huntington beach pier
huntington beach curfew photo of sign


Huntington Beach Curfew  Photo


Huntington Beach -- While on a Huntington Beach vacation getaway, you'll learn that there's a beach curfew. The signs posted (see photo of Huntington Beach Pier sign taken in  September 2006), state that the beach curfew is from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. What that means is that the beach is closed during those hours. You may not go on the beach. Some of the most restrictive curfews are in Orange County and Los Angeles County where beaches typically close at 10 or 11 p.m.


In Southern California, the most liberal beach hours are in San Diego County, allowing surfers to surf early, late or just about any time they wish. 

What makes these beach curfews confusing (and sometimes annoying) is the inability of those who either work late, fish at night or simply prefer staying up past 10 p.m. to enjoy the beach and its fishing opportunities, especially. California State Fishing regulations allow anglers to fish on the waterline, even during beach curfews.


The problem is that many of the parking spaces are posted as closed, thus not allowing cars to be parked near the beaches where fishing occurs. It's especially difficult and confusion during grunion runs, an event that garners huge interest from the public. A phenomenon that hold great fascination, tour groups have even requested to park at the beach around midnight to watch these exciting grunion runs. Yet, they cannot do so because of parking regulations and curfews in many Southern California areas where grunion spawn on the beach in what's known as "grunion run."'


The California Coastal Commission has taken on the task of mapping beaches in California in efforts to open access to beaches to the public, unlike other regions and coasts where private beaches exist only for owners or guests.  Below are excerpts from the Coastal Commission Meeting Documents.


Beach Curfews

RECOMMENDATION 28. The Commission should ensure that all LCPs address the nee to balance public safety concerns with public rights of access to beaches and the ocean by incorporating the Commission adopted (7/12/94) Guidance on Beach Curfews.

Both the Coastal Act and the California Constitution guarantee the rights of all citizens to access and use State tidelands. The Coastal Act requires the public access to the coast be maximized. Because of this mandate, the Commission has carefully monitored the imposition of local ordinances imposing beach curfews. The intent of these laws is to restrict use of the public beach by hour and/or location.


In the last several years, more local governments have proposed curfews for both beach areas and nearby parking lots. These curfews are generally in response to citizen complaints regarding criminal activities. While the Commission is certainly concerned about personal safety, they also need to protect the citizens at large and their rights to access the beach.

Accordingly, in order to balance personal safety with Constitutional rights, the Commission adopted a Beach Curfew Guidance document in June 1994. This Guidance document details the steps that the local government must take in order to meet the Commission’s standards.

First, there must be an identified and documented public safety hazard. Then, all alternatives to deal with the hazard must be identified and analyzed. Examples include the use of additional police officers, increased lighting, etc., instead of closing the area off to the public. Once it has been determined that there are no alternatives to resolve the criminal problem, then the area to be closed must be as small as possible. The curfew must be limited in duration, for one summer or one year. This temporary curfew often alters pattern enough to disperse the criminal activity.


The Commission considered a proposal by the City of Long Beach to impose a City wide beach curfew. The Commission determined that the facts before it indicated that the area of criminal activity was centered in one short location around the fire rings. In that case, the Commission limited the geographic area of the curfew to just the fire rings.

In regards to parking lot curfews, the Commission applies the same standards. An additional concern with parking lots, was to ensure that there was still sufficient parking in the area to supply the needs of nighttime beach users. Generally this means sufficient on street parking. The overriding concern is to ensure that parking lot curfews do not result in a “residents only” beach area during curfew hours. Local residents can walk to and use the beach but visitors still need to park their cars. The beach and parking lot curfews must treat all (law abiding) citizens the same.


4. Managing competition among users
RECOMMENDATION 29. The Commission should encourage local governments to include beach management plans in their LCPs when they are updated. Such plans should include elements dealing with such matters as encroachments, signs, temporary events, and beach curfews.


Increasing use of shoreline areas can frequently lead to conflicts among users, particularly when an increase in use is combined with an increase in types of activities. New technologies often lead to new types of recreational activities, such as jet skiing or mountain-bike use on beaches. These emerging technologies, and future ones, often lead to conflicts with users of more “traditional” activities. For example, conflicts may occur when personal watercraft and swimmers share the same area. The extent and type of conflicts are highly dependent on the characteristics of a site and the density of users. Managing sites for conflicts becomes more important as use and types of activities increase.


While a certain amount of competing use is probably inevitable at most sites, conflicts can lead to public safety concerns and a loss of recreation quality and access opportunities. In these cases, conflicts need to be addressed. Established management techniques can be central to balancing public safety concerns and ensuring maximum access by minimizing >conflicts among users. The primary goal for public beaches is to ensure all forms of appropriate activities within the constraints of the site.


The desire for a specialized activity should not preclude general recreational use of the site. Managers must strike a balance between those specialized activities suitable to the site and more general recreation use. To ensure that all their uses are properly managed, a beach management plan should be developed for major recreational sites where competition for use is an issue.


For example, the City of Santa Cruz has developed a beach management plan for the City’s main beach area. This mile long stretch of sand is heavily used. Beach uses include passive recreation such as picnicking and walking and more active programs such as junior lifeguards. Active water uses include kayaking, surfing, swimming and fishing (both from shore and from boats). Paid professional sporting events are held on the beach as well.


 Commercial facilities include the popular Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk casino and rides (which draws 3,000,000 visitors per year), and the Santa Cruz Wharf, which has dozens of restaurants and shops and hundreds of parking spaces. In addition, the San Lorenzo River flows into Monterey Bay at this beach area. A beach berm naturally builds in the summer, creating a lagoon behind it. Because the water is warm and free of waves, it is a popular children’s play area. However, due to both high levels of pollution in the water and upstream flooding, the City has often breached the bar so the water can drain into the bay. Thus, the issue of resource protection, for the wildlife that depends upon the river, as well as human health protection from polluted water, is also raised.


Because all of these activities are in such a concentrated area and because of the need to manage all these uses to maximize public use, minimize conflicts, and to protect natural resources, a beach management plan is an appropriate tool to accomplish this goal. It is important to remember that any action taken in a management plan must consider the effect of that plan regionally: for example, if one location restricts a certain activity, other beaches may become more crowded as users go to other sites, or sites for that activity may no longer be available.


If sites are suitable for specialized activities, such as hang-gliding or horseback riding, those uses must be managed so as not to significantly impact other recreational uses. Priorities on use should be based on an assessment of types of uses, which uses are compatible with site constraints, and the extent of competing uses.


Setting regional priorities and locations for different uses can help assure a diversity of opportunities in a region, while minimizing spillover and other unintended effects from management actions at a single beach. For example, if three beaches in an area are managed by different entities, and all prohibit a specific activity, the region-wide demand for that activity may not be met; a regional review of the problem can help to assess whether the activity can be accommodated at least at one of the beach areas.





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