Half Moon Bay councilmembers want beach parking lots reopened and restrictions on beach access lifted this week, but the moves won’t be made until next weekend at the earliest.
The eagerness to reopen beach parking lots is in response to widespread concerns that droves of visitors each weekend occupy many of the parking spaces in nearby residential areas because the beach lots are closed due to COVID-19.
At a meeting Monday, councilmembers urged staff to convince state officials to reopen parking lots at state beaches by this weekend, and said the city-owned Poplar Beach lot would reopen concurrently.
“We need to see if we can’t mobilize pressure to open them this weekend,” said Councilwoman Debbie Ruddock. “Why not push a little.”
Councilman Robert Brownstone said reopening this weekend would “take a lot of pressure off.”
It appears the pushing did not result in the council’s desired outcome as city spokeswoman Jessica Blair Thursday confirmed next weekend is the earliest beach lots will reopen.
“There simply wasn’t enough time to coordinate across all agencies [to reopen beach parking lots for Memorial Day weekend] and we also didn’t want to encourage large crowds or taking advantage during the holiday weekend,” she said. Blair added the effort is being done collaboratively with state parks, the county, the harbor, the city of Pacifica and other agencies that control coastal access and parking.
While Half Moon Bay residents appear to largely want beach lots reopened, the concern that the move will encourage more visitors was echoed during the public comment portion of the meeting.
“[Reopening beach parking lots] is a statement that it’s open season come on down,” said resident Paulette Eisen, adding she doesn’t believe doing so will alleviate the parking concerns in residential areas.
To address neighborhood parking impacts brought on by the closure of beach parking lots, councilmembers have discussed over several meetings a potential temporary permit parking program. The aim is to reserve neighborhood parking spots for those who live there and ticket those who don’t.
City Manager Bob Nisbet has noted the California Coastal Commission, which regulates coastal access, typically resists such programs, but actually expressed some openness to the idea in light of the pandemic.
Nisbet said the Coastal Commission would only consider a permit parking program if the county’s health officer confirmed “the situation without a permit parking program constituted a public health challenge.” The next step would be to request such a statement from the health officer, but officials have since tabled the idea, Blair said Thursday.
“Again coordination was difficult and managing priorities amongst agencies involved made it more difficult,” she said. “We’re hoping it will be a moot point once parking lots are reopened.”
During the meeting, councilmembers also called for daytime beach access to be restored — currently beaches in the county are closed between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. — and for beach bathrooms to reopen.
“As long as we’re talking with the county we should get them to rescind this nutsy idea about no 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. access to beaches,” said Councilman Harvey Rarback. “It only makes the public think we’re crazy and I’m not in favor of the public thinking we’re crazy.”
Brownstone suggested the reopening of beach bathrooms is an urgent need.
“If they can’t open those parking lots they have to reopen those bathrooms,” said Brownstone. “We’ve already been getting letters that people will find bathrooms one way or another whether they exist or not. That’s caused some issues.”
In other business, officials designed a face mask featuring the words “I heart the CA coastal trail” and made 250 of them that will be given to locals. The aim is to encourage visitors to wear masks while in the area rather than require them, as has been discussed in the past.
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