The Santa Barbara County Parks Commission will meet Thursday morning at the Board of Supervisors’ hearing room in Santa Maria to make its final decision on whether to recommend imposing parking fees at seven county beaches.
The Board of Supervisors will then review the Parks Commission recommendation and decide whether to go forward with the fees sometime this fall. Thursday’s meeting will be the commission’s final discussion after two special meetings were held to gauge public opinion earlier this summer.
The parking-fees proposal was met with strong opposition in the public comment portion of both prior meetings. Concerned community members cited potential problems such as lack of beach access for low-income residents, overflow parking in nearby neighborhoods and decreased number of customers at beachside businesses.
The fees will either be charged by the hour or at a flat rate for the whole day and will be collected by solar-powered automated kiosks placed throughout each parking lot. The seven beaches that will be affected if the proposal goes through are Arroyo Burro Beach, Goleta Beach, Guadalupe Dunes Park, Lookout Park, Loon Point, Ocean Beach and Rincon Beach.
The Parks Commission has decided that with either system, three different prices will be charged depending on the park: $2 per hour ($8 maximum) or a $4 flat fee will be charged for Arroyo Burro and Goleta beaches; $1.50 per hour ($6 maximum) or a $3 flat fee at Lookout Park and Rincon Beach; and $1 per hour ($3 maximum) or a $2 flat fee at Guadalupe Dunes, Loon Point and Ocean Beach. The commission also proposes offering an annual pass for $100.
Parks Commission director Herman Parker said the fee proposal is being considered as a means to provide additional funds for maintenance of county parks, which have been in desperate need of resources.
“Over the years, our park facilities have been in decline due to limited resources for repairs, capital and deferred maintenance,” Parker said in a statement. “Implementing parking fees at our beach access points or other park facilities may create new revenue streams to support operations and maintenance.”
However, at the commission’s meeting on July 26, Parker said revenue would not necessarily be used only for beach maintenance and the allocation of funds would be at the discretion of the Board of Supervisors.
The commission’s meeting will begin at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in the Board of Supervisors hearing room in the County Administration Building, 511 E. Lakeside Parkway in Santa Maria. The hearing is open to the public.