Video: Orange County Goes Back to the Beach

JOSE HERNANDEZ, Voice of OC

Sun bathers and swimmers enjoying the warm weather in San Clemente on May 17, 2020.

Orange County shores are repopulating with beachgoers as cities have reopened their coastlines for limited use, after weeks-long legal battles and power struggles between local jurisdictions and Governor Gavin Newsom over coronavirus social distancing restrictions.


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Last month, viral photos of warm weather crowds in cities like Huntington Beach and Newport Beach prompted Newsom to order all the county’s beaches closed until local cities got their phased reopening plans — which largely limited beach activity to active use like walking and exercise, and restricted leisurely activity like sunbathing — approved by the state.

Eventually, on May 7, beaches controlled by the county were authorized for reopening as well.

Over the weekend, a Voice of OC flyover captured video of beaches in the cities of San Clemente, Dana Point, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and Seal Beach, to get a look at what members of the public were doing on the coast.

Aerial footage showed people remaining active on the shores and biking at the boardwalks over the weekend at some of those beaches, while others had still plopped umbrellas and beach towels down in the sand.

Beach guidelines for each of those cities largely limit allowable activity to active use only. 

Permitted activities include walking, running, and jogging; ocean recreation like swimming, stand up paddleboarding, surfing, bodyboarding, skimboarding, kayaking; and other physical activity that keeps individuals in active motion.

Leisurely activity like sunbathing — as well as picnicking equipment like coolers, umbrellas, shade tents, barbecues and chairs — is prohibited, according to the cities’ beach information web pages.

In cities with piers, activity in those areas is largely limited to active use while maintaining social distancing. In some of those cities, like San Clemente, fishing off the pier isn’t allowed.

City officials say they’re seeking “voluntary compliance.”  Those found not complying voluntarily could be cited.