In an effort to discourage group gatherings at the beaches and mitigate adjacent neighborhood parking issues, Carpinteria’s temporary pandemic-related parking restrictions will remain in place until further notice.
The Carpinteria City Council voted unanimously this week to allow certain restrictions, including establishing two-hour parking zones, no parking areas, the city’s resident-only permit parking on certain streets and closing all or part of public parking lots.
The rules aim to mitigate peak beach and neighborhood parking by discouraging long-term stays at the beach and to reduce potential crowds on the shoreline, according to Carpinteria city staff.
The vote adopted a resolution ratifying actions taken by City Manager David Durflinger, who also is acting director of emergency services, to establish the so-called “COVID-19 parking restrictions program.”
Monday’s adoption of the resolution established the parking restrictions as an interim program during the local coronavirus emergency, unless it is terminated by Durflinger before then.
“I hope you realize we will be voting this officially, but we also will leave it up to the city if they need to make changes,” Carpinteria Mayor Wade Nomura told the City Council.
The council amended the language in a motion to include parking restrictions on holidays and offer residential parking permits to local residents in the Sixth Street and Palm Avenue area because they are impacted by the parking restrictions.
As the weather gets warmer, city leaders expect the number of beachgoers to continue to grow despite the state’s stay-at-home order and coronavirus-related rules.
Carpinteria’s popular beaches are expected to attract many out-of-town visitors and local residents.
“There is concern those growing numbers would force the city’s hand to have to close beaches or severely restrict use of the beach areas, eliminating a valuable outdoor resource for public health during this pandemic,” Durflinger said.
Carpinteria City Councilman Gregg Carty expressed concern about people descending on Carpinteria-area beaches for Memorial Day festivities.
“We have a busy holiday coming up, and it falls on a Monday,” Carty said. “That’s a concern.”
Carpinteria first implemented new parking restrictions last week under the authority pursuant to a local emergency proclamation.
In addition to city-owned beaches, a stretch of Carpinteria’s coastline is shared with Santa Barbara County and state-operated beaches.
Larger numbers of beachgoers have flocked to Carpinteria — especially on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, Durflinger explained.
Parking enforcement officers issued 24 citations and five cars were towed in three days over the weekend in Carpinteria, according to Durflinger. Citations carry fines of about $35 and roughly $200 for the tow, he said.
Extra lifeguards, code compliance staff and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department conducted “a lot of contacts on social distancing,” Durflinger said.
Carpinteria has received numerous violation-related complaints from residents, according to the city.
Extra lifeguard and code compliance staff were on hand, and the Sheriff’s Department had conducted additional beach and neighborhood patrols to monitor conditions, enforce parking regulations, and educate people about the need to practice social distancing.
“There were dozens of contacts for other things like dogs off-leash, alcohol going on to the beach, and social distancing,” Durflinger said. “We are doing enforcement.”
Carpinteria’s code enforcement staff is already stretched thin, Durflinger said.
“They can tell that if it gets busy, it’s going to get difficult to keep up with the work,” he said.
Several letters from residents were read during the council’s public comment period, and many expressed discontent with the two-hour parking time restriction.
“The introduction of parking permits and towing is a slippery slope for a town that prides itself on being a friendly throwback to a simpler time,” a Carpinteria resident wrote. “People need access to the beach for exercise, emotional well-being and the health benefit it provides.”
Pressure also is building to discourage people from actively using the beach during the coronavirus pandemic.
During the public comment period on an unrelated item, resident Andrew Meichtry asked city leaders to shut down Carpinteria city beach until the coronavirus pandemic has subsided. He lives nearby Elm Avenue and Sandyland Road in Carpinteria.
“When I was walking toward Smart and Final, I noticed cars packing up all available parking spots to the railroad tracks,” he wrote in a letter. “I had to go back and see how crowded the beach was, and it was more crowded than I have ever seen it … this was a regular Wednesday just before 3 p.m.”
Meichtry also provided two pictures — looking toward Santa Barbara and looking toward Rincon Beach — that showed the beach area “right after the two girls on the left gave each other a big friendly hug.”
He urged the City Council to observe Carpinteria State Beach around 3 p.m. “on any given day to see for yourself the lack of social distancing. By the size of the crowds, they probably drove in from out of the area.”
Santa Barbara County Parking Restrictions
Santa Barbara County is also planning to use temporary parking restrictions to deal with crowded trailhead areas and beaches.
At the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting this week, several Montecito residents expressed concern about crowded parking, specifically at Butterfly, Miramar and Hammonds beaches.
A Humphrey Road resident said there’s never been a problem until the past month, with tourists coming and using the road like a bathroom and filling up trash cans. She said she doesn’t want the county to install portable toilets near popular spots, but it seems essential because of limited access to public restrooms.
There are no plans to add portables to any additional locations at this time, Jeffrey Lindgren, the county’s parks superintendent, said on Wednesday.
Heal the Ocean Executive Director Hillary Hauser said Montecito beaches have been more crowded and people should be told not to loiter — allow running and walking along the sand, but bringing chairs and spending the day shouldn’t be allowed.
Before the beach discussion this week, Sheriff Bill Brown talked about how law enforcement officers are getting people to voluntarily comply with coronavirus-related rules.
“We are committed to being long on engagement, education, persuasion and encouragement, and short on actual enforcement tactics,” he said.
Enforcement options include talking to licensing authorities (for businesses), having county counsel issue cease-and-desist notices, referring cases to the District Attorney’s Office for prosecution, issuing citations or making physical arrests if all else fails. That’s the last resort and would be used only for egregious or repeated offenses, he said, and their goal is “stopping actions that jeopardize the health and safety of others.”
Santa Barbara County residents have been complying with health orders and had “near-universal adherence to them.”
There is above-average activity in some areas, some trailheads, and it would be helpful if the county gave the sheriff the authority to put up temporary no-parking signs where there is congestion at recreational areas. Conditions at beaches and other outdoor spots were better last weekend, Brown said.
The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors instead voted to have the county work up plans to give to the public works director, as the road commissioner.
Public Works spokesman Lael Wageneck said the staff is working with various departments on possible county parking restrictions, with more information expected by the end of the week.