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Police Chiefs Association Walks Back Beach Closures Memo, Apologizes To Gov. Newsom

People crowd the beach Thursday, April 30, 2020, in Huntington Beach, Calif.
Associated Press
People crowd the beach Thursday, April 30, 2020, in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Just this week, San Diego beaches reopened with restrictions after being closed for about a month. Rules stipulate people must maintain a six foot social distance at all times, and there is no sitting, standing or stopping on the sand. Surfing, swimming, and kayaking are still allowed. But a memo leaked Wednesday night sparked fear that all of it was going to be taken away.

That memo from the California Police Chiefs Association said California Governor Gavin Newsom was planning to close beaches throughout the state after seeing crowds in Orange County last weekend.

San Diego County Supervisors Dianne Jacob, Greg Cox and Jim Desmond all sent letters to Newsom asking him to reconsider. Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said he spoke directly to the governor. Hours later during his daily COVID-19 briefing, the governor announced that only the beaches in Orange County would be closed.

When asked why he changed his mind, Newsom said the plan all along was just to close the beaches in Orange County.

RELATED: California Gov. Newsom Orders Orange County Beaches To Close

Governor Temporarily Closes All Beaches And State Parks In Orange County, California

“We’ve been consistent,” he said. “This is the announcement and the directive, and I can’t square what others may have said, but this is what we’re saying.”

Regarding the memo, Newsom said, “Bottom line: that was their memo and their memo never got to me.”

But two San Diego county mayors say state officials told them on Wednesday that closures were coming. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said his administration was given notice Wednesday night “from somebody in the (state's) natural resources department in the administration” that beaches statewide were going to be closed and the city should prepare.

Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina said his city was also notified by state officials to prepare for closures.

On Twitter, Faulconer said Thursday, “San Diegans have been following the rules set by our public health officials and lifeguards since beaches reopened this week. A sudden state ban on every single beach — regardless of the facts on the ground — sends the wrong message to regions where people are acting responsibly.”

Faulconer's chief of staff, Aimee Faucett, said, "Minutes before today's press announcement (the) mayor's office was notified this (the beach closure) would only apply to Orange County."

Thursday evening the California Police Chiefs Association walked back its Wednesday memo, apologizing for causing undue concern:

“In an ever-changing environment, we sent out information regarding decisions that were still evolving, which was regrettably shared outside of our police chief membership,” the statement read in part. “And we apologize for the undue concern that it caused to the public, our colleagues, the governor and his staff.”

KPBS asked San Diego County officials Thursday if they got notice from the state about beaches closing this week.

“No ⁠— the county did not,” said Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, acting as the county spokesperson.

Newsom did credit San Diego officials for doing a good job with beaches here. Faulconer said he appreciated the kind words from the governor, now he wants to see San Diegans following guidelines into the weekend.

“It’s going to be really important that we do it right this weekend and that will be all of our focus,” he said.