San Diego

Despite Confusion, San Diego Leaders Praise Newsom's Announcement to Close Only OC Beaches

Supervisors Greg Cox and Dianne Jacob sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom urging him to reconsider his plan to shut down beaches because "our residents did everything we asked!"

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Before Gov. Gavin Newsom could officially announce a plan to close all beaches and state parks in California, San Diego County leaders were pushing back -- an effort that San Diego's Mayor touted as the reason why local beaches were not included in the announcement on Thursday.

"Great news: the Governor heard us. San Diego beaches WILL STAY OPEN under our plan approved by lifeguards and health officials," Mayor Kevin Faulconer tweeted after Newsom announced in his daily press briefing that he would close only beaches in Orange County starting Friday.

The move to close the Orange County coastline was made after hoards of beachgoers rushed to open beaches amid a heatwave, against the state-wide "stay-at-home" order that prevented people from gathering in groups. Images show Newport Beach speckled with people on beach chairs, blankets and under umbrellas -- a scene often reserved for Fourth of July or Memorial Day.

San Diego's beaches only opened back up on Monday, but they could be shut back down before the week ends. NBC 7's Claudette Stefanian has the story.

On Wednesday evening, police chiefs across the state reported receiving a memo from the governor's office warning them of the planned announcement the following day. Newsom denied at Thursday's briefing that a plan to close the coastline statewide was ever in the works or that he had seen any memo.

"This is exactly the conversations we were having [about beach closures] so, no, this [announcement] is consistent with what we've been saying," Newsom said.

NBC 7 reached out to local law enforcement agencies to see if any had received the memo Wednesday evening. Those that responded said they had not received the memo at the time, though a representative from Mayor Faulconer's office said after the press conference that they had been contacted directly by governor's office informing them of the plan.

The California Police Chiefs Association later apologized for sending out information to its chiefs before it had been solidified by the governor.

“In an ever-changing environment, we sent out information regarding decisions that were still evolving, which was regrettably shared outside of our police chief membership… The sole intent of the notification was to alert our members and give police chiefs time to prepare,” the statement read in part. Read the full statement here.

Either way, the report of a possible state-wide beach closure prompted push back from local leaders.

"San Diegans have been following the rules set by our public health officials and lifeguards since beaches reopened this week. A sudden state ban on every single beach — regardless of the facts on the ground — sends the wrong message to regions where people are acting responsibly," San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in a tweet ahead of the governor's briefing.

There were some crowds when the San Diego County coastline reopened on Monday but overall, leaders were pleased with the way residents responded.

After the first day of the city beaches being reopened to activities like surfing, swimming and single-person paddling and kayaking, Mayor Kevin Faulconer said beachgoers had behaved.

The mayor, at his daily news briefing, thanked locals for following social distancing guidelines and avoiding crowding, which he said was what led to the beach closures in the first place. He applauded the community for representing San Diego well and said those at city beaches had set an example for the rest of the nation's coastal surf cities. 

All beaches in San Diego County were open by Wednesday except Carlsbad, Solana Beach and state beaches. Del Mar beaches were expected to reopen Thursday but the plan was halted due to the governor's anticipated announcement.

San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox said he sent a letter to Newsom urging him to reconsider his plan to close all beaches.

In the letter, he emphasized what a collaborative effort reopening the beaches had been and how residents were acting responsibly to adhere to the rules.

"The re-opening plan was executed successfully, and we are pleased to say that social distancing, gathering restrictions, sanitation protocols and facial coverings were appropriately maintained. Our residents did everything we asked!" the letter read in part.

Newsom this week targeted beachgoers in Orange and Ventura counties, calling them an example of “what not to do” if the state wants to continue its progress fighting the coronavirus.

In Newport Beach, some 80,000 visitors hit the beach over the weekend, although lifeguards said most people exercised social distancing. With criticism swirling, the Newport Beach City Council met Tuesday and rejected a proposal to close the beaches for the next three weekends.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob said while she understood the need to prevent overcrowding along our coastline, she called the move to close all beaches "unfortunate and heavy-handed."

"We know our region best, and you should instead be looking at ways to offer greater flexibility as we tackle this issue at the local level. I urge you to immediately rescind your decision," the letter read in part.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher tweeted that Newsom's announcement Thursday was an example of why leaders shouldn't rush to action.

"And with that the Governor specifically praises the great effort of San Diegans to act responsibly. Closes beaches in area that wasn't doing it right--Orange County.
Let's all be reminded to wait to hear official news before we take action."

Contact Us