SOLANA BEACH – In step with their neighbors to the north, Del Mar and Solana Beach opened up their beaches on Monday, May 4.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the beaches are strictly to be used for socially distanced walking, water activities (surfing, swimming, etc.) and physical exercise. Both beaches are prohibiting “anything stationary,” including gatherings, sitting, standing, sunbathing, but also any games or sports.
Basically, don’t get too comfortable, and keep on moving.
As of Monday, essentially the entire North County shoreline is now open in this capacity – with Encinitas having opened last week, and Carlsbad opening Monday as well.
This includes state beaches – Cardiff, San Elijo, South Carlsbad and Torrey Pines state beaches are all now open. The Torrey Pines reserve is still closed.
State and city beach parking lots will remain closed – a move meant to discourage excessive crowding.
Both Del Mar and Solana Beach’s coastlines had been closed for over a month, since shortly after the COVID-19 crisis began in mid-March. The closures were met with public ire from the start, a response that has only intensified in recent weeks as the weather gets warmer and the shelter-in-place order drags on.
The county at large has been eyeing reopening for weeks, with local leaders planning for a coordinated strategy. But the process accelerated unexpectedly when the county announced that beachgoing restrictions would be lifted on April 27.
Del Mar and Solana Beach were apparently both taken aback by this move.
An e-blast issued by Solana Beach called the measure a “complete surprise” to the two cities but moved forward accordingly with a planned opening for May 4.
The confusion escalated again last week when word came out that Gov. Gavin Newsom was to announce the closure of all beaches and state parks in California. But as it turns out, this only applied to Orange County – where visitors flooded local beaches the last weekend of April.
Therefore the county’s two smallest cities opted to stick to a Monday opening. Fletcher Cove Park and Powerhouse Park both remain closed, but the parks still have accessways to the beach.
The stairway access points in Solana Beach will only allow one-way passage – residents will be able to enter the beach at Seascape and exit at the Del Mar Shores staircase.
Both cities will be increasing the number of lifeguards on duty to keep up with enforcement and educational needs – which will be supplemented by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
At a May 1 special meeting in Del Mar, North Coastal Sheriff Captain Herbert Taft said the station is expecting large crowds.
“The reality of it is people are excited to be back, and be able to walk to the beaches,” said Taft.
He added that most people are “very compliant,” and citations will be used as a last resort.
Del Mar City Manager CJ Johnson said that so far, beach openings in other areas of the county have been “going okay” – such as in the city of San Diego. However, she said there have been some bigger crowds in Encinitas due to the incoming red tides and resulting bioluminescent waves.
Councilmembers in Del Mar unanimously supported the opening of beaches on Monday, in order to get in line with the state and its neighboring cities.
Councilwoman Terry Gaasterland said she thinks opening the beach is ultimately a safer option, giving residents more areas to be able to exercise rather than scrunching together on narrow Del Mar roads.
“Stratford Court itself has become a highway,” she said, referring to a road that runs through Olde Del Mar, parallel to the beach. “Opening up the beaches will relieve that.”
The council and staff have also made it clear that the opening is conditional on how well residents and visitors are able to maintain social distancing standards.
“If the word is it isn’t working, we’re going to close it again,” said Councilman Dwight Worden.
Dozens of locals have written red dots to the city, pleading with officials to open the beaches for exercise purposes.
The entire county has seen strong pushback from residents due to beach closures, with the recent protest in Encinitas calling out local officials for keeping the beaches closed.
According to Solana Beach Mayor Jewel Edson, residents were disappointed with the closing in March, but have been understanding, “for the most part.”
“We hope this time around people will comply with County orders so that our beaches may remain open for all to enjoy,” she said.