Orange County Beach Closures Spark Outcry, Legal Action

Gavin Newsom was expected to close the state’s beaches on Thursday in response to images that showed hoards of people flocking to the sands. But in a surprise twist, he ordered the closure of beaches only in Orange County. That quickly set off its own legal and political firestorm.

Newsom cited “disturbing” photographs from Newport Beach that showed very little social distancing. The governor said those kind of crowds weren’t seen in San Diego or Ventura counties.

To some, the decision to single out the OC seemed arbitrary at best and retaliatory at worst. Newsom has tussled with the county in the past. 

The decision felt like “an act of retribution against Orange County,” said Supervisor Michelle Steel. It was based on a “few misleading pictures” that “were taken at a particular angle that made it look as if beachgoers were crowding,” she said.

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes agreed. He announced he would not enforce the governor’s order.

The cities have also gotten involved. Huntington Beach and Dana Point filed a lawsuit on Friday in an attempt to block the order. A judge denied their request for a temporary restraining order. On Saturday, Newport Beach voted to file an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs.

Thousands of protesters then descended on Huntington Beach to protest the governor’s move, although many of them were there to oppose the stay-at-home edict by and large.

If the governor thought he could ease tensions by closing beaches in just one county, he was mistaken.