HALF MOON BAY (KPIX) — With searing temperatures on a Labor Day weekend, the coast was bound to be crowded but — with fears of crowds and COVID-19 — the towns of Pacifica and Half Moon Bay went different directions creating a “tale of two beaches.”

Saturday at Half Moon Bay the population was … everyone.

With the ocean breeze blowing, Surfer’s Beach was jammed and it was the perfect place for inlanders like Alexandra Oceguera’s family to escape the broiling temperature at their Bethel Island home.

“We’re outdoors, there’s a cool breeze going by and we’re all kind of distanced from other parties,” she said, “So, I think we feel pretty good.”

A lot of people had the same idea and that, of course, raises concerns about spreading the coronavirus. But, after trying to discourage beachgoers on several other occasions, Half Moon Bay surrendered to public will and agreed to keep the beaches open through the holiday. Adding to the crowds is the decision by Pacifica, its neighbor to the north, to close beaches and parking lots for the entire 3-day weekend.

Pacifica wasn’t alone. Monterey and Santa Cruz also closed or partially closed public beaches during the Labor Day holiday. That didn’t make much sense to longtime Pacifica resident Jane Nahass.

“I think people need to be outdoors because, with Covid, it sounds like it’s the indoors that we’re worried about,” Nahass said. “And that’s the reason I wish they didn’t close the beaches.”

The city leaders of Pacifica said if they had just shut down the parking lots to discourage visitors, beachgoers would have jammed the neighborhoods with cars so the beaches had to be closed completely. But no one on the beaches means few people on the sidewalks and even fewer customers at local establishments.

“Holiday weekends are huge and we’ll probably be down maybe a third to what we could be,” said Pacific Java owner Deborah Patterson. “And, just for a general weekend, we’ll still be down because they’ve closed the beaches.”

It’s not an easy call. Pacifica chose a path of safety and its businesses will pay a hefty price for it. Meanwhile, Half Moon Bay took a more pragmatic route and is holding its breath that that decision doesn’t go “viral.”

Dan Cuthbertson lives a block from the crowded beach and says he sees both sides but understands there is no “right” solution.

“You know, sometimes you have to play it by ear,” he said. “It’s life on life’s terms, that’s all it is.”

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