City of Half Moon Bay beaches will remain open during the Labor Day weekend, following concerns that visitors will not be deterred by public pleas or actual closures.

The Half Moon Bay City Council decided to keep the three beaches it oversees open -- Poplar Beach, Surfer’s Beach and a portion of Miramonte Beach -- following two weekends during which different approaches produced mixed results. Moreover, with insufficient personnel to enforce closure and the inability to uniformly close all nearby beaches, in coordination with other jurisdictions, the priority quickly turned to managing the inevitably large Labor Day weekend crowd.

Pacifica, Monterey and Santa Cruz will close their beaches this coming weekend, and initially the council thought the city would follow suit.

Two weekends ago, the desire to keep roadways open in the case of additional evacuations and emergency transport from the nearby CZU Lightning Complex fire, prompted the mayor to send a message to beachgoers to stay away.

Then last weekend, with the threat of the fire subsided, COVID-19 became the primary motivation to close the beaches. Prior to the weekend, it was evident that there were not enough deputies to patrol the beaches for a prohibition to be effective. The beaches remained open.

Both times, the city tried to convince California State Parks to close its beaches, of which there are more than a dozen surrounding the city’s beaches, in the hopes that a blanket Coastside closure would be a strong deterrent. State Parks said it did not have sufficient personnel to enforce any beach closure.

Krystlyn Giedt, president of the Half Moon Bay Coastside Chamber of Commerce and Visitors' Bureau, said coordination with State Parks was critical.

“From the perspective of the visitor’s center whatever decision is made, please have it uniform between the county and the state,” Giedt said during public comment at a Tuesday night City Council meeting. “It causes pure pandemonium with people trying to figure out where to go, what to do, what parking lots are open.”

Many hearkened back to the successful closure of Fourth of July weekend. The state and city worked together to close and enforce the beaches. This kept the crowd away. But the same resources aren’t available now.

For the upcoming Labor Day weekend, State Parks informed city staff that the most it could do was close the parking lots at three of their beaches.

But closing parking lots without closing the beaches would be worse, many felt, including Suzan Suer, a resident who lives in a beachside neighborhood.

“If given no choice, I’d rather have cars in a parking lot and public restrooms open,” Suer said.

By keeping all beaches open, the council expects that the crowd will spread out, minimizing the impact on any one neighborhood.

Mayor Adam Eisen said the last few weeks have been a series of trials and errors that the city is learning from.

“We are working on a more synthesized way of communicating with other jurisdictions,” Eisen said. “So we’re not discussing this every week.”

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