By Lillian Boyd and Shawn Raymundo
A judge denied a request from the cities of Dana Point and Huntington Beach to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s directive to close county beaches.
Hon. Nathan Scott of the Orange County Superior Court felt that the court had limited time to consider the “very serious issues presented,” according to a City of Dana Point statement. Scott also said he felt compelled to defer to the state’s concerns about public health.
During the court hearing, Dana Point city staff received a request from the state to participate in a call to develop a plan to reopen beaches in Orange County. A plan to reopen beaches will reportedly be developed and submitted to the state over the weekend. According to city staff, they are hopeful the plan will satisfy the state, deeming further court action unnecessary.
The request for a further hearing on a preliminary injunction was, however, granted by the court, and will be held Monday, May 11, at 2 p.m.
At this time, beaches remain closed per Gov. Newsom’s order.
Prior to pursuing legal action, city council had held an emergency meeting on Thursday, April 30, in light of the governor’s announcement. Municipalities across the state’s coastline anticipated beach closures after a memo from the California Police Chiefs Association sent to police chiefs throughout the state was leaked to the press.
Newsom on Thursday clarified that “we are going to do a hard close just in that part of the state, just that county.” The governor also said he hoped it is “a short-term adjustment.”
The emergency meeting was called in the spirit of the Brown Act, which defines “emergency” as threatened disruption to public facilities, City Attorney Patrick Muñoz said, adding that discussion on potential impacts as a result of protests was needed.
After meeting in closed session, Muñoz reported out that the motion to participate in the lawsuit was brought forth by City Councilmember Debra Lewis and seconded by Councilmember Paul Wyatt.
“The City of Dana Point intends to get an injunction that challenges Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to close all beaches in Orange County,” Muñoz said. “It would be a temporary restraining order on the beach closures.”
The motion passed 4-1, with Lewis opposed.
In speaking to Lewis after the vote, she clarified that her motion was to make it clear that Dana Point, on its own, would be willing to be part of the litigation.
“This whole thing is just political theater,” Lewis said. “There’s that saying, ‘When they tell you it’s not about the money, it’s going to be about the money,’ and that’s how I felt. This decision was about money, not concern about people’s health. This is a public health crisis. We need to be steered by the public health experts. Not politicians who agree or disagree with various methods.”
In the complaint, the listed plaintiffs include Lido House and Balboa Bay Resort (both Newport Beach hotels), Pasea Hotel (a Huntington Beach hotel) and Lounge Group, LLC in addition to the cities of Huntington Beach and Dana Point.
Lounge Group is an Orange County-based food and beverage consulting firm.
According to the complaint, plaintiffs argued that Newsom’s order was a threat to local governments.
“…Executive overreach applied in an arbitrary and capricious manner threatens the system of government guaranteed to the people of the State of California by the United States and California constitutions,” the complaint said. “By and through this action, Plaintiffs seek to limit the exercise of executive and governmental powers that threaten to turn the carefully crafted division of powers between the State and Local Governments on its head.”
During a press conference on Friday, May 1, Gov. Newsom said he appreciates “expression and difference of points of view.”
“We’re not ideological,” Newsom said. “We’re open to argument, we’re interested in evidence and the evidence is bearing out that we’re seeing some good things but still some yellow flags.”
In a prepared statement from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Don Barnes called on the governor to reconsider his order to close the beaches, which he called “wrong and fails to recognize the sacrifices made by our 3 million residents.”
“The people of this County have complied with his 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 in the statement.
He goes on to address the overcrowding at the beaches this past weekend, stating that he saw the majority of those beachgoers acting responsibly while the authorities addressed “instances of unsafe activity in a reasonable manner.”
“I implore the Governor to reconsider his action and work with local authorities, allowing us to address the few while not penalizing the majority,” he continued.
As for San Clemente, a letter from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services sent to the city on Thursday explains that temporary order went into effect Friday, May 1, prohibiting all activities on the beaches such as sunbathing, walking, running and watersports.
“We are hopeful and confident that we can collaborate with local Orange County leaders to identify measures that can restore safe beach access soon as possible,” the letter states. “But until such time as those measures are in place, this additional step to preserve public health and safety has proven essential.”
The City of Dana Point closed its only city-managed beach Dana Cove on March 23. While parking lots for county and state owned beaches including Salt Creek Beach, Strands Beach, Capistrano Beach and Doheny State Beach have been closed, its beaches had remained open until Newsom’s order.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.
Lillian Boyd is the senior editor for Picket Fence Media and city editor for Dana Point Times. She graduated with a degree in journalism from Humboldt State University. Her work experience includes interviewing incarcerated individuals in the Los Angeles County jails, an internship at the Pentagon covering U.S. Army news as well as reporting and anchoring for a local news radio station in Virginia. Follow her on Twitter @Lillianmboyd and follow Dana Point Times at @danapointtimes.