Oceanside closed its beach parking lots, so did Carlsbad, following a request from the director of California’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), but San Diego did not.
It was a move that pleased tens of thousands of beachgoers but could mean financial repercussions for San Diego.
In a letter dated from Friday, Cal OES wrote:
“… beaches under the jurisdiction of local governments within San Diego County are the only beaches without visitation restrictions throughout all of Southern California, and therefore are attracting thousands of residents from outside your coastal communities and creating significant potential for disease transmission, particularly in crowded restaurants, bars, retail, and hotels. San Diego County was today added to the County Monitoring list because of elevated disease transmission over the past 14-days.
To protect the public health of San Diegans and reduce the high potential transmission of this deadly disease in San Diego coastal businesses, we write to request that municipal governments do not open beach parking lots for the July 4th holiday weekend.”
NBC 7 reached out to the city of San Diego to find out why the parking lots were allowed to stay open. We received this statement from Kris Mitchell, the city’s Chief Operating Officer:
“The City of San Diego is closely following County guidance and working with health officials to encourage adherence to public health regulations. The request to regional coastal cities to close beach parking lots on the Fourth of July came last night just a few hours before the start of the holiday, leaving little time to enact, enforce or notify the public. San Diego continues to require facial coverings and physical distancing at all locations, and this week voluntarily implemented restrictions on bars and restaurants to limit the spread of COVID-19. As we have since the beginning of the pandemic, we will continue to work with County and State health officials to protect public health and safety.”
A spokesman for Cal OES told NBC 7 that San Diego should not have been surprised by the request since state officials had talked to them about possible parking restrictions due to the spread of COVID-19 in recent days. He also said America's Finest City could lose out on a portion of the governor’s multi-million dollar coronavirus relief fund for not acting on the state request.
“Am I going to get towed if I park my car in this lot,” Tommy Pooler of Arizona asked a San Diego police officer for clarification when he parked his pick-up in a lot near Belmont Park.
The officer assured him the parking lots would remain open.
Pooler told NBC 7 that if the lots were closed, “Neighborhoods would have been crammed packed with cars. People will still come to the beach regardless, it wouldn’t stop them.”
By mid-morning on the Fourth of July, Mission Beach was already packed. A few people wore face masks as they sat in the sand, but most did not.
“Everybody seems to be keeping a safe distance from everybody, so it’s not too bad,” said Jordan Hayes who camped on the sand with family and friends who drove in from Yuma, Arizona.
San Diego Police walked the boardwalk reminding people to wear face coverings and keep their distance from one another.
“We do have the discretion to do enforcement but we’ll use that on a case-by-case basis,” said Captain Matt Novak. “For the most part we are all education and just making sure people are aware of the county health orders.”