Torrance Beach closure

Caution tape blocks off pedestrian access to the parking lot and the shoreline at Torrance Beach on April 17, 2020. (Photo by Lisa Jacobs)

When Los Angeles County begins easing stay-at-home orders — a process that is set to get underway this month — and beaches finally reopen, don’t expect to sunbathe or play volleyball with your friends for hours. At least not right away.

That’s because the beaches, like the economy in general, will likely open in several phases, according to a plan county officials floated last week and could finalize soon.

First would come recreational activities, including surfing, swimming, paddling and other water sports, as well as running and walking. But sunbathing and gathering in large groups would remained banned, to ensure social distancing as the fight against the coronavirus continues.

If people are following the rules, though, the Strand, in Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach, and the bike path would open, and individual sunbathers could lay out on the sand. From there, small gatherings would be allowed and, eventually, larger groups and volleyball.

Manhattan Beach Mayor Richard Montgomery, who confirmed the phases being proposed last week, said the entire Los Angeles County coastline — including Hermosa Beach, the only city-owned beach in the South Bay — will act with unified policies.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said on Monday that guidelines for allowing folks back in open spaces, including city-owned beaches, will come in a few days.

“To ensure safety, it is critical that we (open) in the safest way possible through all of our health orders,” Garcia said, “leading up to this weekend, there will be some meaningful revisions to our outdoor recreation piece.”.

The piers, meanwhile, are state properties. Montgomery said he was still waiting for guidance from California on when the pier could reopen.

“All of us know you had to have some limited reopening of the beach,” Montgomery said. “I’m just happy the beach will be open. Do I like all of it? No, I want it all to be open but I understand why it has to be this way. It’s just a process. This to me is good news for us. It’s not everything we want, but it’s a good start.”

Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand said decisions were out of the hands of cities, but mayors and city leaders could still provide input.

“We continue to talk and work on a plan,” Brand said. “We’re trying to hear back from them as soon as possible. Last we heard, nothing would happen until May 15. But everything is happening so fast.”

Under the draft plan presented so far, phases would take shape like this:

  • Phase one: Open the water and shoreline for surfing, swimming, paddleboarding, walking and running;
  • Phase two: Strand and wide swaths of sand would open to sunbathers, but large groups would be prohibited;
  • Phase three: Smaller gatherings would be allowed; and
  • Phase four: More activities would be allowed, such as volleyball.

Leaders at the Department of Beaches and Harbors were finalizing the plan following a weekend that saw protesters on the beach in several spots demanding access to sand and surf. For the department’s reopening plan to take effect, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer and the County Board of Supervisors must first approve it.

Ferrer on Monday, May 4, said her office was reviewing “consensus documents” regarding beach reopening, which she said “look great.”

“This will give us the ability to have a road map for reopening beaches in L.A. County,” said Ferrer, adding that a similar process has been ongoing with parks officials. “What we’re trying to do is create a road map that lets us see for different sectors how we are going to move forward on this journey to safely open for the county.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday, May 4, said the state had approved plans to reopen beaches in Laguna and San Clemente.

“Laguna put together an astounding plan,” Newsom said. “We not only applauded that, but we enthusiastically embraced it.”

Under the first phase of Laguna Beach’s plan, the beach will reopen from 6 to 10 a.m. weekdays starting Tuesday, May 5, for active recreation. The beach will remain closed on weekends. Phase two will include limited beach hours on weekends, but passive use of the beach won’t be allowed until phase four.

Contact Lisa Jacobs lisa.jacobs@TBRnews.com or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

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