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An Encinitas couple protests the closure of the Coastal Rail Trail on April 21 by walking their dog at sunset. Photo by Caitlin Steinberg
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Encinitas mayor responds to protests, shares plan to reopen beaches, trails

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated with several clarifications. 

ENCINITAS — Following stay-at-home protests in San Diego and Encinitas over the weekend, Mayor Catherine Blakespear held a Facebook Live session to address several issues, including the reopening of the Coastal Rail Trail and beaches.

Later this week, Blakespear said the Coastal Rail Trail along Highway 101 will reopen to the public with additional signage enforcing social distancing and personal protective equipment, such as face masks. The decision to open the trail was made prior to the rally on April 19.

“Closing the trail was a reset,” Blakespear told The Coast News. “There was too much crowding. We wanted people to reestablish their habits near their home, in their neighborhoods and to not drive to their daily walk.”

Blakespear continued, outlining a proposed three-phase process to open access to the ocean, beaches and parking lots — in that order — in the coming weeks.

“I want to open it as soon as possible,” Blakespear said. “It seems to me the risk of [contracting COVID] is the lowest in the ocean because people are, by nature, 6 feet apart. It’s completely reasonable for people to safely get back in the water.”

County officials are responsible for the health order which closed public access to beaches until April 30, not individual coastal cities.

While the county has not officially committed to allowing water access starting May 1, Blakespear said it appears county and local officials are aiming to review the health order at that time.

She further acknowledged initial beach closures last month were “disorganized and chaotic,” which left certain beaches vulnerable to large crowds. Future decisions will likely be made in unison with all coastal communities.

“We don’t want just one city to open their beaches alone,” Blakespear said. “If Encinitas were to open their beaches on their own, we could be completely overrun by beachgoers from all across the county.”

Coastal Rail Trail
A sign informing residents of the city’s closure of the Coastal Rail Trail during the COVID-19 outbreak. Blakespear said public access to the trail will reopen later this week. Photo by Caitlin Steinberg

Not only will coastal mayors, city councilmembers, county health officials and law enforcement influence the process of opening access to beaches, but also local marine safety officers and lifeguards.

 “They are on the front lines of water rescues and crowd management. How we unroll regulations and opening procedures is going to be based on their recommendations,” Blakespear said.

Additional factors include considering the size of beach access points.

Many narrow wooden staircases found on northern Encinitas beaches are incapable of supporting social distancing guidelines, while entrances at Moonlight Beach are wide enough to accommodate beachgoers. This will impact which entrances will be accessible to the public.

“The beaches will be opened to active recreation only,” Blakespear said. “Walking, running, and potentially biking on the beach will be allowed but not laying out, having a party or sitting in a group.”

Regulations will be enforced by authorities, Blakespear said.

The final phase is to reopen parking lots adjacent to the beach.

“We need to have some type of crowd control so we don’t end up with the spring break crowds we’ve seen in photos of Florida and other beach communities,” Blakespear said. “Regulating parking is a way of controlling numbers.”

While the timing and implementation of these phases are not concrete, local officials will base all decisions on the most current data reported by county health officials.

If San Diego County experiences an unexpected spike in COVID cases, public areas may be closed once again.

Blakespear also addressed recent protests in Encinitas, expressing her disappointment and dismay over not just the manner in which protesters conducted themselves, but also the lack of response by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

Despite an estimated 200 people attending, deputies did not issue any citations to protestors clearly violating social distancing guidelines.

Just two weeks prior, near that very same location, Encinitas police ticketed families and individuals sitting in their cars watching the sunset.

“[Encinitas’] law enforcement agencies will be much better prepared [in the future] and also have clarity about what it is they are [enforcing] … about what is acceptable, at the very least how be dispersing people … and how to apply that evenly.”

Such clarity will be needed in the coming weeks as local law enforcement enforce the gradual reopening of public spaces.

Swami's protest
A protestor holds a misspelled sign reading, “Impeach Fauchi,” during a protest on April 19 near Swami’s State Beach in Encinitas. Photo by Jordan P. Ingram

Blakespear compared the nearly 200 protesters’ disrespect for the law to those who remained home.

“It is quite selfish for people to be completely violating stay-at-home orders,” Blakespear said. “People are sacrificing and really suffering. People are out of work, small businesses are closed… and healthcare workers are putting their own health at risk on the front lines.

“There is a way to exercise your first amendment and freedom of assembly rights… while also maintaining distance from other people, wearing facial coverings and abiding by the social contract.”

Protestors eventually marched along Coast Highway 101 from Swami’s to Blakespear’s private residence.

“I [found] it to be a violation and invasion of my own privacy,” Blakespear said. “It definitely frightened my children to have a hundred people taunting me to come out, trying to somehow engage me on a Sunday at my private home.”

Blakespear said she was not given any warning from law enforcement that the walking protesters were headed to her personal residence.

“We have places where decisions are made… they are at City Hall or county government,” Blakespear said. “Local or official decisions are not made at private residences.”

“I would encourage anybody who wants to protest to do it at City Hall, in a controlled way,” Blakespear said.

Mayor Blakespear has held multiple such Facebook Live Sessions during the coronavirus, in which she gives further details on city regulations and decision-making, as well as answers to live questions from residents. These are available for all to watch and participate at facebook.com/cblakespear.

19 comments

CG April 23, 2020 at 6:02 pm

Mayor Blakespear also took the time to permanently take out all the street parking near Cardiff Reef and George’s. This is a surf town, not some East Coast cyclist city. She is turning everything into that for her vision of our city. I usually vote democrat, but I will be voting for anyone’s but her.

Philip Donohue April 23, 2020 at 2:15 pm

The sheriff department handled the protest perfectly. They directed traffic, kept people safe and orderly. This health crisis is real, but places like LA, NY, NJ, Michigan, Louisiana, National City, San Ysidro, etc should not be reopened because they continue to experience a major health crisis. Our crisis is over in Encinitas (if there ever was one ie 34 total cases, no deaths), and like in other similar cities (Del Mar, Solana Beach, etc) our cities should be opened, with appropriate safety protocals, so people can get back to work and exercise their constitutional rights as citizens of their cities and this country. Our president had the courage to allow Governors the opportunity to open their states. He cautioned against widespread and ill advised opening of all cities, namely those areas with a continuing health crisis. Holding the organizers responsible for allowing protesters to violate the social distancing orders is a little overkill, wouldn’t you say? How about holding the organizers of Black Lives Matter protests, immigration protects and the many other Politically Corrects factions who protest, accountable for all the rock throwing, property damage, public defecation and burning buildings and police cars. The Encinitas protest was orderly, and without property damage and the other unlawful acts typical of these other radical protects. Kudos to the Sheriffs Department who recognized what a peaceful protest looks like.

Thomas Felcan April 23, 2020 at 9:37 pm

Plain and simple. Phillip Donohue said it best. It appears that a lot of the difference in opinion in regards to the Encinitas protest is directly related to the general belief in(mis) information spoon fed to the public from sources that have not demonstrated trustworthiness. In my opinion the protest itself could have been conducted better. But, as Mr. Donohue presented, it was not near as radical as other protests. There is probably no way to prove that, what many of us refer to as, the overly excessive closures were part of an abusive social experiment that only focused on recommended Covid regulations and completely ignored our constitutional rights. But Maybe, just maybe that information will leak and more people will get the opportunity to be in the know of what is going on behind closed doors while we are told to shelter in place. The fact that the Sherrif’s Dept., right after issuing citations to a bunch of innocent unsuspecting citizens, very soon after stopped enforcing the beach and path closures. That was right around mid April and I would think should stand out as a message to people in our community that something was up! The Sherrif Dept. is a part of a national association. They are not a part of the federal government and reserve the right to choose what they will and will not enforce. I recently learned that and was so happy to know it. I was told, by a deputy, that the reason for them being independent is in the name of us, and them defending us, and our constitutional rights. If martial law is ever declared the sheriffs would be in a position to defend us against that type of attack from a domestic enemy. Such as our government. If they forget what our agreement is and what their job duties consist of. We the people are in charge of this nation! Not any politicians or any special interest individuals or groups. Our local government has all but proven themselves inadequate to protect our people and serve us. Also to make the correct decisions in helping to maintain our standards, our health and well being. Prior to the closures a few people were not observing the “suggested” social distance requests. That is on them. The rest of us should not be held responsible for them and held prisoners in our homes and neighborhoods because of a few people’s actions. Based on her comments, the mayor herself seems to be trying to brushing past something and seems disconnected from what the government’s actual role is in regards to our constitutional rights. I am all for respecting the suggested measures. Other people’s health and well being are extremely important me. From what I witnessed the beach and park closures were barely acceptable. But the closing of our paths and public parking areas that WE PAID FOR with our tax dollars was way out of line. I get the parking lots. Although they could have easily been adjusted to every other space open. That would have been sufficient for the social distancing. Whether it was legal or not, it was a huge mistake and will need to be addressed in the case of any “future events”. What does the mayor mean by that anyway? That is just one of many things that, We The People, need to invest our energy and efforts into. Our presence in our local city council meetings is imperative to making sure the correct choices are made for the benefit of one and for all.

Richard Conner April 23, 2020 at 11:30 am

Thank you for opening up the beaches, trails, and parks this weekend. Such a good example of civic discourse with a good outcome.

Steve April 23, 2020 at 10:16 am

“I can’t get my eyebrows waxed one-on-one? I can’t get my nails done?” she said. “I don’t see the point of all businesses being closed.” – Crista Curtis, organizer of the protest.

BRYAN Dornan April 23, 2020 at 7:42 am

Thanks for opening the beaches back up this weekend.This is a surfing town and we can surf responsibly. We have a lot of really good people in Encinitas and we can do this.

CG April 23, 2020 at 6:44 pm

DId I see street parking was permanently removed in CArdiff for bike path? Blakespear doesn’t understand this is a surf town and want some to turn it into her own little version of the east coast!

Jeremy K. April 22, 2020 at 9:59 pm

Notice the single digit IQ of the sad below average child. “Fauchi”. OMG. Home skooled Trump child smoking hydrochloroquine with his Tide pod eating parentz, u mades da lokal papers. Dumb and dumber to. Down wiff science and they’re ists! Um. Yeah. Impach them, two!

Max Webber April 23, 2020 at 10:15 am

Why do you hate Jeremy? Who hurt you?

Robert Madaii April 22, 2020 at 9:30 pm

When the mediocre get a-little power. Blakespear would serve the “ greater good “ at the DMV. Robert Madaii

Jeremy K. April 22, 2020 at 7:24 pm

We need a North County Police Department. Sheriff Gore and his Captains are not living up to the job requirements. He should be stripped of his duties and placed in the same broom closet he put Commander Myers. There is no equality of enforcement and no protection of elected public officials. It’s just whatever they want to do or not do.

The grand irony is that this Mayor has been going to bat for the re-opening of these public spaces from the beginning, looking for ways to make that happen. The protesters work against their own cause get away with it all.

It’s the bottom 1/3, the deplorables, once again….and the cops have their back.

James A Parr April 22, 2020 at 5:42 pm

Use what your license number ends in for your time to park…

Robert Madaii April 22, 2020 at 5:05 pm

Dear “Snowflake” Blakespear! Did we trample on your own private trail? My folks didn’t finance a coastal home for me, so I have to travel to get to “your “ trail. Robert Madaii

Max Webber April 23, 2020 at 10:14 am

Spot on. The mayor is a hypocrite elitist.

Jerome Fleming April 22, 2020 at 2:43 pm

Why is law enforcement going to be better prepared on the future? And for what? Is this status quo?
So come around October , November,the next flu season is this going to happen again? Please!

Max Webber April 23, 2020 at 10:13 am

Recall the power mad totalatarian Blakespeare.

Jeremy Blakespear April 22, 2020 at 12:15 pm

WASN’T given adequate advance warning

staff April 22, 2020 at 12:50 pm

Thank you. This has been changed.

Michele Szlener April 22, 2020 at 2:12 pm

When you run and are elected a Public Official you open yourself to public displeasure. I did not take part in the Demonstration but I applaud the Sheriff’s department decision to let the Demonstration play out as it did. They avoided a potentially unruly situation, it was not that big a deal all said & done. I doubt VERY much they were aware the protesters were in route to the Mayors house
Regardless the Mayor’s comments about every decision starts at City Hall is probably why the Demonstration ended at her front door. Lot of decisions made in past couple of years have left long time residents very unhappy about direction of our Lovely Coastal communities. Maybe the doorstep end of the Demonstration was people’s Post Reaction to decisions made that ultimately would have them stop right in front of Christine Blakspear door. Buck has to stop somewhere

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