November 21, 2007 -
Official Ban on Towel Changes?
After an exchange of e-mails based on a comment made to another post, I received reader Jason’s permission to post the following:
There used to be a fairly extensive thread on a simlar question in the old forums here on this topic, both on the variations in local laws and a search for first-hand accounts for an article I was considering writing.
San Diego County prohibits public nudity at County Code Title 3, Division 2, Chapter 10, Section 32.1001 et seq. Nudity is defined as meaning “devoid of an opaque covering which covers the genitals, vulva, pubis, pubic symphysis, pubic hair, buttocks, natal cleft, perineum, anus, anal region, or pubic hair region of any person or any portion of the breast at or below the upper edge of the areola thereof of any female person.” Public place is defined as “any public beach, park, street or waters adjacent thereto, or any place open to the public or exposed to public view.”
The City of San Diego has a similar restriction in the Municipal Code at section 56.53.
There is no statewide ban on nudity in California.
Based on the account above, these would only apply if Jason’s towel slipped, and shouldn’t be applicable under the facts he described.
The Harbor Police can be certain city lifeguards designated as Peace Officers under section 63.20.6 of the municipal code, but some are also professional law enforcement officers enployed by the San Diego Unified Port District. There is also a separate Harbor Patrol that is a unit of the San Diego Police Department, but they reportedly only operate in Mission Bay. Given your location in Shelter Island, I decided to look at the Port District’s Codes and Regulations. At section 8.02 is a very broad list of regulations pertaining to use of parks and beaches within their jurisdiction. I noted no regulations pertaining to changing clothes or preparing for dives, and nothing relating to public nudity. They do refer to the ability of the Harbor authorities to make other, undefined, orders relating to the administration of the park, but I haven’t yet located any online source for those regulations, if there are any. I suspect they may amount to little more than the various signage at various locations.
I’m with your friend from the SDPD. I can’t locate any law or regulation that would give your Harbor Patrol/Police antagonist the authority he claims, but can’t state authoritatively it doesn’t exist.
That said though, I can’t see how the law would read. Changing clothes is prohibited? It would be a pretty tough drafting problem to provide fair enforcement while allowing people to change shirts, jackets, and add or remove sweats for the various joggers down there. A public dress code law that prohibits the wearing of towels with inadequate undergarments? I can’t see that being legally enforceable either, and the evidentiary requirements to uphold the officer’s citation would potentially make for a fascinating trial.
I have a few friends who wear speedos under their wetsuits to avoid just this sort of problem, and on the other hand, in addition to countless deckchanges and roadside wetsuit-under-towel changes, will admit to changing from a suit to casual wear in a courthouse parking garage (exposing my boxers in the process *gasp*). Some people just have more body issues than others. My inclination is that your problem was caused by someone being undertrained and overly full of himself, but hopefully someone can add something to the comments here to provide another justification or rationalization.
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