By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles County officials who were widely ridiculed over mistaken reports that they had imposed a $1,000 fine for throwing Frisbees and footballs on the beach now want to dispatch with the misunderstood rules entirely.
Los Angeles County Supervisors voted on Tuesday to rewrite an obscure, 40-year-old beach ordinance so that tossing Frisbees and footballs is nearly always allowed on beaches.
The motion is an attempt to clear up confusion that surfaced last week when supervisors approved changes to the original law -- which dates to 1970 and made it an infraction to "cast, toss, throw, kick or roll" anything other than a beach ball on a Los Angeles County beach.
Those rules carried a $100 fine for a first offense, but no such citations were ever issued and most Southern Californians were unaware that they were even on the books.
Their revisions limited the ban only to summer months and let beachgoers throw balls and Frisbees in designated areas or with permission from a lifeguard.
But inaccurate reports that the vote had instead jacked up the fines to $1,000 made international headlines, became a point of ridicule on local talk radio and infuriated locals, who inundated supervisors with calls and emails.
"While the intent of the updated beach ordinance was to remove limitations on ball-playing, people interpreted it as the exact opposite - a full restriction on beach activities," Supervisor Don Knabe said in co-authoring a motion to rewrite the ordinance again.
"We must do a better job of creating clear communications to minimize confusion like we had on this one when incorrect information went viral," Knabe said.
The motion orders beach officials to craft a regulation that Frisbee throwing and ball-playing were allowed at all times unless a lifeguard directs otherwise due to a public safety hazard.
"We just need to rewrite it and ensure that its clear so that people understand they can throw a Frisbee and a football at the beach," said Knabe's spokeswoman, Cheryl Burnett. "Let's use some common sense, let's articulate this in a clear way that people understand."
Burnett said that under the rules a lifeguard would only step in "to correct the occasional knucklehead who is out there putting others at risk."
Once beach officials rewrite the ordinance, Burnett said, it must be taken up by the Board of Supervisors for a vote.
Burnett said an estimated 50 to 70 million people visit Los Angeles County beaches each year.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Paul Thomasch)