Charging for parking at county beach lots – such as Goleta Beach and Arroyo Burro Beach – is an option now officially on the table.
In a quest to generate revenue to aid the ailing Parks and Recreation Department, Santa Barbara County will be analyzing over the next few months whether this move is necessary. The idea – not a foreign one to most coastal communities – will take awhile to advance in Santa Barbara. County staff will return with a list of options in August, and should the Board of Supervisors elect to move forward with any ideas or proposals, implementation could still be months after that.
Other jurisdictions along California’s coastline charge between $3 and $12 for day parking. County officials estimate parking fees could bring in $3.1 million to $8.3 million per year at a time when revenue is badly needed for a department which already has an infrastructure in need of repair and restoration.
The supervisors asked that staff come back with several options to work with, including free parking for a certain period of time – like 75 or 90 minutes – before charging. Other options include possible free days, allowing restaurants (like Beachside Cafe in Goleta or the Boathouse at Arroyo Burro) to validate parking, giving special rates to county residents or the elderly, or installing addition bicycle racks so people have other potential ways to get to the park. Roughly 1.4 million people visit Goleta Beach annually.
Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf said Tuesday’s decision to move forward with an analysis was one she wasn’t ready to make. “Three dollars, five dollars is not much, but for some people it is a lot of money,” she said.
The other four, however, agreed the issue needs to be looked at. “It pains me to do what we have to do,” said 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, echoing the sentiment of the board.
Suzanne Perkins, a real estate agent who serves on the County Parks Commission, said her agency has agonized over the idea of parking fees, but in order to keep parks, trails, and open spaces open, charging fees was becoming a necessity. “These are dire times,” she told the supervisors Tuesday.
Indeed, the parks department is already facing a significant deficit and has cut back various services, including shutting off the Waller Park fountain pump except on the weekends, reducing water schedules, cutting back on grounds and janitorial maintenance, closing Guadalupe Dunes on Mondays and Tuesdays, and closing Vista Point off Highway 154 near Cachuma Lake. Those reductions will cut the department’s current fiscal year $606,000 deficit roughly in half.
The county also recently announced cabin rentals – ranging from $80 to $200 a night – at Jalama Beach and Cachuma Lake that will soon be opening for business, with reservations beginning May 23.