The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously rejected a proposal to impose parking fees at county beach parking lots after overwhelming outcry from the community.
The county’s own Parks Commission voted against the idea in August, and the supervisors had the final say on Tuesday, voting 5-0 against the fees.
County staff began exploring the idea as a way to raise new revenue for the county, and said parking fees could bring in $1.58 million to $2.48 million annually if implemented.
Opponents have argued that charging for parking would reduce beach access for those who can least afford it and negatively affect waterfront businesses and restaurants.
Earlier this year, the county held three public workshops on the issue. During the events, 86 speakers came forward, and no one spoke in support of the fees.
That trend held true Tuesday, when public comment brought out a majority of South County speakers who held up yellow signs opposing the fees, with several families with young children coming before supervisors to speak.
Holding an infant in her arms, Susan Robinson was one of those speakers.
“A huge part of raising my family is bringing them to the beach a lot,” she said. “I never go to the beaches that have parking fees.”
Supervisor Janet Wolf called the idea “disgraceful” and said she hopes it’s off the table during next year’s budget talks. In that vein, Supervisor Salud Carbajal said he’s all for exploring alternative sources of revenue.
Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said calling the idea “disgraceful” was a bit much, but had questions about the business model.
“I don’t understand how it’s going to work to spend $800,000 to collect $1.6 million,” he said.
Lavagnino and Supervisor Joni Gray both brought up the fact that Jalama Beach in North County already charges, and that if the county doesn’t move forward on fees for all beaches in the future, removing those fees should be considered.
Wolf said free access to recreation on the beach is something “that makes our community incredibly special.”
Supervisor Doreen Farr commended the public involvement on the issue, which had an impact on her decision to vote against the fees.
“When I see this volume of public comment ... that’s something that I really take to heart,” she said.