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Residents react as Santa Barbara plans for open beaches during July Fourth weekend

SB Beaches
Ryan Fish/KEYT

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - After a tie vote during Tuesday's Santa Barbara City Council meeting, the city decided to keep beaches open for the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

The reaction from locals is mixed, with many concerned about large crowds and groups driving up from Los Angeles and Ventura counties, which both decided this week to close their beaches this weekend.

Cases in Santa Barbara County are also rising, leading the County Public Health to close bars again beginning Wednesday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom added additional closures Wednesday for some indoor operations for some sectors in the county, including restaurants.

The city's decision comes after Santa Barbara County Public Health allowed beaches to remain open this weekend, focusing instead on a strict enforcement of health guidelines, physical distancing and mask-wearing. The County has said that beaches will close if they become too crowded.

Some residents, however, believe that is not enough to keep the community safe.

“I was actually very shocked and disappointed,” community resident and activist Christina Pizzaro said of the city deciding not to close its beaches. “I think the duty of the leadership here should be to the residents….We don’t even know what the impact will actually be.

“I think that we need to take care of people’s lives and not take care of people’s picnics.”

The city is planning to add extra enforcement this weekend, with additional law enforcement, lifeguards and Parks and Recreation staff stationed at beaches to enforce health guidelines.

Parking lots at city beaches will be closed Friday through Sunday. Barbecues will be banned on the sand and adjacent grass areas, as will hammocks and tents. People will not be able to reserve spots on beaches or in parks, and only people within the same household may gather together.

“We’ll be encouraging people to follow the rules, to be in smaller groups. to socially distance, to wear their masks,” Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation director Jill Zachary said. “We’ve staffed up incredibly. Our goal is to get the strongest compliance possible under the situation.”

Zachary says she understands the community's concern and that the city is trying to balance the ability to enjoy the beaches with people staying safe.

She says the situation is evolving and more restrictions could be put in place before the weekend begins.

City Councilwoman Alejandra Gutiérrez, who voted for a weekend beach closure, says that the city's resources may be spread too thin for the weekend.

“I’m confident that [the city] staff, they’re gonna do what they can and they’re gonna do a great job,” she said. “But do we have the capacity for the amount of people that we expect? I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

Gutiérrez also is receiving concern specifically from her district--District 1--on the city's Eastside. She says because of a language barrier and multiple families living in single homes together in order to afford rent, people in her district are especially vulnerable to the spread of the coronavirus.

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

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Ryan Fish

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