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Despite partial reopening of beaches, Huntington Beach presses for injunction on state order

Huntington Beach
Some beachgoers actively use the beach while others relax, despite Gov. Newsom’s active-use-only order at Huntington Beach.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Huntington Beach is pressing ahead for an injunction against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision last month to close the city’s beaches.

After the governor ordered Orange County beaches closed, citing crowds who appeared to violate social distancing requirements, Huntington Beach, Dana Point and Seal Beach reached an agreement last week with state authorities to reopen their coastline to active recreation. Under the agreement, people can walk, jog, surf and swim at the beaches but cannot sunbathe or linger on the sand.

Michael Gates, the city attorney for Huntington Beach, argues such an arrangement is untenable, discriminating against people whose disabilities don’t allow them to remain mobile and “mothers who want to sit with their small children in the sand.”

Moreover, Gates said in an interview Monday, the issue at the heart of the city’s lawsuit is one of executive overreach.

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Rather than working with local governments, Newsom has simply ordered them around, he said, like when he announced in a televised briefing he was closing Orange County’s beaches — a directive that caught municipal authorities off guard. In an emergency session held that night, the Huntington Beach City Council voted to seek an injunction against the order.

“It’s governor control, governor control, governor control,” he said. “That’s simply not supposed to happen in our constitutional government. The governor can’t step on the toes of our local officials.”

In court papers filed last week, Jennifer Rosenberg, a deputy attorney general who represents the state government in the lawsuit, said Newsom has broad authority to steer the state through “an unprecedented, once-in-a-century public health crisis that has brought normal life to a halt.”

Orange County Superior Court Judge Nathan R. Scott heard arguments Monday afternoon and is expected to issue a written ruling by the end of the week, Gates said. Scott declined to issue an injunction the day after Newsom’s order.

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A point of pride for Huntington Beach at any time, in those as stressful as these, Gates said, the coastline should be fully open to city residents. “For many of them, for most of them, the beach is an escape,” he said.

Times Community News staff writer Hillary Davis contributed to this report.


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