United opposition of divers and residents on Tuesday scuttled a proposal to close city beaches between 10 or 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
No one from the public spoke at the City Council meeting in favor of an agenda item sponsored by Mayor Kelly Boyd to direct staff to work up a curfew for North Laguna beaches, which he verbally expanded to include all city beaches bordered by residential neighborhoods. The audience in the Council Chambers stood and applauded when Boyd withdrew his recommendation.
“I got a petition from a neighbor to close the beach, but I plead with you not to do that,” said Crescent Bay resident Pamela Horowitz, also known as Pamela Lawrence. “I’d find it a sad situation.”
Horowitz said she enjoyed strolling to Crescent Bay early in the morning or at night, sometimes just to watch divers and would consider it an imposition if her walks were curtailed.
“I even went to the dive shops and asked them to do something — we don’t want our beaches closed,” Horowitz said.
If the curfew were approved, residents and visitors would have been banned from those beaches during stipulated hours.
“I brought this up because the residents around the beaches in North Laguna had problems,” Boyd said in introducing the agenda item. “But it’s not just in North Laguna where this is happening. We might want to take a look at all the small coves.”
Divers appeared to believe they were the target of the curfew proposal.
“We know residents have problems on the beaches,” said Debbie Karimoto on behalf of the divers.
Karimoto said the divers compiled a list of complaints and formed a committee of 30 members to come up with a plan to educate divers and instructors on beach etiquette.
She presented the flier created for OCdiving.com, which listed steps divers should take to reduce tension with oceanfront property owners, including keeping noisy conversations to a minimum.
“Divers don’t linger on the beaches,” Karimoto said. “They are carrying heavy equipment and they are not dressed to party.”
Resident Charlotte Masarik said she and her grandchildren bumped into a large group of divers while “tidepooling” and they couldn’t have been more circumspect.
“So I think word has gotten around,” Masarik said.
South Laguna diver Tim Baskin implored the council not to approve a curfew.
“I have dived since the 1960s,” Baskin said. “Laguna is one of the most pristine places to dive in the world.”
And he loves to dive at night when he swims with and photographs fish he never sees in the daytime.
“We have a unique ecosystem and it is to be enjoyed by all.”
However, at least one South Laguna resident told Boyd that it was young people carousing noisily late at night on the beaches that disturbed her.
Call the police, advised North Laguna resident Jeannette Merrilees.
“They will come,” Merrilees said.
Anyone younger than 18 is subject to a city curfew already on the books.
Minors must be off public streets, alleys, playgrounds, vacant lots or other unsupervised places — including but not limited to parks, beaches and other areas to which the public has access — from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. the next morning.
Exceptions include teens accompanied by a responsible adult, those legally married, or those on their to or from home, work or an organized activity such as a school dance.
However, City Manager Ken Frank said the curfew is rather loosely enforced, a statement he clarified on Wednesday. Basically, police officers don’t scour the city streets looking to pick up kids, he said, but that doesn’t mean they ignore flagrant violations of the law.
“If they are drinking on the beach — that is against the law — or setting bonfires, the police will take action,” Frank said.
Retired Police Capt. Danell Adams, a veteran of 35 years as a Laguna peace officer, said creating a law is easy. Enforcing it isn’t always popular.
“Folks who spend a lot of money to visit or live in Laguna would not appreciate being told they could not enjoy the beach after 10 p.m.,” Adams said.
After hearing the public testimony and reviewing the OCdivers.com flier, Boyd said he had reconsidered his recommendation and pulled it from the agenda before the council voted.