Beach Closures During COVID-19

Statement from Joaquin Jimenez, Monday September 7, 2020

I have been working very hard to try to keep our community healthy from COVID-19, and around the clock during the latest wildfires to make sure our families are safe. Keeping the roads open for use by the emergency services during the recent weeks of high fire activity has been a high priority for me. We need tourists but we have to think about our community’s safety first. 

Not closing the beaches this weekend was a very tough call by the current Mayor and City Council: they didn’t have the resources to enforce the closures, and they were concerned that people would come anyway and cause even more problems in our neighborhoods if the beach amenities were not available. However, my view is that closing what beaches we could this weekend, in line with the other cities along the coast, and then announcing those closures as loudly as possible, would have sent a clear message to any potential visitors from over the hill that, right now, we simply cannot host them in the safe and welcoming way we usually do. Sure, some people would have come anyway, but many would have stayed away, and I believe we would not be seeing the same scale of problem we are now. 

There’s a bigger picture here though, about the fight against COVID-19. Cases have been on the rise in Half Moon Bay: we’re now at 225 with more test results coming in all the time. We need to think urgently and strategically about how to get those rising numbers back under control. Closing beaches sends another important  message, about our collective response to the pandemic. The only way we have to keep the coronavirus at bay is to stay physically distanced from each other, and away from closed spaces (like public restrooms). When the beaches, and our downtown businesses, are overwhelmed with visitors, it’s much harder for everyone to stay safe. By coordinating beach closures at weekends, Coastside cities can signal to our neighbors around the Bay Area that we still have to stay vigilant. This pandemic is far from over: we need sustainable solutions to keeping everyone healthy.

Reducing visitors at weekends by closing beaches might seem like a bad idea to some local businesses who are already hurting. But, I’d rather hurt for a few weeks than a few months, and I think we need to put the safety of those businesses’ essential service workers first. The people in our community at highest risk from beach closures are the restaurant and store staff, many of whom are on minimum wage and working with the same low grade protective equipment as the rest of us. We need to look after our neighbors, and do everything we can to prevent large spikes in visitor numbers while the pandemic is still raging.

To my neighbors in District 3, I see what you see - heavy traffic, a lot of garbage on the beaches, parking on the bluffs - and I am appalled too. While I am not yet a member of the City Council, I do advise them from the Latino Advisory Council, and I regularly speak from the public gallery at City Council meetings. It’s important for the City and its Council to hear short statements from the community about how keeping HMB beaches open while other cities close theirs is having a negative impact. I will make a statement about how keeping our essential workers healthy must be a priority for our community. Send me your input via the “Speak Up” button on my website, and I will try to amplify your concerns during my allotted 3 minutes. I will also continue to do whatever I can to work with the City Council to try and get HMB and its people the resources it needs to cope with tourism during the pandemic, and explore with them innovative and sustainable solutions to the problems that come along with it. 

Your input is important for another reason. None of us has experienced a pandemic like this one. COVID-19 forces us to think differently, and act collectively. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know we stand a better chance working together. I encourage you to speak up, and be part of the solution.