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San Diego City leaders tout encouraging first day of beach reopenings

"You stayed classy San Diego," said Mayor Faulconer.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — San Diegans' first sanctioned day back at the beach following weeks of COVID-19-related coastal closures went well Monday, with visitors enjoying the surf and sand while largely complying with public health requirements, city leaders reported.

“I am happy to report you stayed classy San Diego. Today the nation saw San Diego acting like America's finest city because people took it seriously,” said Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

Faulconer described the start of the first phase of the region's return to the shores as "very, very encouraging."

In recent days, several municipalities in the county reopened their beaches to limited use -- recreational activities such as running and swimming. In San Diego, gatherings, boating and group activities are not permitted, and boardwalks, piers and parking lots are closed.

San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit and city Lifeguard Chief James Gartland, who head the agencies leading the enforcement of public health orders at the beaches, said Monday went smoothly, with some large crowds that thinned out as the day went on.

"For the most part, everybody followed the rules," Nisleit said.

The lifeguard chief said there was "a little bit of troubled spots with the boardwalks and some of the pocket beaches," but agreed, "San Diego did a great job today."

Lifeguards made seven water rescues as of Monday afternoon, Gartland said.

The mayor said continued compliance with health-related mandates would be necessary to move to a planned second phase of the county's reopening plan, which would permit all activities that allow for physical distancing at area beaches, bays, piers, boardwalks and parking lots.

"We do not want to give back the gains that we have sacrificed so hard (for)," Faulconer said. "We do not want to see the beaches crowded. That's what led to their closure in the first place."

Scenes from the sand in Newport and Huntington Beach Saturday have officials there reevaluating whether to shut the beaches down again. 

“We really need people to cooperate and the sooner we can do that we move onto phase two which takes away some of those restrictions,” said Police Chief Nisleit.

Even with restrictions, many beach side businesses saw a much-appreciated boost in business.

“You know we're getting a lot busier. More people are coming out, “said Devon McGuire who works at Gelato 101 in Encinitas.

Gelato 101 employees called it a turning point.

“Like we've had a line out the door pretty much all day,” said Sophia Romano who was also happy to see business picking up.

Mark Yat is all about supporting local businesses, but had no interest in taking his family out to the beach.

“We decided it would be a good day just to wait and see how things are,” Yat said.

He's not the only one watching and waiting.

“I just hope everybody does their part. It really is a group effort. Hope is the operative word. We hope this is the right thing to do,” an Encinitas couple said.

For now, lifeguards are on the loudspeaker making sure no one is standing around and watching the views.

They’re reminding people that the beach is open for recreation only. But the stay at home order remains in effect until April 30th.


  • Physical distancing must be followed in accordance with state, regional and local orders to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
  • Face coverings are strongly encouraged. Starting on May 1, face coverings will be required by the County of San Diego when within 6 feet of a non-household member.



  • Boardwalks
  • Piers
  • Parking lots
  • Fiesta Island


  • Gatherings
  • Non-physical distancing activities
  • Boating



  • ONLY walking and running
  • NO stopping, sitting or lying down


  • ONLY swimming, surfing, and single-person paddle boarding and kayaking


  • ONLY single-person paddle boarding and kayaking
  • NO swimming

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