The Coast News Group
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Council adjusts laws to make beaches safer

DEL MAR — The size and location of tents, screens and canopies will soon be limited in an effort to make city beaches and parks safer before summer gets under way. 

At the May 20 meeting, council members unanimously amended city codes affecting those sun-blocking devices, as well as other laws relating to fires and bluff-top access.

As summer approaches, beachgoers begin erecting tents, screens and canopies that tend to hinder the ability of lifeguards to scan the area. Staff has also noticed an increase in the use of camping tents and large canopies at Powerhouse and Seagrove parks that conceal illegal activity, such as alcohol consumption.

Current law only prohibits tents on beaches, but not in parks or on the bluffs. Once the proposed new ordinances take effect, the devices won’t be allowed in those areas either.

All canopies will be limited to 10 feet by 10 feet and will not be allowed on beaches or bluffs or in parks and preserves. This will include cabanas and sun shades.

Current law also prohibits fires on the beach but not in parks or preserves or on the coastal bluffs. According to the staff report, there have been several complaints about fires in those areas during the past few years.

“People realize they can’t have a fire on the beach so they have it in the park and there’s no law to prevent that,” Park Ranger Adam Chase said.

Residents have also voiced concerns regarding charcoal barbecues on city beaches. The main issue is that there is no safe place to dispose of the used coals, Chase said.

The city looked into placing hot coal disposal containers on the beaches more than a decade ago, but they were considered an eyesore and the smoke affected beachfront homeowners.

Beachgoers use trash cans to get rid of hot coals, but that can be dangerous, according to the staff report.

Every year about a dozen trash cans catch fire. Park patrons have also dumped hot coals in the bushes surrounding the parks and several children have been burned.

To address the problem, charcoal briquettes will be prohibited. Only liquid propane will be allowed, and only for cooking and not as a heat source.

Existing laws also prohibit access to the bluffs west of the railroad tracks between Eighth and 11th streets. But there has been an increase in cliff rescues elsewhere along the coastline.

City staff requested limiting access at other sections and at the Scripps Bluff Preserve above Dog Beach.

The proposed changes will come back to council for adoption at a second reading, likely at the June 3 meeting and take effect 30 days after that.