WatchSonoma Watch

Sonoma County planners to weigh parking fee proposal for state beaches


The state’s plan to expand the number of beaches along the Sonoma Coast where visitors would be charged for parking faces its first crucial test in Santa Rosa today.

The Sonoma County Board of Zoning Adjustments is scheduled to vote on whether to give California State Parks the authority to install 15 new self-pay machines at beaches on the Sonoma Coast.

The state’s application for a county coastal development permit does not spell out any fees, but parks officials previously said they plan to charge visitors $8 for parking.

Goat Rock state beach. (PD File)

The plan faces stiff opposition, including from Jason Liles, chairman of both the zoning board and the county’s Planning Commission.

“I don’t like anybody charging for beaches,” Liles said this week.

His main concern with the plan is that people will park outside the designated areas and put themselves at risk getting to the beach. He said emergency personnel “already spend a fair amount of time helping people” who get into trouble at the coast.

County staff are recommending that the permit be denied. The decision can be appealed to county supervisors and ultimately the California Coastal Commission.

State officials say the new day-use 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.

Within Sonoma Coast State Park, eight day-use areas and two environmental campgrounds are closed, along with two-thirds of Bodega Dunes Campground. Only a few day-use areas with restroom facilities remain open, in addition to 49 camping spaces at Wrights Beach and Bodega Dunes.

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

Critics say the fees would violate people’s rights to enjoy the coast under California’s Constitution and the state’s 1976 Coastal Act, which encourages “maximum access” to beaches.

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.”

Critics also point out that there is limited public transportation to Sonoma’s beaches. The proposed fees represent “a clear barrier to lower-income individuals” being able to enjoy the coast, Una Glass, executive director of Coastwalk California, wrote in opposition to the plan.

The county has received more than 50 emails and letters regarding the state’s plan, the “overwhelming majority” of them expressing opposition to the fees, said David Hardy, supervising planner of the county Permit and Resource Management Department.

Thursday’s public hearing is at 1 p.m. at the county Permit and Resource Management Department, 2550 Ventura Ave., Santa Rosa.

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

7 Responses to “Sonoma County planners to weigh parking fee proposal for state beaches”

  1. Reality Check says:

    Expecting users of a park to pay something to maintain it is “government . . . creating criminals by passing, implementing and enforcing draconian laws . . .”? Wow!

    Who, if not the users, should pay the cost of maintaining a park? Presumably, you free loaders want non-users to pay. The fact is that even the most popular park is used only by a small portion of the population.

    Yep, user fees are a nuisance sometimes. But they’re also the fairest way to pay for something. For reasons that defy understanding, some right-wing knuckle-draggers oppose socialism but always bellyache if asked to pay for anything.

  2. Van says:

    They tried to impose fees in Anza-Borrego State Park some time ago. It went over like a lead balloon. Not only did things not go well, but people became down right criminals running down kiosk and taking to them with bats. But as well all know, the government is good at creating criminals by passing, implementing and enforcing draconian laws which are in their own right criminal. It is possible to fight government, even if it must come to this. If we had as much passion about what our government is forcing us to do on a daily basis as we are a lousy entry fee to a beach, I would be hopeful for a freer and better society. I’m not holding my breath.

    Storm ahead, take next exit…………….

  3. Steveguy says:

    Ya, charge for a memorial spot for many a loved one.

    I am more than willing to pay at Doran Beach, the Dunes and other spots, this parking fee is inhumane ! Subhuman in my honest opinion.

    I suppose now we will need more coast cops to catch those cutting off the iron rangers and tossing them ceremoniously into the ocean.

    Beware messing with peoples memorial spots. Many ashes have been scattered at the ‘free spots’. We already pay.

  4. Grapevines says:

    So I guess Proposition 30 just whetted their appetites didn’t it? Sacramento figures that they got that passed and now lets hit them up with fees to park at the beach. When are you people who voted in this “super majority” going to realize that you have your heads firmly stuck up your backsides?

    Do you really think that if we let this happen, it will ever stop? We pay the highest taxes in the country right now, and are getting the lowest service for doing so. What we are getting is Sacramento not addressing where the tax dollars we pay are being wasted at!

    Salary increases for legislative staffers! How many of us have see pay raises? Unless your working for the State, darn few of you have. How about the plush retirement benefits for State employee’s? How many of us that pay for them are getting anywhere near what they are? And this just is scratching the surface of waste. Bullet trains to nowhere, cushy jobs for voted out legislatures, and a water project from hell (didn’t we vote no on the canal addition a few years back?)

    What’s next?? Pay booth’s at rest stops along the highway along with parking meters there? Wouldn’t surprise me. Let them stick this to us and there will be no end to Sacramento sticking it’s hand further and further into your pocket. And fools keep voting in the same jerks doing the same thing and hoping things will change? When will anyone open their eyes and think for a change?

    Probably not in my lifetime!

  5. R.B. Fish says:

    The parks fees have been paid for by taxpayers. NO new fees. I will discontinue my visits and membership pass and not stop for lunch in Bodega and Jenner. When no one pays lobs will be lost.Traffic will build up along the turnouts and accidents will increase.

    If you ant to charge someone for using the beach charge the surfers who use it all the time. See what happens.

  6. Juvenal says:

    Everyone likes money, and no one like to be charged for what up until the present has been free. I would point out, though, that County Regional Parks has been charging, for parking forever. If this plan goes forward, I suggest 1) yearly passes, like the County employs; and 2) some monetary consideration for those living in these areas.

  7. James Bennett says:

    This “newspaper” reads like an UN Agenda 21 implementation manual.

    We pay (paid) for the right use the beaches.