Beach parking lots, piers, gyms, bars among many reopenings coming

A single lifeguard truck is the only vehicle in a closed parking lot at Seaside Reef in Cardiff on April 5.
The Seaside Reef parking lot at Cardiff State Beach sits empty April 5, shortly after all beach access in the region was closed due to COVID-19 concerns. The county announced June 5 that beach parking lots can reopen Tuesday, June 9.
(K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Everything seemed to change June 5 with word of large-scale loosening of social-distancing requirements.

The biggest revelation came in the early evening when Gov. Gavin Newsom released long-awaited guidelines for the reopening of a wide range of businesses and organizations, including schools, child care, day camps, casinos, media production, professional sports without live spectators, campgrounds, hotels, card rooms, satellite wagering facilities and racetracks, family entertainment centers, bars, wineries, fitness facilities, museums, galleries, zoos and aquariums.

Some organizations on the list could reopen as early as Friday, June 12, but many would need county approval and all would need to prove that they can meet lengthy rules specified by the state.

Even without that announcement, it would have been a huge day on the getting-back-to-normal front, with San Diego County officials announcing that starting Tuesday, June 9, beach parking lots, closed for months to help prevent spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, can reopen. Active sports on the beach also can resume, said county Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, provided they remain among those living in the same household.

The supervisor noted that, while the county has removed barriers for wider beach access and activity, the ultimate timing and execution of such changes are up to individual cities and the state, which manages several stretches of sand from San Onofre State Beach in the north to Silver Strand State Beach in the south.

“They can be more restrictive if they choose,” Fletcher said.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced June 4 that piers, boardwalks and other water areas in the city that were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic will reopen next week.

Scheduled reopenings include:

  • Monday: East and West Mission Bay parks reopen for park and water uses, including parking lots to 100 percent capacity. Fiesta Island reopens for pedestrians, dogs and cyclists. Fiesta Island will remain closed to vehicles until July 6.
  • Tuesday: All city piers and boardwalks reopen
  • Friday: Balboa Park Central Mesa reopens; all Balboa Park parking lots reopen to 100 percent capacity

Visitors will continue to be asked to practice physical distancing and refrain from active sports activities at the beaches, Faulconer said.

Beaches were reopened in late April for limited uses such as running and jogging, then opened further June 2 for passive uses such as sitting and sunbathing.

Faulconer also announced that six of the San Diego region’s most popular lakes will reopen for boating, fishing and other recreation over the next two months. El Capitan Reservoir and Upper Otay Reservoir are scheduled to reopen for public use June 6, followed by San Vicente Reservoir the following Saturday, June 13.

Lake Hodges, Sutherland and Barret reservoirs will end lockdown restrictions July 1, 3 and 8, respectively, according to local leaders.

Miramar, Murray and Lower Otay reservoirs have been open since May. The first two of those lakes are largely used by bikers and walkers, not boaters.

Ocean sportfishing remains closed in San Diego, despite a number of other regions around the state allowing the business to resume. Advocates hope the decision to reopen will come from county health officials within days.


Local hotels, which as recently as May 22 were warned by county health officials to stop marketing their businesses for staycations and leisure stays, were cheering the news that they can soon reopen for business, provided they can meet state safety requirements. Many hotels have been shut down since mid-March, while others have stayed open to accommodate health care workers, which has been allowed.

“This validates what we always knew, that hotels are very safe spots, and we have always been perplexed why we were on the reopening list behind restaurants that don’t have the sophisticated safety protocols we have,” said Bill Evans of Evans Hotels, which owns and operates the Bahia and Catamaran resorts on Mission Bay and The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla.

All three of his hotels have remained open for medical workers.

“Many hotels are cleaner than the houses people come from. Hotels have been hemorrhaging money; we’ve been off 90 percent in revenue, so this hopefully will allow us to get back to a break-even point.”

Of the San Diego County hotels that have remained open throughout the pandemic, they’ve averaged, more recently, occupancy rates of 35 percent. Pre-pandemic, occupancy levels this time of year are closer to 80 percent. Evans expects the latest order from the state will slow the exit of locals who have been going to Nevada and Arizona, where there have been looser restrictions for overnight stays.

Elvin Lai, whose 71-room Ocean Park Inn in Pacific Beach recently underwent a renovation of all its guest rooms, said hotels had been “praying and hoping” for weeks that the word would come down from the governor’s office that they could resume operations. Normally in July, a peak month for Lai’s business, he would take in roughly $700,000 in revenue. Optimistically, he’s expecting to get back to 40 percent to 50 percent occupancy levels in the next couple of months.

“I understand we won’t be sold out like we normally are because people are still wary about traveling,” Lai said. “When news gets out that travel is open, I think we’ll get people from our drive market, people inside San Diego County. So I’m optimistic, but not naively optimistic, that we will have some semblance of a summer again.”

The state Department of Public Health has released a 15-page document detailing steps that should be taken for safely reopening hotels and short-term rentals. Among the cleaning recommendations is a suggestion that rooms be left vacant for 24 to 72 hours after a guest has left.

City News Service contributed to this report.