The unanimous City Council decision followed an hours-long discussion on ways to mitigate problems associated with large crowds gathering on the city’s beaches – especially with a popular holiday coming up – and a spike in COVID cases in Orange County. If there is the need, City Manager John Pietig can extend the planned beach closures to Friday and Sunday as well, City Council members said on Tuesday, June 30.
On that same day the Orange County Health Care Agency reported 10 new deaths, increasing the total number of people who have died from the coronavirus to 340 in the county.
“No matter what we do there will be no perfect solution,” said Councilman Steve Dicterow, adding that he believes a high percentage of the people coming into Laguna Beach are there to visit the beaches.
Prior to the City Council’s decision, city staff, including Lifeguard Chief Kevin Snow and Police Chief Laura Farinella, weighed in on the effort it will take to close down the beaches. Current plans include using the city’s full lifeguard staff, as well as police officers and seasonal workers to physically stand on the beaches and stairways and turn people away. The city also plans to use electronic messaging boards on the three roads leading into the seaside town.
“We’ve never done anything like this before,” Snow said. “There are 32 access points and private residences with access. It would be a challenge, even if we muster a full staff of lifeguards and police. I’m expecting a certain amount of people will make their way down. We’ll also have to close the water to keep people off from boats.”
Farinella also cautioned the council that the effort will shift staff away from other concerns.
“There will be some stuff that doesn’t get done,” she said, adding that the city should use fencing to get the message out.
However, Assistant City Manager Shohreh Dupuis said much of the fencing used during the beach closures earlier this year had to be discarded.
The closure comes as Los Angeles and Ventura counties announced their beaches would be closed in the last day. The council also discussed what could happen if San Diego County closes down.
Laguna Beach was also the first city in Orange County to close its beaches as part of the initial coronavirus shutdown in March. And, the city and its leadership were also singled out favorably by Gov. Gavin Newsom in May after city officials presented a plan to reopen beaches that included a timed and phased approach.
“If we aren’t opening our beaches that can easily be communicated,” Councilwoman Toni Iseman said after a discussion on how to notify people just days before what is likely the town’s most popular beach day. “I don’t want to on Sunday look like the beaches in Florida.
“To respect the health of residents and the health of the people in the county, we should close the beaches.”
Resident Judy Mancuso was among a group of people who spoke. Councilmembers also were flooded with emails before Tuesday’s meeting, many pushing for beach closures.
“Being apathetic and lackadaisical is why the numbers are rising,” said resident Judy Mancuso. “We need to at minimum mimic LA County and not be the virus cesspool by-the-sea.”
Laguna’s public firework display has also been canceled.
Source: Orange County Register