Huntington Beach Squares Off with State in Court Over Beach Closure


SANTA ANA (CNS) - Just because all of Orange County's beaches have been reopened doesn't mean Huntington Beach is ready to drop its lawsuit regarding Gov. Gavin Newsom's “hard closure” earlier this month of the county's beaches.

Attorneys will argue on Monday whether an Orange County Superior Court judge should issue an injunction blocking the governor from using his powers during an emergency to order the closure of the county's beaches.

Attorneys for the state argued in court papers that the issue is moot now that the county and cities with jurisdiction over the beaches have adopted active-use only compromises with the state. The rules prohibit sunbathing and other passive uses of the beaches in favor of swimming, jogging, walking and other active recreation.

Dana Point, which joined Huntington Beach's lawsuit, dropped out after reaching a compromise for active recreation on its beaches.

But Huntington Beach attorneys argue in court papers that Newsom's executive order on April 30 “continues to infringe on the constitutional powers vested in local municipalities, which are subject to the ultimate approval of the state, despite the compromise regarding the partial reopening of some Orange County beaches.”


The city argued “overarching legal questions and disputes continue and are likely to recur in the future.”

Newsom ordered the shutdown of Orange County's beaches after admonishing local leaders to do something about the mass congregating of beachgoers in defiance of social distancing rules meant to curb the spread of COVID-19. City Councils in Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Dana Point, and San Clemente joined the county in balking at calls to close the beaches, prompting the governor to order a shutdown of the county's beaches.

Huntington Beach argues in court papers that the state continues to hold out a threat of a beach shutdown based on the governor's authority during an emergency.

“The controversy at the heart of this action -- who has the power over local beaches and who is accountable for those decisions -- is as present now as it was when plaintiffs filed this action” on May 1, the city argues in court papers.

“ The state will no doubt exercise that power should it again conclude that activities at local beaches create an unsafe condition, as it did when issuing the April 30 directive based on sensationalized photographs” in local newspapers, the city argues.

City officials also return to an argument they used when challenging the state's Sanctuary State laws to protect undocumented immigrants. Huntington Beach is a charter city, granting it more authority than general law cities, they argue.

Huntington Beach claims that as a charter city it is “free from any interference by the state through the general laws.”

Photo: Getty Images

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