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Laguna Beach to reopen city beaches, some trailheads starting May 4

Paths and the grass remain empty, as only a lifeguard and sailboat occupied Main Beach on Sunday while Laguna Beach city beaches remained closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Paths and the grass remain empty, as only a lifeguard and sailboat occupied Main Beach on Sunday while Laguna Beach city beaches remained closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)
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Laguna Beach is reopening its beaches and some trailheads for morning hours on Monday, following direction given to city staff at the city’s special City Council meeting Tuesday.

At the meeting, the City Council received an update on activity over the last weekend, where unseasonably warm temperatures drew beachgoers out from their homes in spite of the statewide stay-at-home order. The city previously closed its city beaches in March, but this closure excluded Orange County-owned beaches.

Some South Laguna residents said during public comment that Aliso Beach, which remains open though its parking is closed, was inundated with visitors.

City staff pointed to actions also being considered by Newport Beach and those taken by San Clemente, which began the process to reopen its beaches last weekend for active use only, such as walking, running, swimming or surfing.

Visitors will find even less parking and more police and lifeguard presence, but they will nonetheless have access to the sand and surf, a split City Council decided Tuesday.

All trailheads will be reopened except for the Alta Laguna trailhead and beaches will be reopened on weekdays between the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. for active use only, following direction by City Council on Tuesday night. This direction only affects city beaches. Directions included that City Manager John Pietig could close both trailheads and beaches if amenities were being overwhelmed or neighborhoods were being impacted.

Waters at the beaches will also be closed after hours.

The vote was unanimous.

Residents weighing in on the conversation leaned on both sides of the argument, with several arguing to phase in the openings of beaches while those in opposition argued for the maintained closures arguing that opening the beaches would bring an influx of visitors from out of town.

Councilwoman Toni Iseman asked if it would be possible for the city to explore the option for the city to gain control of the total coastline from the county, which Pietig said the city has explored before and could be discussed again.

California is a shifting patchwork of locally controlled beach closures — notably, Los Angeles County beaches are closed but several in Orange County have stayed open. Now, local officials may revisit that access after seeing how many people answered the call of summery temperatures this weekend.

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