Los Angeles County beaches saw lighter crowds than anticipated on Saturday, May 23, even as officials ushered in the first weekend of reopened bike paths and some beach parking lots. Meanwhile, beachgoers sitting on the sands in Malibu, the Westside and the South Bay saw limited enforcement of the county’s beach rules, which bar the public from using the beaches for anything other than exercise.
While the bike path was teeming with cyclists and runners around Santa Monica, there weren’t the usual hordes of users one usually sees on a normal Memorial Day weekend. The beaches, meanwhile, were even less busy.
“Everyone appears to be taking advantage of the bike path,” said Sgt. Chad Goodwin, a spokesman for the Santa Monica Police Department. No one had received any citations for violating coronavirus-related orders, he added. “Everyone’s playing by the rules.”
At Malibu’s Zuma Beach, where officials reopened a parking lot this weekend, crowds were even thinner than Santa Monica or Venice, something the county’s Department of Beaches and Harbor spokeswoman Nicole Mooradian confirmed to this newsgroup around noon on Saturday.
“At this point, we’ve seen limited crowds,” she said. “Then again, it’s just morning and people tend to come to the beach more in the afternoon.”
Mooradian explained that the county decided to partially open some parking lots at such popular beaches as Zuma, Dockweiler, Will Rogers, Malibu Surfrider and Torrance as a safety precaution.
“We’ve opened these lots to discourage people from parking unsafely, or even illegally,” she said, referring to some visitors at beaches last weekend who parked in travel lanes at Dockweiler Beach.
“Parking is limited. We’re not planning on keeping the lots at full capacity and we’ll determine the capacity by looking at how many people are at the beach and monitoring their behavior.”
If people are showing up one at a time in their own cars, the lots will likely be allowed to be more full, she explained. But if people are piling out of minivans, they’ll allow fewer cars in the lots.
“Our main goal is to prevent overcrowding,” she said. “If the beaches get overcrowded, we may have to shut them down again.”
In preparation for the reopening, Beaches and Harbors brought on 52 volunteers to gently remind beachgoers of the county’s rules, positioning 32 of them at Zuma Beach and another 20 at Will Rogers State Beach, which also saw its parking lot reopened on Saturday.
Wearing a highlighter-yellow vest and a black face covering, Anthony Artry, a county worker in the Department of Social Services, was among the 32 “goodwill ambassadors” who will be walking Zuma Beach from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. all weekend, he said in an interview Saturday.
It’s not a bad gig, he quipped, but he was surprised at the lack of people on the beach and expects bigger crowds on Monday.
“We’re just making sure that people are moving and they’re not gathering,” he said. “We’re just here to be goodwill ambassadors — just let them know that you’re not supposed to gather, can’t have any chairs, umbrellas, coolers, you know — they can’t post up.”
His role is education more than anything else.
“We’re not enforcers. We’re just going to let you know what you can and can’t do,” he said. “And, we’ll let you know that the actual enforcers — the cops — might come by and ask you to move, so it’s not a big shock.”
But it wasn’t clear how much educating they were doing.
Wendy Both was sitting on the beach, watching her boyfriend surf, when Artry walked past her, following a group of his colleagues who also walked right by.
Technically Both is breaking the county’s rules by sitting on the beach.
“I think they’ve been allowing it to be honest,” Both said. “As long as it’s not groups.
“I was here a few days ago and we were sitting here with umbrellas and they were coming by and didn’t say anything.”
When asked about the easygoing enforcement, Mooradian said, “I know people are doing it, but it’s technically not something we want people doing.”
Still, the only enforcement mechanism is the police, she explained. While lifeguards may give a sand-sitter some guidance, their focus is keeping the water safe, not the sand.
There had been no citations given to anyone at the beaches in Malibu, according to a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department. Similarly, a Los Angeles County Police Department spokesman said they hadn’t given any tickets either. That trend continued for Santa Monica and Manhattan Beach as well, the respective officials said.
Though the crowds were light, Mooradian added: “If people aren’t sure they want to go to the beach, we’d advise them maybe not to go today.”