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By Shawn Raymundo
In light of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s directive Thursday, April 30, to temporarily close all beaches in Orange County, the San Clemente City Council has called for a special meeting that will convene via teleconference Friday night.
The council intends to address Newsom’s order, which went into effect countywide Friday morning—a week after the city had reopened San Clemente’s beaches so residents could surf, swim and exercise.
The neighboring coastal cities of Dana Point and Huntington Beach convened their own emergency meetings Thursday night when city councils from both towns voted to respond to the order by filing lawsuits against the state.
Dana Point’s city council voted 4-1 to participate in ligation seeking a temporary restraining order against Newsom’s directive.
“The City of Dana Point intends to get an injunction that challenges Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to close all beaches in Orange County,” DP City Attorney Patrick Muñoz said. “It would be a temporary restraining order on the beach closures.”
News of the governor’s announcement first broke late Wednesday night after a memo sent to police chiefs throughout the state, notifying them to plan ahead of the order, was widely circulated and leaked to the press.
The memo had stated that the governor intended to close all beaches and state parks throughout California.
However, during his daily press briefing on Thursday, Newsom clarified that the directive only targets Orange County’s beaches and serves as a direct response to the thousands of people who swarmed the region’s coastal areas amid a heat wave that hit Southern California this past weekend.
News photos of the large crowds visibly defying the state’s social distancing guidelines, notably in Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, gained widespread media attention.
Just before the governor made his announcement, acting San Clemente Mayor Laura Ferguson spoke with San Clemente Times to state that Newsom’s order “is taking a step backward because locally we’ve done a good job of flattening the curve.”
“I think it’s time to reopen and be less restrictive, not more restrictive,” she added.
No other details were provided in the city of San Clemente’s agenda for Friday night’s meeting, other than to note that the discussion will center on “Consideration of the Governor’s Order.”
But prior to Newsom’s announcement on Thursday, Councilmember Gene James took to his political Facebook page, where he issued a staunch rebuke of the governor’s latest action, stating: “I will no longer cooperate…I will no longer be complicit with the tyranny of Sacramento.”
“A single person 450 miles away has unilaterally decided with a stroke of a pen to take away our freedom to have access to our beaches,” James had posted.
He went on to write that he would like Ferguson to call for a special meeting so the council could discuss immediately reopening the pier, the skate park, the Pier Bowl and North Beach parking lots, as well as “instruct the Chief of Police Serves not to restrict the lawful access to San Clemente beaches.”
In a prepared statement from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Don Barnes calls 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.
Late Thursday afternoon, the city issued its special meeting notice to discuss the closures.
The council will first conduct a closed session meeting at 4:30 p.m. before holding a public session scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. The meeting can be live-streamed through the city’s YouTube channel.
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.