The weekend brought an onslaught of cooped-up, stressed-out folks to Southern California beaches, parks and trails.
But Sunday, the public found yellow caution tape draped off a popular basketball court in Laguna Beach; piers in Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach blocked to visitors; volleyball courts stripped of their nets on the sand across Los Angeles County.
Some coastal towns were particularly hard hit with an unexpected number of beachgoers over the weekend, raising outrage that not everyone is taking seriously the admonition to stay home or apart to stop the spread of coronavirus.
“I’m disgusted. I’m really disgusted with all the people who came to Laguna Beach yesterday and put all of our lives in jeopardy,” Laguna Beach Councilman Peter Blake said Sunday.
“This is not a sports place for you to enjoy yourself during a pandemic.”
From Malibu to San Clemente, Californians crowded beaches and other outdoor areas. So much so, that some residents are demanding beaches be shut down, and city officials are warning that could just happen if people do not practice “social distancing,” or maintaining at least six feet from one another.
“To be clear, the city does not have the authority to unilaterally close the beaches,” San Clemente Mayor Dan Bane wrote on Facebook. But if people do not self-quarantine, he wrote, and “continue to congregate in public areas, particularly at beaches, my expectation is that the state will completely close the beaches at some point for everyone.”
In Hermosa Beach, officials met Sunday afternoon to call for closing its city-owned beac
Still, city officials were concerned about the crowds.
“If you must get outside, please avoid the beach and the Strand,” City Manager Suja Lowenthal said. If the number of beachgoers doesn’t decrease, she added, city officials will consider other actions, including closure.
The affluent South Bay beach towns shuttered all parks, fields, sports courts and exercise equipment ahead of the weekend. Even small play structures, such as a beloved single dolphin at Torrance’s Miramar Park was cordoned off with yellow tape and a COVID-19 warning sign.
The South Bay’s Redondo Beach issued strict “safer at home” orders to its residents, but did not close its pier or the International Boardwalk.
How cities tackle the coronavirus threat is quickly changing.
On Sunday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced plans to close beaches and nearby parking lots at Venice Beach. Garcetti also said he is closing sports and recreation at parks, including public golf courses.
h and walkway to the public, but decided against it, according to a city spokeswoman.
Long Beach closed down all playgrounds, dog parks, skate parks and other sports facilities in parks and beaches. Mayor Robert Garcia took to Twitter to admonish residents with this message: “Seriously people, you need to practice social distancing. I am seeing tons of people out there acting like there is no crisis…”
In Laguna Beach, Mayor Bob Whalen issued a statement Sunday urging people who don’t live in the city to stay away from the beaches. “If social distancing is not observed, we will close the beaches.”
“Everyone can take a walk and exercise outdoors in their own communities. Please do this for the health of everyone in our county, our state and beyond.”
Later Sunday, the Laguna Beach City Council met in an emergency closed session and voted to direct city staff to close trail access to the county wilderness parks Monday morning and to close city beaches by Monday evening.
The council also directed staff to ask the County of Orange to close its beaches in the city or to grant the city permission to do so. The city beach closures would also include closure of adjacent parks, including Main Beach, Heisler and Treasure Island.
In Huntington Beach, the real challenge was thinning out groups on sidewalks and walkways in the downtown area. The city attracted about 5,000 beachgoers on Saturday – a low number for a beautiful day, said City Manager Oliver Chi. Still, local police, lifeguards and others did outreach to encourage social distancing.
In the next day or so, officials will consider taking additional measures regarding downtown, the pier and other public spaces, like the city’s golf course and the equestrian center, “to encourage social distancing but still allow for public access,” Chi said.
In Seal Beach, the pier was a big attraction on Saturday but the numbers appeared to wane on Sunday, as the weather changed.
Still, said Seal Beach Councilman Joe Kalmick, “It’s busier than usual.”
But there’s one part of town that’s staying put. Residents in Seal Beach’s Leisure World community, home to some 9,000 older residents, have seen all their club houses, sports courts and other amenities close down.
“There’s hardly anyone out,” Sandra Massa-Lavitt said. “I walk out onto my sidewalk, and I take a couple of deep breaths and I walk in. People have to take personal responsibility. The government can’t take care of everybody all the time.”
Some trails across Southern California also were overrun with people desperate to get a little fresh air days after Gov. Newsom issued a clampdown on the state.
Whittier residents Hector Castillo and Ashley Monterroso went out for a hike and some fresh air Sunday, enjoying the view from the Jerome C. Daniel Overlook above the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.
“I was feeling cabin fever,” Monterroso said.
Altadena resident Amanda Freeman said she has lived in her home over 25 years and never seen as many cars in her neighborhood, with people looking to hike Eaton Canyon and Millard Canyon.
“This is not sheltering in place. This is congregating. This is dangerous,” Freeman said Sunday. “Everyone is so careful when they go to the grocery store, staying away from each other, then they come here and are crowding and passing each other on crowded trails.”
Laguna Beach appeared to be one of the favorite spots this weekend, especially popular Thousand Steps.
The city used an outdoor loudspeaker, a system that went online in March, to remind people to keep a six-foot distance. Laguna Beach police also used drones to keep tabs on people from the sky.
It didn’t stop there. Alarmed city officials ordered the beach’s basketball hoops taken down, the volleyball net removed and the playground declared off-limits.
Beau Brower, an Orange resident who went for a drive down the coast with his family on Saturday, said he couldn’t believe the scene in Laguna Beach.
“Laguna was insane. Nobody there is following the CDC recommendations,” Brower said.
“It was just like any other day.”
Staff writers and photographers Erika Ritchie, Leonard Ortiz, Ed Crisostomo, Mike Sprague, Laylan Connelly and David Rosenfeld contributed to this story.