of visitors. Popular gathering spots such as the Oceanfront Boardwalk, Newport and Balboa piers, and the Wedge beach area will remain closed.
The Council’s action aligns with guidance of the State and County public health agencies, as well as the California Coastal Commission’s admonition that “recreational beach and coastal access also play important roles in maintaining mental and emotional health, especially during times of stress.”
While most of the beachgoers last weekend were practicing responsible social distancing, the volume of visitors generated significant neighborhood impacts and ran counter to guidance from California State Parks to “stay close to home when you get outdoors. This is not the time for a road trip to a destination park or beach.”
The City will continue to communicate the critical importance of responsible social distancing and adherence to the Governor’s “stay at home” order during the upcoming weekends.