The reopening of beach parking lots and restrooms on the coastside of San Mateo County — some overseen by local jurisdictions and others by the state — has not been a simple process as one might expect.

It appears each agency involved is waiting for the others to take action.

Half Moon Bay officials are urging state and county officials to reopen beach lots and restrooms immediately in the county, and also lift the restriction on beach access between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The request is due to concerns about visitors taking up parking spots in nearby neighborhoods because the beach lots are closed. And they want beach restrooms reopened because visitors are instead relieving themselves in the bushes. The concerns have been the subject of many frustrated emails, officials have said.

Earlier this week, parking lots at 27 California state parks reopened.

County officials say it’s up to the owner of the beach to reopen the parking lots and restrooms. But on Friday a state official said the beach parking lots under the state’s jurisdiction won’t reopen until the county-imposed closure of beaches between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. is lifted. The county health order only allows residents within 10 miles of a beach to visit it on foot between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Residents can travel by car within 10 miles of a beach outside of those hours.

“We’re trying to coordinate what we’re doing with the health officer order and at this point opening the lots doesn’t make sense,” said Chris Spohrer, state parks district superintendent. “If the [11 a.m. to 5 p.m. closure] changes we’ll do what we can to coordinate with the city and county to increase access to beaches.”

Half Moon Bay officials similarly have said they’ll reopen the Poplar Beach parking lot, which is owned by the city, once the lots at state beaches reopen.

County Manager Mike Callagy during a press conference Friday said state and local agencies are free to reopen the beach parking lots in their respective jurisdictions whenever they choose.

“They can open them tomorrow if they want,” he said.

That said, it appears state and local officials are reluctant to exercise their authority to reopen beach lots until the county’s health order is amended to do away with the 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. restriction. When that will happen is unknown.

“I cannot say when it will be lifted because [San Mateo County Health Officer] Dr. Scott Morrow and County Manager Mike Callagy have not decided yet,” Michelle Durand, the county’s chief communications officer, said Friday after the press conference.

Half Moon Bay officials earlier this week said they’ll be urging state and local officials to reopen beach lots by next weekend if doing so can’t happen by Memorial Day weekend.

While beach lots will be closed at least another week, Spohrer said the restrooms at Francis Beach will be open through the holiday weekend and potentially for good.

The parking lot at Burleigh H. Murray Ranch State Park will also reopen this weekend, Spohrer said.

Callagy said there has been one death due to COVID-19 in the county since Wednesday, bringing the countywide total to 76 deaths. Of those, 50 deaths were nursing home residents.

The county has so far seen a total of 1,783 cases of COVID-19. The age group with the highest rate of infection is those between the ages of 30 and 49. There are currently 74 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the county and 17 of them are in the ICU.

A total of 24,660 patients have been tested for the disease in the county and 7.2% of them or 1,781 patients have tested positive. It now takes an average of 1.63 days to receive test results.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 102

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(1) comment

Greg Snelling

Parking in neighborhoods, urinating in public, very predictable outcomes for the latest 'relaxation'. Very predictable consequence of the decision. That should have been foreseen. It troubles me that the unelected County Health Director has such unfettered power. The person holding the position cannot be voted out or recalled. Better if the orders came from Board of Supervisors or local mayors so citizens can use the power of their vote to hold leaders accountable. Can the San Mateo County Health Director position be subject to lawsuits to be held accountable?

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