The city council of a Californian city blocked a proposal that would have closed its beaches amid an ongoing public relations battle between Gov. Gavin Newsom and local officials.
The 5-2 vote by the Newport Beach City Council rejected an ordinance that would have closed beaches for the next three weekends.
There were over 1,000 emails sent to city officials expressing views on the matter before the vote, including 664 asking for beaches to stay open and 391 wanting them closed.
The council asked city workers to ramp up enforcement of social distancing measures, which include people staying six feet from individuals they don’t live with. More police officers and lifeguards will be on the beaches in the coming days, the city said in a press release.
“The vast majority of the beach visitors this weekend were practicing social distancing, but many were not,” the city said in its statement.
According to statistics shared during the council meeting, some 90,000 people went to beaches over the past weekend.
San Clemente, where some beaches are also open, delayed taking action on a similar proposal. The city announced beaches were reopening on April 25.
“To reduce overcrowding, the City is requesting that non-residents abide by the Governor’s stay at home orders, due to limited parking availability,” it said in a statement. Others should follow social distancing guidelines, which included the barring of beach chairs and volleyball nets.
Crowds gathered on the beaches on April 25 and 26 as temperatures soared and many beaches nearby remained closed, including Los Angeles County beaches and most in San Diego County.
Newsom, a Democrat, reacted to photographs showing throngs enjoying the sand, calling them “an example of what not to see” and “what not to do” if state residents want to continue making progress against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
“The reality is we are just a few weeks away, not months away, from making measurable and meaningful changes to our stay-at-home order,” the governor said, referring to his harsh mandate that has largely kept people confined in their homes since mid-March.
“This virus doesn’t take the weekends off. This virus doesn’t go home because it’s a beautiful sunny day around our coasts,” he added.
Newport Beach is in Orange County.
The Orange County Board of Supervisors last week voted to keep the county’s beaches open.
Most city beaches in the county remain closed.
Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen in a letter had asked the board to close all beaches in the county prior to the vote.
Some beaches in Huntington Beach are open.
The city said in a statement that fire department workers and police officers have been patrolling the beach and reminding people to refrain from congregating with individuals from outside their household.
“Despite what’s being reported, the majority of our beach goers are complying to social distancing. Please enjoy the rest of your weekend, stay safe, and continue to social distance as everyone has been doing,” the city said in a statement on Sunday.