Two California cities are fighting back after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all Orange County beaches closed.
Huntington Beach and Dana Point on Thursday both authorized legal action to battle the order issued by Newsom, which came in response to the sight of thousands of people enjoying Orange County’s beaches last weekend, according to Fox News. Newsom had objected after images of the crowds showed that many had thrown social distancing guidelines to the winds.
“The City of Dana Point intends to get an injunction that challenges Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to close all beaches in Orange County,” Dana Point City Attorney Patrick Muñoz said, according to the Dana Point Times. “It would be a temporary restraining order on the beach closures.”
Huntington Beach Mayor Lyn Semeta said beaches in that city will close until it gets an injunction that would suspend Newsom’s order, according to KTLA.
“We’re very concerned about if we happen to be the only Orange County beach open at that point,” she said. “That would be very difficult on our marine safety officers.”
Semeta said the closure made no sense.
“Our experience here locally has been that most people are being responsible and complying with social distancing, and given that Orange County has among the lowest per capita COVID-19 death rates in California, the state’s action today seems to prioritize politics over data,” she said in a statement.
On Friday, Judge Nathan Scott of the Orange County Superior Court denied both cities’ requests for a temporary restraining order.
“In denying the TRO, the Court commented that based on the limited time it had to consider the very serious issues presented, it felt compelled to defer to the State’s concerns about public health,” the city of Dana Point said in a statement.
“The request for a further hearing on a preliminary injunction was granted by the court, and will occur on May 11, 2020 at 2 pm.”
However, the city said it hopes further legal action will be unnecessary.
“During the court hearing, staff received a request from the State to participate in a call to develop a plan to reopen beaches in Orange County,” the statement said.
“As a result of that call, a plan to reopen beaches has been developed and will be submitted to the State over the weekend. The City is hopeful the plan will satisfy the State, making further court action unnecessary.”
The Newport Beach City Council, meanwhile, was set to meet this weekend to consider its legal options.
Orange County officials have condemned Newsom’s actions.
County Supervisor Michelle Steel called the closure an “arbitrary” form of retribution.
“We should be rewarding our communities for practicing safe social distancing, not punishing them by closing down only Orange County beaches and this is not acceptable,” she said. “I will be looking into the right response to the governor’s overreaction and abuse of power.”
Steel said Newsom was misled by photos from the weekend that distorted what was actually taking place.
Seeking relief from a heat wave, thousands of people crowded beaches in Southern California this weekend amid the coronavirus pandemic, despite a statewide stay-at-home order implemented by the governor last month. https://t.co/H68PjgJoqw
— CNN (@CNN) April 27, 2020
“The major point of contention that has lead to this situation are a few misleading pictures … taken at the particular angle which made it look as if beachgoers were crowding,” Steel said.
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes does not plan to spend the weekend arresting violators.
“My intent … is to seek voluntary compliance,” Barnes said. “I have no desire to enforce … through arrest.”
Please see my statement regarding the Governor’s closure of Orange County’s beaches: pic.twitter.com/8sJHW4aWLE
— OC Sheriff Don Barnes (@OCSheriffBarnes) May 1, 2020
In a statement released on Twitter, Barnes said the closure was “wrong and fails to recognize the sacrifices made by our 3 million residents.”
“The people of this County have complied with [Newsom’s] directives throughout this pandemic and have taken the measures necessary to ‘flatten the curve,’ oftentimes at the expense of their livelihood and quality of life,” Barnes said. “I implore the governor to reconsider his action and work with local authorities, allowing us to address the few while not penalizing the majority.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.