Encinitas council votes to open Moonlight Beach Monday, April 27, for walkers, runners, surfers, swimmers

(Courtesy)

Encinitas opened Moonlight Beach for walkers, runners, surfers and swimmers starting at 8 a.m. Monday, April 27, but both lifeguards and sheriff’s deputies will be monitoring whether people are following social-distancing guidelines.

If people aren’t complying with the 6-foot distancing rule, or if the crowds get too large, the beach will close.

The City Council narrowly supported this “Phase One,” limited recreation-only reopening plan Sunday afternoon, April 26, in a 3-2 vote, with Councilwoman Jody Hubbard and Councilman Joe Mosca opposed.

Hubbard and Mosca said that they thought the city was rushing ahead with the beach reopening. Encinitas was supposed to work in coordination with the surrounding communities, so that all North County beaches opened at the same time and that’s not going to happen Monday morning, April 27, they noted.

When the County of San Diego declared Friday, April 24, that cities could reopen their beaches starting Monday, April 27, Encinitas announced it would go for it, as did the city of San Diego and Coronado, but other communities did not. Carlsbad City Council voted Saturday, April 25, to keep its beach, parks and trails closed until May 1. Del Mar and Solana Beach have indicated that they did not plan to reopen on Monday, April 27, and the state parks system also is holding off on reopening the beaches it manages.

Mosca and Hubbard said they were worried that Encinitas would be mobbed by out-of-towners because the other North County beaches are still closed.

“We’re crazy to think that we’re only going to get the locals,” Hubbard said, adding that she knows people who were driving to Orange County last week because their beaches were open when San Diego County’s were closed.

Even council members who voted to reopen Moonlight Beach said Friday’s announcement by the county was unsettling. Blakespear and Kranz said they felt “blindsided” and “taken aback” by the sudden announcement that beach reopening could begin Monday, April 27, saying they expected more time between the announcement and the actual reopening date.

However, they and Councilwoman Kellie Shay Hinze said Encinitas has a good plan in place for handling the beach reopening, starting with the Phase One stage. And, Kranz said, Moonlight Beach is a good place to start the reopening effort because its access can be easily controlled and there’s plenty of space on the sand for people to spread out.

“We just happen to have a perfect beach for implementing the plan you have put together,” he told the city’s fire chief and the lifeguard captain.

One thing that needs to be stressed to the public, Kranz added, is that the “stay at home” order issued by California’s governor remains in place and the beach is reopening for exercise only.

“You don’t bring a chair, you don’t bring anything that suggests you’re going to be there for a while,” he said.

Mayor Catherine Blakespear said people who were using the city’s newly reopened Coastal Rail Trail this weekend were following the guidelines and this made her optimistic that people will do so at the beach.

Under the first phase of the reopening plan, current restrictions that ban parking will remain in place and the only public access point will be at Moonlight Beach.

The city’s various beach access staircases, including the one at Swami’s Beach, do not meet the six-foot distancing requirements and will not be reopening at this time, city officials said.

Other restrictions during the first phase of reopening include:

No public gatherings are allowed

People cannot stop, stand or lay down at the beach

People cannot bring chairs, blankets or coolers

People cannot bring sports equipment, and play football or other games

City officials said they plan for now to try out the first phase for about two weeks and then debate at a May 6 council meeting whether to pursue Phase Two, which would include allowing one-way beach access from the beach staircases.

Even before the beach opening issue, Encinitas officials were keeping busy this weekend. Several dozen people gathered Saturday, April 25, at Moonlight Beach to protest the beach closures, and at least three people who refused to leave the beach were arrested by sheriff’s deputies.

— Barbara Henry is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune


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