OCEANSIDE — The Oceanside City Council has issued a letter demanding San Diego County health officials allow individual cities to determine when to reopen their respective parks and local businesses.
During its April 22 meeting, the council voted 4-1 in favor of drafting a demand letter to Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, urging her to amend the current health order related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On April 24, the demand letter, signed by the councilmembers, was sent to the county. On the same day, county officials modified the public health order to reopen beaches for limited activities at cities’ discretion. The county has not yet responded to the city’s letter.
The city’s demands include allowing local municipalities to decide when to open businesses and outdoor recreational activity areas, such as beaches, parks and golf courses.
If granted, the City of Oceanside would continue to require residents and businesses to follow the county’s social distancing and sanitation requirements that are currently being followed by essential businesses.
The council is requesting the amendment take effect immediately, but no later than May 1.
As of April 27, Oceanside has opened its beaches for limited public access. Residents can use the beach for exercising, running, walking, swimming, surfing, paddling and kayaking.
Sunbathing, picnics, gatherings, group exercising and games, standing or sitting and recreational boating (except kayaking) are all still prohibited at Oceanside beaches.
The Oceanside Pier, Junior Seau Pier Amphitheater and The Strand are still closed to vehicular traffic, with the exception of residents leaving and returning to their adjacent properties. Beach parking lots remain closed.
Two weeks ago, Councilmember Chris Rodriguez pushed for the demand letter during the city’s April 8 meeting, but there wasn’t enough support from other council members at the time.
“Oceanside has put forth extraordinary efforts to flatten the curve but as we push down the curve, like a large balloon, a new curve is created,” Rodriguez said at the April 22 meeting. “In this case, it is unemployment and loss of essential revenues curve.”
Rodriguez said the county and state health orders to close small businesses have come “remarkably close to compromising our constitutional rights as guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.”
Councilmember Esther Sanchez was the only member opposed to the letter.
“I do feel that the decisions have to be based on data and science,” Sanchez told Rodriguez at the meeting. “We have really good, positive results because we are sheltering-in-place, otherwise our infrastructure would be severely overloaded.”
Sanchez said the decision to allow cities to reopen should be left to the county health officer.
“As much as I want us to get back to work, it has to be at the time when we can ensure our public safety, our residents’ health and safety,” Sanchez said.
Samantha Nelson covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son