Orange County extends beach hours for Memorial Day weekend, reopens some parking lots

Seal Beach
Beach goers enjoy a day at Seal Beach while social distancing on Thursday, May 21, 2020. The city is now welcoming beachgoers from 4:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Coastal access in Orange County will be easier over the Memorial Day weekend, as several coastal cities expanded their beach hours and plan to open more parking lots connected to the shoreline.

Seal Beach officials this week authorized the city to move into Phase 2 and 3 of its “beach in motion” plans, which expands hours for access but continues to prohibit beachgoers from lounging on the sand. Active use such as walking, jogging, surfing or swimming is allowed and is in line with rules at other Southern California beaches.

Following a six-week closure at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Seal Beach took a more cautious approach in reopening its coastline earlier this month than other beach cities.

It is an “eerie” day in Seal Beach as businesses struggle to come back and crowds stay away.

The city submitted a multistep plan to the state in early May after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the closure of all 42 miles of the county’s coastline to stem the spread of the virus after beachgoers packed some stretches of sand during a spring heat wave.


Initially, Seal Beach allowed public access only Monday through Thursdays, opening after sunrise and closing at sunset. But the city is now welcoming beachgoers from 4:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Those new hours will be in place seven days a week, officials say.

Parking lots on 1st Street, 8th Street and 10th Street also reopened this week. However, officials closed half of the parking spaces to ensure beachgoers continue social distancing.

“We’ve been so proud of this community’s patience, dedication, and understanding as we navigate this difficult time” Seal Beach Mayor Schelly Sustarsic said in a prepared statement. “We are very excited to move into phase three and look forward to being able to enjoy our beaches more. Phase three is the next step in moving toward returning to normal.”

A few miles south, Huntington Beach and Newport Beach are also allowing beach access on weekends, ahead of the Memorial Day holiday. Newport is now open 6 a.m.-10 p.m., while Huntington Beach opens an hour earlier.

Laguna Beach, however, is maintaining stricter hours on Saturdays and Sundays, with their coastline closing at noon each day.

Getting to the beach is also easier, after county officials opened parking lots with reduced capacity at Salt Creek, Strands and Baby beaches in Dana Point, along with the coastal lot at Aliso Beach in South Laguna. Most cities have opened beach parking in some capacity to prevent visitors from crowding neighborhoods.

Officials alarmed by crowds at Malibu beaches, some local parks, warning of dangers

Los Angeles County officials announced Friday that beach bike paths and some beach parking lots would reopen ahead of the Memorial Day weekend. Public health officials have continued to caution residents to avoid large gatherings and outdoor crowds.

County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer warned residents to allow for physical distancing and refrain from packing the sand during beach outings.

“Many of our beautiful outdoor spaces are open and we can enjoy them as we practice physical distancing and wear our cloth face coverings when we’re around other people,” Ferrer said during a news conference Wednesday.

“The virus hasn’t changed. It’s still relatively easy to become infected, particularly if you’re not taking precautions.”

Times staff writer Colleen Shalby contributed to this report.