Updated at the bottom: The Department of Beaches and Harbors admits the ordinance is "tremendously confusing," but promises it won't fine you $1,000 for throwing a ball. (Small corrections in headline and throughout.)
Guess what? If you've ever thrown any object over 10 inches in diameter at an L.A. beach -- frisbees and footballs included -- you were breaking the law.
But a few amendments to L.A. County's beach ordinance at the end of December have drawn fresh anger to the county's draconian policies, created "in order to protect and preserve the peace on public beaches." Ball-throwing is considered an infraction, and could cost you $100-plus for every violation.
Is nothing sacred? Do we need to quote Patrick Henry here?
The updated rules do make one improvement on the ball-throwing policy:
Whereas before, it was against the law to "cast, toss, throw, kick or roll" any "ball, tube or light object" over 10 inches anywhere at any time, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors have inserted some exceptions.
Going forward, the ball ban will only apply during summer, between Memorial Day and Labor Day. And it will exclude beach balls, volleyballs or in-ocean water polo balls.
Also, the Department of Beaches and Harbors will be able to designate special ball-throwing areas, or grant permits for ball games. (All very ridiculous and bureaucratic, but better than an all-out ban.)
This applies to every beach along the L.A. County coast:
At the meeting to update the ordinance, City News Service reported that even Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky was surprised to learn that people "cannot play football on the beach in the summer."
God, it gets more depressing every time we hear it. Here are some more shady practices that are listed as infractions in the ordinance:
For all 36 pages of fun-kill, download the PDF.
The rules will be normally enforced by lifeguards (under supervision of the L.A. County Fire Department) or the Department of Beaches and Harbors' own "peace or code enforcement officers," who we're not sure we've ever really seen, but they sound menacing enough.
Technically, though, the fine can be imposed by any "person authorized" to do so by either department. (For some very sketchy reason, the "pursuant to law" phrase after "person authorized" is crossed out in the ordinance update. So department heads can apparently sik any random rent-a-cop on your frisbee game?)
Good news for last: The section prohibiting drunk people (no, not drinking alcohol, just at all intoxicated) from going to the beach has been crossed out. PHEW.
Update: "No, we are not trying to outlaw fun" was the leading story on L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas' blog yesterday.
Basically, what happened is that news folks (including us) were extremely confused by one element of the ordinance: the part that distinguishes which violations are infractions, and which are misdemeanors that could cost you up to $1,000.
Carol Baker at the Department of Beaches and Parks has been doing some damage control today, calling all outlets who reported that ball-throwing was worthy of a $1,000 fine. (She assures us that the ordinance was "tremendously confusing to everyone.")
In fact, the maximum fine for all misdemeanor crimes in the ordinance has been upped from $500 to $1,000 -- and could land you six months in jail. But ball-throwing, sand-digging and the rest of the above bullet points are mere infractions.
The fine for a first-time infraction, then -- according to California law -- will be $100. The second time, it will be $200. And each time after that, ball-throwing (and the rest) will cost you $500.
One item that we had previously listed, though, will still cost you $1,000:
So you can still get extra mad about that one.