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Council Votes To Re-Open Manhattan Beach Strand

May 14, 2020 10:59AM ● By Jeanne Fratello
The Manhattan Beach City Council on Thursday morning voted to re-open the beach-adjacent pedestrian walkway known as the Strand, effective immediately.

The approval came on a vote of 3-2, with Mayor Richard Montgomery and council members Suzanne Hadley and Steve Napolitano in favor, and council members Nancy Hersman and Hildy Stern opposed. 

City staffers began removing signs on the Strand immediately after the vote, according to City Manager Bruce Moe. The bike path, which is under L.A. County jurisdiction, remains closed.

Beach Opening Is A Factor

The vote came after council members discussed what appears to be a patchwork of actions among different cities relating to beach-adjacent walkways. For instance, the Hermosa Beach Strand remains closed (unlike Manhattan Beach's Strand, the Hermosa Beach Strand doubles as a bike path) but portions of the Redondo Beach Strand are open.

Complicating the equation was confusing language issued by Los Angeles County about "boardwalks" versus "paved right of way" in the most recent health order.

Ultimately, however, the council leaned in favor of re-opening the Manhattan Beach Strand. 

Napolitano said that the Strand should be open, given that having Ocean Drive and the Greenbelt open have not resulted in "huge spikes" in the number of COVID-19 cases, and that it was difficult for the city to enforce the closure, especially given that the beaches are now open

"We’ve got other crimes of much higher stature going on around town; I don’t think being on the Strand should be one of them," Napolitano said. "Open it up, do it wisely, keep signs out about social distancing, just do it."

Hadley agreed: "People have to do what they feel is right. People who don’t feel comfortable going on the Strand, or going on the beach without a mask, are free to choose not to go to those places."

Montgomery said that having the beaches open was a deciding factor for him in making the decision. "If the beach were closed, I'd have more support for having the Strand closed. If it was the other way around, I wouldn't go this way," he said.

Notes of Caution Sounded

Council members Hersman and Stern, who have repeatedly sounded caution about re-opening too quickly, said that there needed to be a health standard for determining when more venues should be open. 

Even the city's plan for re-opening its offices has a multi-step plan based on public health guidelines, noted Stern.

"If we want to open up the Strand I'm going to encourage us to have a standard of time for when we look at next steps. The standards for how we are impacting health should be our number one concern," she said.

Hersman called for an amendment to pause any additional re-openings for two weeks to determine whether cases were going up in Manhattan Beach or not.

"If we don’t have a spike, we’re great, we’re good to go," said Hersman. "But we need to slow down. Everything we hear from federal, state, or county [authorities] is saying, 'Slow down on reopening.'"

That amendment was defeated, 2-3, with only Hersman and Stern in favor.

Tennis Re-Opening Next Week

At Thursday's meeting, Manhattan Beach Parks and Recreation Director Mark Leyman said that the new reservation system for tennis and pickleball was underway. He said that the reservation system would open on May 19, and the first play times would be on May 22.

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