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Cover-up looms at nude beach in San Diego

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- A remote strip of pristine sand long labeled America's most popular -- yet unofficial -- nude beach is covering up.

After years of tolerating sunbathers in the buff, the city of San Diego is again trying to enforce a decades-old prohibition against nudity at Black's Beach.Some who frequent the 1,500-foot stretch of coastline in the wealthy enclave of La Jolla have complained about an increase in sexual behavior and expansion of the nude beach boundaries by the clothing-optional set.

"What's happened is that it's become a place where exhibitionists go," said longtime resident Melinda Merryweather. "You can't take children down there and leave your kids on the beach when you go out in the water."

The city is seeking to drive nudists north to Torrey Pines State Park, where nudity is still permitted on more than two miles of state-owned beach property.

As of Thursday, those who bare all on city property risk a citation and a $135 fine.

"There was a misperception by some that because we turned a blind eye to nudity that they could get away with other activity," said Scott Tillson, chief of staff for Councilman Harry Mathis, who represents the La Jolla area.

In 1974, the city decided to allow nudity at the beach, but voters reversed the ordinance in 1977. Ever since, San Diego's lifeguards have sporadically enforced the ban but generally turned a blind eye to nudists.

Those who routinely visit Black's Beach say complaints are exaggerated and a live-and-let-live attitude prevails.

"It doesn't bother me at all," said Steve DiPalma, surfing at the beach Monday in a full-body wetsuit. He said he's never seen any lewd conduct. A topless sunbather agreed.

"I've never been offended by anything that's gone on down here," said Mindy Duncan, 28, a San Diego department store manager.

Anti-nudity signs were posted last week, and beachgoers already seem to be getting the message. On a recent afternoon there wasn't a single person au natural on the city section, while about two dozen unclothed sunbathers, mostly men, relaxed on the state-owned portion of the beach.