Orange County keeps beaches open, but tells outsiders to stay away during heat wave

A trio of young surfers walks past a couple wearing protective masks as beachgoers enjoy summer-like weather April 22 in Huntington Beach.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Some Orange County beaches are open as the region’s first big heat wave of the year hits Southern California.

While people visiting O.C. beaches will be able to get on the sand and in the water, with proper social distancing, the parking lots will remain closed. And officials are urging outsiders to stay away.

That might be hard: Most Los Angeles County beaches (as well as trails and recreation areas) remain closed. So Orange County’s shores might end up being a big draw.


Here’s a look at the details:

Orange County

Orange County officials debated this week whether to close county beaches and trails during the upcoming heat wave after coastal residents raised concerns about out-of-towners descending on their communities in droves. Since surrounding counties have completely shuttered their beaches, Orange County has been inundated with people from L.A. and San Diego counties and the Inland Empire, Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said this week.

“When you take a look at the folks that are coming down, they’re not only not adhering to safer-at-home policies in their own communities, they’re not even staying in their own counties. Especially with the warm weather, I think it’s going to be problematic,” she said.

Orange County officials ultimately decided to keep beaches open but left in place parking restrictions that will reduce access. Some cities, including Laguna Beach and Seal Beach, have closed the stretches of sand in their jurisdiction.

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach closed all of its city-owned beaches, adjacent beach parks and trailheads in March, making it the first city to do so in Orange County. Officials have expressed concern about county beaches just outside the city being open during the heat wave.

Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen asked the Orange County Board of Supervisors this week to close the beaches in advance of the hot weather.

“This means that visitors will be heading to just the few beaches and trails that are open and practicing social distancing will be difficult and by some ignored,” Whalen wrote. “We have all seen the video from the beaches in Florida that recently reopened and there is no reason to expect a different outcome here with the first warm weather coming.”


San Clemente

After a two-week closure, officials in the southernmost Orange County city voted Tuesday to allow “active recreation” at city beaches and coastal trails. Parking access will be limited.

Los Angeles County

Local, state and federal agencies continue to enforce closures or severely limited access at hundreds of beaches, parks, trails and forests, all phased in since early March. Yet as the measures move into their second month of enforcement, differences in government policies and enforcement have become more apparent.

L.A. Police Chief Michel Moore called upon Angelenos to resist the urge to head for forbidden beaches and trails as temperatures are expected to surpass 90 degrees in the coming days.

“Avoid those nonessential activities,” Moore said. “Save the awkwardness of us having to admonish you.”

Ventura County

The city of Ventura eased its hard closure on parks and beaches this week in effort to help residents stay mentally and physically healthy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Under an amended ordinance, residents can now access the city’s beaches, pier, promenade and parks as long as they keep their distance from one another and remain active. People can walk back and forth on the pier or the sand but are not allowed to sit down, or stand against the railing to fish, for example.

County beaches are also open.

Ventura County officials also recently amended their Stay Well At Home order, allowing businesses to reopen physical locations with up to 10 workers as long as they did not serve the public. Golf courses and bicycle shops also have been allowed to reopen, along with in-person sales of vehicles.