WatchSonoma Watch

County planners oppose beach parking fees


Sonoma County planners are recommending that the state be prevented from charging new day use fees at beaches up and down the coast on the grounds that doing so would limit public access and violate local and state laws.

The highly-anticipated recommendation provides ammunition for fee opponents. They include county Supervisor Efren Carrillo, whose district includes the coast and who Thursday vowed to fight the fee proposal “on every front.”

“You absolutely have to draw the line and protect what I’m describing as a fundamental interest of the people of California, which is access to public beaches,” Carrillo said.

California State Parks applied for a county coastal development permit to install 15 new self-pay machines at beaches on the Sonoma Coast. The application does not spell out any fees but parks officials previously said they plan to charge visitors $8 for parking.

State officials say the new fees are necessary to keep the beaches open and to reopen others as the park system grapples with budget cuts and a deferred maintenance backlog of more than $1 billion.

“Our budget situation remains critical,” Roy Stearns, a spokesman for state parks, said Thursday.

But Carrillo predicted the state will “have a very rough road ahead through the planning process.” State parks rescinded similar fees in 1990 amid strong local protest.

The beaches where the new fees would apply include Stump Beach, Russian Gulch, Blind Beach, North Goat Rock, Goat Rock Arched Rock, South Goat Rock, Shell Beach, Portuguese Beach, Schoolhouse Beach, North and South Salmon Creek, Campbell Cove, Bodega Head Upper and Bodega Head Lower.

The county Board of Zoning Adjustments is scheduled to take up the state’s permit application Jan. 17.

Carrillo said the proposal likely will end up before the Board of Supervisors, whether as a recommendation for approval or on appeal.

David Hardy, supervising planner of the county Permit and Resource Management Department, outlined in a report released this week several reasons why the self-pay stations should be rejected.

He stated that the public’s access to beaches and waterways is guaranteed in California’s Constitution and by the state’s 1976 Coastal Act, which encourages “maximum access” to these cherished places.

The county’s Local Coastal Plan states that the county must take “all necessary steps to protect and defend” those rights “to and along the shoreline.”

Hardy recommended that the state’s permit application be denied because it is inconsistent with those policies.

Hardy noted that the county’s coastal plan prohibits changes at some beaches but not others. He acknowledged that the public already has to pay day use fees at several beaches along the Sonoma Coast that were put into place prior to state and local regulations taking effect.

Hardy also agreed with the state’s assertion that the self-pay stations as structures are exempt from review under the California Environmental Quality Act. But he said the fees could run afoul of policies designed to protect sensitive natural resources if visitors seek out alternative access points to the beaches in order to avoid paying the money.

He wrote that public access to Sonoma County beaches already is limited because there is no viable daily bus service to the coast other than that provided by the Mendocino Transit Authority, which has a bus that departs Santa Rosa at 4:15 p.m.

“Thus, the cost of the parking fee is on top of the cost of the drive to the coast,” Hardy wrote.

You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @deadlinederek.

8 Responses to “County planners oppose beach parking fees”

  1. d says:

    I hope no fees.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. m whitt says:

    If you live and work in America,you have already payed your user fee. Even if you have never seen the beach!

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  3. Snarky says:

    SPEAKING of oppressive government, did you see this news item? (well, not if you rely on the Press Demo for your news…).

    L.A.Times, online
    December 14, 2012

    “Jury Awards $24 Million To Boy Paralyzed In LAPD Shooting ”

    “”A jury Friday handed down a $24-million verdict against the Los Angeles Police Department for the shooting of a teenage boy who was playing with a replica gun. His injury left him paralyzed.”


    $24 million dollars out of public funds… and the cop who shot the boy holding the toy gun… won’t only keep his job but won’t have to pay a dime out of his OWN pocket.

    THE GOVERNMENT STEALS OUR MONEY to pay for their mistakes…

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 8

  4. Reality Check says:

    Nothing is free. Oh, the beach may be nature’s gift to us, but the parking lot, bathroom, and clean up costs are definitely not free.

    What is about so-called conservatives that they expect these things to be provided “free,” that is, someone other than the user pays.

    People should embrace user fees. It’s just basic fairness. People who use the facilities pay for them. That sounds fair to me.

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 7

  5. James Bennett says:

    This is funny.

    A little soft pedal indoctrination/propaganda piece.


    Planting the seed.

    Creating an appearance of genuine representative government.

    If you’re gonna steal from us, take our rights and oppress us.

    At least don’t talk to me like Mr. Rodgers.

    Because I for one am not duped.

    It kinda pisses me off too.

    Thumb up 23 Thumb down 3

  6. Fiscal Conservative says:

    I call BS on this right now!

    Efren Carrillo states: “You absolutely have to draw the line and protect what I’m describing as a fundemental interest of the people of California, which is access to public beaches”

    How about the millions of acres of land that the County Of Sonoma has purchased with our taxpayer dollars that we have no access to at all?

    Where the hell is the fundemental interest of the people of Sonoma County on that land?

    How about fighting for public access on land YOU ARE responsible for?

    Thumb up 19 Thumb down 5

  7. Over Easy says:

    I guess I have a problem thinking that the beach should be anything else but free.

    That said I just hate this political posturing and chest puffing by local officials who would just as soon punch a guy outside a night club. It seems stupid and juvenile.

    Sue the state if you want some action, that’s what big boys do.

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 2

  8. Snarky says:

    What exactly is a “government planner” ???

    What type of employment expertise is required to be government “planner” ??

    Speaking of government “planners”.. how is the following for a “planned” idea from government using YOUR money.


    “California PUC Approves Giving Free Cellphones To Poor, Homeless”

    By Cynthia Hubert

    Sacramento Bee, online
    Published: Friday, Dec. 14, 2012


    Go read the FULL report at the Sac Bee. The Press Demo is too busy with its lame DUI arrest stories and its never ending parade of stories about dirt,,, er,,,, I mean… about “parks.”

    Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

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