Newport Beach reopens shoreline as California continues unlocking Orange County coast

Beachgoers spread out across the sand in Newport Beach
Beachgoers spread out across the sand in Newport Beach on Monday, when Gov. Gavin Newsom’s hard closure of Orange County beaches was still in place.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Newport Beach can partially reopen its coastline after the state signed off on an active recreation plan for the city’s beaches, officials said Wednesday.

Beginning immediately, residents can now use the beaches for activities such as walking, running, hiking, biking, swimming, surfing and fishing from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, according to the city.

Beach parking lots remain closed, and more passive activities such as loitering and sunbathing are still off-limits. Beachgoers also must avoid gatherings with people they do not live with.

Dana Point, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, San Clemente, Newport Beach and Seal Beach allow beach access for active recreation.


“The city is very pleased to reopen our beaches for the physical and mental well-being of our residents,” Mayor Will O’Neill said in a statement. “While the active recreation model was not the preferred choice by the City Council after discussions with our public safety personnel, we are confident that city staff will manage the beaches effectively under the approved plan.”

Wednesday’s announcement means every coastal Orange County city has now received state approval to reopen its local beaches in some capacity. The Orange County Board of Supervisors also voted Tuesday to submit a plan that would allow county-operated beaches to reopen for active recreation, as well.

The wave of reopenings comes after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered a “hard closuree” of all Orange County beaches last week in response to thousands of people flocking to the sand in some communities seeking relief from an April heat wave.

Newsom called the images that circulated of people congregating on Orange County’s shores “disturbing” and chastised beachgoers for ignoring state restrictions put in place to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The move incited protests in and push-back from affected communities. Some officials said the images the governor cited were misleading, and didn’t accurately portray that many beachgoers were acting responsibly and maintaining appropriate social distancing.

City leaders in Huntington Beach and Dana Point voted to take legal action against the governor. Even though beaches in both communities have since been allowed to reopen, Huntington Beach City Atty. Michael Gates said Tuesday that the city is continuing to seek an injunction against the governor’s order.

At the Huntington Beach pier about 50 protesters gathered to pick up where they had left off on Friday. The turnout was light, but the rhetoric was just as passionate.

Rather than officially join that lawsuit, the Newport Beach City Council opted to file a court brief supporting the effort.

Councilman Kevin Muldoon, however, has personally sued Newsom in federal court over the beach closures.