SANTA MONICA BEACH — The more things change, the more they stay the same.
A recent ordinance, which bans ball playing at Los Angeles County beaches during the summer except in specially designated parts of the beach, has some members of the community in an uproar.
And yet, lifeguards say that this ordinance is hardly new, and they have nothing against people flinging a Frisbee or tossing a football at the beach.
“[The ordinance] has been here for 50 years or more,” said Mickey Gallagher, section chief of the central section of the Lifeguard Division.
Gallagher laments the fact that many people who visit the beach, as well as several news outlets, have misunderstood the ordinance.
“Every city has ordinances on the beach about ball playing,” he said.
The purpose of the ordinance is not to ban the ball, but to make sure that no one gets hurt at the beach, Gallagher said.
A previous ordinance banned throwing, kicking or rolling of any ball or light object on county beaches if a lifeguard deemed it threatening to other beachgoers or their property.
The new ordinance lets beachgoers use footballs, soccer balls and Frisbees on L. A. County beaches between Labor Day and Memorial Day as long as no one is being endangered. During the summer, the ordinance is identical to the old one.
Fines for violating the ordinance can be up to $100 for a first infraction, $200 for a second and $500 for additional violations within one year.
The new ordinance was approved Tuesday by the County Board of Supervisors.
“It’s been around forever. If anything, this made it more lenient,” Gallagher said.
Lifeguards will continue to monitor people playing ball, rather than outright ban ball playing, he said.
“We want to make everybody come down here and have a good time,” he said.
The apparent misunderstanding about the ordinance spread thanks to information sources, including local TV news stations, talk show hosts John and Ken and the website The Drudge Report.
Jennifer Granville, a Los Angeles resident who takes her son to the beach on weekends, heard about the ordinance over Facebook.
Granville said she understood that the ordinance was in place to protect people on the beach, but thought that the fines were a bit much.
“I think they really should be spending their time on more important things,” she said Friday as she played with her son near the Santa Monica Pier.
Los Angeles resident Sean Fallowfield said that law enforcement should spend more time enforcing smoking bans at the beach and cleaning up litter around volleyball nets.
“I think it would be a nicer place if they started enforcing those,” he said.
Santa Monica resident Jeff Cooke had not heard of the ban, but also thought that more time should be spent picking up the litter that accumulates around volleyball nets and other spots where beachgoers congregate.
“They’re concerned about Frisbees hitting people in the face? Get someone to clean this stuff up,” he said.