<strong>CONSTERNATION OVER CASH:</strong>  The Board of Supervisors, which met this Tuesday, has been struggling to reach an agreement on ideas to generate revenue.

Paul Wellman

CONSTERNATION OVER CASH: The Board of Supervisors, which met this Tuesday, has been struggling to reach an agreement on ideas to generate revenue.

Are Beach Parking Fees on the Horizon?

County Supervisors Struggle to Agree on Ways to Generate Revenue

Thursday, July 12, 2012
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It’s been more than a year since Santa Barbara officials discussed potential parking fees at county beaches.

But now, with the growing need for more revenue generators, ongoing political gridlock that seems to rise above the North County versus South County rivalry we’re used to has turned the county away from at least a few money-earning possibilities and turned people’s heads back in the direction of beach parking fees.

Back in February of this year, county officials discussed placing a potential oil severance tax on the ballot that, if approved by voters, would have charged 20¢ to 60¢ per barrel of oil extracted in Santa Barbara. Estimates said the tax would have brought in between $1.8 million and $3.3 million a year, but the proposal was voted down by the progressive board minority.

Then, an even lower hanging fruit was dangled in front of the board last Tuesday. Just a week after the supervisors approved an ordinance that will allow the county to flow some of its hotel bed taxes to developers constructing luxury hotels as an incentive to build, the board considered putting another proposal on the ballot. It too failed.

Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, a conservative expending political capital he certainly didn’t need to, had introduced a proposal to put a measure on the ballot to raise the county’s bed tax from 10 percent to 12 percent. The tax, which applies to hotels in the unincorporated parts of the county and will likely generate $7.1 million this year, would have brought in an additional $1.1 million per year. The increase would have come at a time when an agreement with Goleta (from which the county received $1.3 million annually in hotel bed taxes) was expiring.

And it would have evened the county with the City of Santa Barbara’s transient occupancy tax (TOT), which sits at 12 percent and, compared to last year, is bringing the city more and more money. Voters in Goleta, Solvang, Carpinteria, and Buellton will decide in November whether to raise TOT taxes in those jurisdictions from 10 percent to 12 percent. “It doesn’t make sense to have two sets of rules,” Lavagnino explained. “Why should Carpinteria, Buellton, Solvang, and Goleta have one tax and we have another?”

Both the bed and the oil severance taxes were attractive possibilities to many because neither hit the county’s population as a whole ​— ​a wide majority of those paying the TOT tax are tourists, while the oil tax would have only been paid by companies extracting crude from Santa Barbara County soil.

But both proposals needed four supervisor votes to be placed on the ballot. A poll from the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association showed support for an oil severance tax hovering around 45 percent, but it was likely the ballot initiative would have received fierce opposition from oil energy advocates, and the county would have faced an uphill battle. When the item came before the board in February, the South County majority didn’t have the four needed “ayes” to place the item on the ballot.

<strong>PAY FOR FUN IN THE SUN:</strong>  Coming down the road will be a discussion about whether to implement parking fees at county beaches.
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

PAY FOR FUN IN THE SUN: Coming down the road will be a discussion about whether to implement parking fees at county beaches.

Lavagnino stuck his neck out to bring up the hotel bed tax increase for a discussion. He didn’t know where dissent would come from. Fourth District Supervisor Joni Gray, a conservative fighting for her seat against another conservative, likely wasn’t going to go for a tax increase, though the board timed the meeting later in the day specifically so she could attend. Supervisors Doreen Farr and Salud Carbajal both supported the idea.

But Supervisor Janet Wolf wasn’t ready to pull the trigger, citing, among other things, voter fatigue. She also thought the item was coming to the board too quickly, and more research and polling should be done. “We need to do it in a more careful and rational way than is being proposed today,” she explained. “In general, we should not rush.” The ballot is also already packed with tax measures ​— ​from the city’s TOT initiatives mentioned above to school parcel taxes to Gov. Jerry Brown’s crucial tax measure, along with others at the same level.

Parting with the South County bloc , ​Wolf left Lavagnino one vote short of the four needed to put the item on the ballot. But by not pursuing an increase in TOT taxes, the question became, did Wolf just put more pressure on the board to do something with beach parking fees, something she has expressed concerns about since they were first proposed?

Wolf’s 2nd District is home to two of the most frequented stretches of sand in the county, including Goleta Beach, which sees somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.2 million visitors each year. The other is Arroyo Burro Beach.

Back in 2008, County CEO Mike Brown proposed beach parking fees as a possible solution to the county’s growing financial woes. Though the idea died, the county’s budget problems live on. This year the board had to close a $17-million deficit and is already looking at an $18-million to $20-million shortfall for next year.

CEO Chandra Wallar is quick to remind the board that they have already consolidated departments, eliminated programs, established pension reforms, and reduced county government in general. Now, she has been saying more and more frequently, the board needs to look at generating new funding streams. Said 4th District Supervisor Joni Gray, in agreement with Wallar at the conclusion of June’s budget hearings: “We have to search out revenue.”

That means the idea to charge for parking at county beaches is back and slowly making its way to the supervisors for a discussion. Herman Parker, director of the county’s Community Services Department ​— ​which is a consolidation of several former county departments and now oversees park operations ​— ​has been meeting with supervisors to discuss what might be coming down the pipeline.

Parker declined to talk about potential options, explaining the idea is not very well-developed. But Wolf said the thought of a $2-an-hour charge, or a $4 flat fee for a day, was being thrown around, a price that would generate around $2.5 million a year. When staff brought the concept to the Board of Supervisors last year, they suggested that charging for beach parking ​— ​depending on the pay structure and amount ​— ​could generate $3.1 million to $8.3 million a year.

The proposal could impact several county parks, namely Rincon, Lookout in Summerland, Goleta Beach, Guadalupe Dunes, and Arroyo Burro. The county already charges a daily flat fee at Jalama Beach. The Parks Commission will be taking a long look at potential options over the course of three meetings, the first of which is scheduled for July 26.

The county has plenty of variations to toss around ​— ​yearly passes, increased bicycle racks, restaurants validating parking, or providing the first 75 or 90 minutes of parking for free. But regardless, the county should be prepared for an uprise of opposition. Already, groups like the Surfrider Foundation have expressed their dislike for such parking fees. And going to the beach remains one of the few free, fun day trips for low-income families to make.

But voters wouldn’t have to approve beach parking charges ​— ​it would be considered a fee, not a tax ​— ​leaving the decision up to the Board of Supervisors. Parker said there was no timetable for when the discussion might reach the five supervisors, but it is likely to be sometime in the fall.

The original version of this article was updated on July 12, 2012 to reflect that the board majority - Farr, Carbajal and Wolf - voted for moving forward on the oil severance tax. The article was also updated to accurately reflect that Wolf parted with the majority only on the TOT tax vote, not the hotel incentive program.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Any Supervisor supporting or voting for this measure will earn the eternal damnation of thousands of lower income beachgoers. They are trying to sell us back our beach access.
Of course they will start the fee structure low , but before long it will rise to the ten dollar level now charged for day use at Jalama. This is a terrible proposal on so many levels. We need to get organized in opposition to them turning beach access into a commodity.
Hendry's, Summerland and Rincon Beach area homeowners and businesses must know that their parking will be severely impacted by the inevitable spillover of folks trying to avoid the beach access tarriffs. Please attend the public workshops , when they are scheduled , and voice your oposition to this bad idea.

geeber (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2012 at 4:27 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Well we could start taxing the top 2 % at the rates back in the 1950s or 60s when we first started building this great society of socialized parking.

DonMcDermott (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2012 at 7:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)

If this tax, uhhh, fee goes forward, right after even putting a TOT increase on the ballot was shot down (thanks, Janet Wolf!), then it will indeed be the wolf at our gates. Money has to come from somewhere and if it won't come a bit more from visitors, tourists bed taxes, then it will have to come from locals. Beach goers/parking is indeed a low-hanging fruit. Lavagnino showed courage; would that some of the other supes. would act similarly.

at_large (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2012 at 7:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

true "courage" would have been for Lavagnino to support an oil severance tax.

whosecityisthis2012 (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2012 at 1:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

BOOM - good comment whosecity!

Anyway, the only county beach I go it is Hendry's and I usually bike, but I do drive occasionally and if this goes through I'll just park in the adjacent neighborhood. I'm sure others will follow.

Num1UofAn (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2012 at 2:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

it's a simple problem of too many bureaucrats.

cut cut cut...

native2sb (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2012 at 3:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Why should we make up for the loss in property taxes that Carbajal, Lavagnino and Gray approved of. First give millions to a millionaire and next tax the ordinary citizens.
They will lose the vote of every surfer in their district, and that is A LOT of us. They never pay attention to the beaches until lawsuits are filed. They can cut their own salaries and stipends first. When did the Board of Sups declare war on their constituents? It must've been the day after election because they certainly didn't mention any of these schemes in their campaign speeches and materials. Have Carbajal's constituents made any progress in their recall effort?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2012 at 3:56 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The problem with imposing fees, among other things is that the cost of collecting them and enforcing them is often so high that the real amount of revenue raised is negligible. Do those of you that support beach park fees also support highway tolls? Some things should just be paid for by our taxes as they are a widely used common good. Thank you Surfrider for continuing to work toward improving Goleta Beach Park and being one of the only organized opponents of this new fee.

Noletaman (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2012 at 4:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Summerland Community Association has expressed their concern about overflow parking when these fees have been proposed before. Now the Rincon Homeowners and Alan Road residents need to get on the ball and let their supervisors know this is a rediculous proposal. Fight now or lose it forever.

geeber (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2012 at 5:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Geeber, my advice to the supes is to drop the idea or lose their political careers forever. This on top of the multi-million dollar gift to Caruso tells us exactly where their loyalties lie.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2012 at 7:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"it's a simple problem of too many bureaucrats.

cut cut cut..."
-- native2sb

Locally, state-wide and nationally we face serious debt/revenue problems. Pols on both sides are going to have to compromise if even partial solutions are enacted. One of the serious impediments against such solution-finding is native2sb and his ilk. Blind ideology to "shrink government" is a complete loser ... as is native2sb.

SezMe (anonymous profile)
July 13, 2012 at 12:59 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Let's try and cut the acrimony and go for a solid solution. Obviously giving millionaire Caruso a giant tax break wasn't such a hot idea. Now they want to take the beaches from us to make up the shortfall; dare Mr. Caruso create a shortfall in donations next campaign season.
I'm glad I voted for Doreen Farr. He tried to buy her off, she stuck to her principles.
We ALL need to demonstrate and strongly against this proposal. Surely it's not too late to rescind the tax break decision since it has not gone into effect.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 13, 2012 at 1:34 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Heed the $10 day use fee at Jalama if you fools think this will be some nominal fee. Sure , they will start low to minimize negative public reaction. As has been the case at Jalama and Cachuma , once the fee is established then no public input is needed to raise it.
Noleta raises another important argument - the net fees after collection and enforcement will be lower than the rosy projections provided by the proponents of this debacle.
Inform your friends and acquaintances and by all means attend the upcoming (not yet anounced) public workshops.

geeber (anonymous profile)
July 13, 2012 at 4:38 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The State fixed the walk in getting CalTrans to illegally post no parking signs on all the access roads near Refugio State Beach. And the County approved doing the same on Refugio Road. Pay $10 or pay a huge ticket for parking in a no-parking zone.

dontoasthecoast (anonymous profile)
July 13, 2012 at 7:46 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Go screw yourselves.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
July 13, 2012 at 8:23 a.m. (Suggest removal)

They are looking for money.

How about that property on the beach near the zoo....the old hotel, i forget the name.....that thing has been sitting there vacant for at least the 12 years I have lived here.

Had that been developed it would have brought in a massive amount of money over the years it has sat vacant while the idiots argue about it.


This is what distinguishes SB from other spots like....Oxnard, you want to be like them? their over regulated beaches......vast parking lots....that I have never even once seen full.

rstein9 (anonymous profile)
July 13, 2012 at 8:46 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Our beaches are part of our common trust, and belong to us, not "them."
How much out of the Board of Supes' operating expense budget could be cut? is it too much Carbajal bring coffee to share? Gray supply her own paper? Teachers are purchasing supplies out of pocket, why not the supes?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 13, 2012 at 10:51 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I bet Caruso wants the parking lot concession, which they will no doubt privatize.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 13, 2012 at 10:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Another regressive tax against the poor.

If the County needs $$$ that bad. Just lay off the the brain-trust that thought up this idea. Also, I'd be fine with three supervisor rather than five. That would save the Counyt millions when you add in pension costs.

Georgy (anonymous profile)
July 13, 2012 at 2:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)

County Supes get a pension?????

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 13, 2012 at 3:29 p.m. (Suggest removal)

And once this dunderheaded revenue fleecing is approved, all Central Coast citizens will be retrofitted with breathing meters and charged according to their hourly intake.

Slowly now, iiiiiiiinnnnnnn, ooooouuuuuutttttt . . . .

Draxor (anonymous profile)
July 13, 2012 at 6 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Be quiet Draxor, you don't want to give these people any ideas.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
July 13, 2012 at 6:37 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Here is the question: Why does our government, be it local, state, or federal, have to keep coming up with yet more ways to take our money from us? Does anybody see a trend here?

We keep hearing "This measure will go a long way in helping (fill in the blank)" but then the next thing you know, yet another measure (tax/fee) is in place. Where does all this money go?

Also, how can anyone who claims to be a friend of the working-class possibly support such a measure? This is an in-your-face affront to all of us. Little by little the polticians put the noose around your necks and you keep voting for these people. Wake up before it's too late.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
July 13, 2012 at 6:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Tell all your friends! Get mad . Contact the supervisors. Their email addresses are on the County website. ATTEND THE HEARINGS OR PREPARE TO PAY UP.

geeber (anonymous profile)
July 15, 2012 at 5:12 a.m. (Suggest removal)

We've had this terrible dribble to throw out the bums tea party types to the tar and feather rabble forever. It is not irrational.

So if we can't charge fees or raise taxes to adjust for inflation, repair or replace infrastructure, or for new services and infrastructure; if we can't develop, anything, high-density, low density, anything in-between (increasing property tax property paying stock); readily approve non-profit "free" socialized beach parking lots, parks, golf courses, baseball diamonds, horseback ridiging facilities, skatin facilities, ice-skating rinks, pools, parks and playgrounds, how the hell are the Supervisors supposed to do their jobs at maintaining anything.

DonMcDermott (anonymous profile)
July 15, 2012 at 6:25 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Yes Don there is one thing they can do to fill the budget gap, recind the Caruso tax break.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 15, 2012 at 10:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Oh that would hardly be a drop in the bucket. Good start though. You'll find though that many municipalities elsewhere get that Transient Occupancy Tax back from you when you stay in their communities. It may be more than a wash, and not in our favor. We're really going to need to solve local funding problems locally. If, we ever grow up and accept the responsibilities required to pay for our own amenities.

DonMcDermott (anonymous profile)
July 15, 2012 at 10:40 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I don't consider coastal access an amenity. I've surfed these waters for years, while the supes did little to nothing to protect the beaches. They can pay outta their own salaries ect. This fight is gonna get ugly and is going to ruin a few political careers if Carbajal's isn't already dumpster ready.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 16, 2012 at 8:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)

This issue goes back at least 4 years when the Goleta Beach protection plan was first brougth up with the permeable pier solution under Director Hernandez. It was about the same cost and preserved all the beach than the currently proposed Goleta Beach 2.0 plan, which is estimated at about $10 million to implement. Of this, the County has set aside ZERO dollars. Furthermore, Goleta Beach 2.0 will result in a loss of at a minimum 25% of the existing on site parking. Where is the rage for loss of beach access to the working poor on this?

Also, are the new estimates for revenues based on current or reduced parking? This is critical since it could severely impact the daily cost to meet the revenue projections. So the brilliance of this enept bunch of electeds is to give Caruso $10 million and raise fees for the working stiff and students? Now the talk is to use it to balance the budget, not address Goleta Beach or rather Goleta mini-Beach thanks to the push by EDC and Surfriders who could care less about beach access.

Come on SB...let's keep electing this same bunch. When will we learn this is the worse group of Supervisors in at least 50 years!!??

BeachFan (anonymous profile)
July 16, 2012 at 8:22 a.m. (Suggest removal)

BeachFan needs to be better informed about the Caruso tax break and his blanket criticism of the Supervisors. Doreen Farr and Janet Wolf both voted in opposition of granting the Caruso giveaway. Carbajal joined the two north county supes to gain passage of the measure.
Both Farr and Wolf have been good stewards of the coast during their tenures , and are undeserving of BeachFans ire when it comes to coastal issues. That may change with this tough issue of beach parking fees coming up.
Please everyone show up at the upcoming hearings-
9:30a.m. July 26 Supervisor Hearing Room 105 E. Anapamu St
5:30 P.M. Aug. 16 Planning Commission Hearing Room
123 E. Anapamu St.
Write it down and please plan to show up to protest this lousy plan to mess with beach access.

geeber (anonymous profile)
July 16, 2012 at 6:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Many, many good points.

Striking a balance of low beach fees without impacting neighborhood parking is a tough challenge in any locale. Enforcement of neighborhood parking just increases county overhead so a fee has to be low but cover the kid at the gate and still support the beach. In my opionion, a beach/park fee is for the use of a park. As such, it should only supplement the park's budget; not be used for general revenue.

In some communities I've visited, recycling programs at the beaches almost pay for themselves. Some beaches now almost 100% recycling. Even food waste is composted (off site)

It surprises me that the oil tax was disapproved. But then again, I only like those kind of taxes to go toward the principal of a debt such as bonds to eventually lower the cost of government.

A problem with higher bed taxes is that a tourist has less money to spend in local resteraunts and shops. Which employ people. Also, less money spent in town is less sales tax. An algebraic equation from h*ll.

passagerider (anonymous profile)
July 16, 2012 at 7:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Geeber. If being a good steward for the coast is to allow 30% or more of one of the most popular family beaches on the central coast to wash away, then I guess they must be geniuses. As for the Caruso tax break, the rooms there will average over $250 per night at a minimum. Not something the ordinary folks are able to afford. If you can afford staying there, you are still going to go out to dinners, movies, shopping, etc. You want to be fair? Give the same breaks to the small, private run hotels in the unincorporated areas. These are the folks that need it. Also remember Geeber, most of the shops are in the incorporated Cities....therefore, they will get the majority of the tax benefits, not the County. At a time the County is bleeding red in the books, how do you propose closing that gap? Sorry, your rationale in this fiscal situation doesn't hold water.

As for Beach fees, the previous director and staff proposed using the fees strictly for the beach protection measures costs and park maintenance. THIS current board majority has not agreed to do this. So much for your "stewards" of the coast. They want to use it to balance the budget. Yeah, real protectors of Goleta Beach.

BeachFan (anonymous profile)
July 17, 2012 at 8:13 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I guess the county could be bloated, bleeding, irresponsible, etc but it could be that people expect too much for too little.

Maybe the county could run beach parking like a business; develop a corporate chamber of commerce response. Charge for parking but offer family discounts, senior discounts and a small car discount. Good dog pooper scooper and motorcyclists park for free! Offer promotional coupons in off hours. Run it all night with a nightclub serving cocktails at the shoreline. Charge everyone else a higher parking fee to make up the difference.

DonMcDermott (anonymous profile)
July 17, 2012 at 8:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

How about free parking for County residents and charge everyone else?
Have the geniuses behind and supporting this plan factored in the exorbitant cost to implement it.
I see some commentators want to turn our beaches into nightclubs, heh.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 17, 2012 at 8:46 a.m. (Suggest removal)

No beach parking fees. Ever. Even $4 a day would make the beaches unaffordable to many families.
Oil production tax of 20 cents per barrel makes a lot more sense. TOT raised to 12% is high, but also makes more sense. A more sane development process that doesn't give away the store to the likes of Caruso after driving away a better developer (Ty Warner, who at least lives here and would have completed the project and be paying taxes by now if the supes had not knuckled under to pressure from a few NIMBYS) would help too. In business, time=money. I haven't done the math on how much has been lost by delaying the rebuilding of the Miramar for so long, but it has to be millions of dollars.

blackpoodles (anonymous profile)
July 18, 2012 at 8:03 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I have an idea... Charge city and county workers $20/day for parking downtown for work.
They all make good money and certainly cal afford it,

loneranger (anonymous profile)
July 18, 2012 at 8:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Notice the idea wasn't mentioned before the recent elections.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 18, 2012 at 10:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Loneranger...most of those city and county workers are low paid clerks, secretaries, maintenance workers, tree trimmers, etc. Their wages aren't huge...the benefits are good though. But the big problem with the benefit packages are what PD and FD get in retirement. The general employees nowadays pay a large portion of thier retirement, unlike public safety, who can retire younger with a higher percentage of salary and make all kinds of uncontrolled overtime that count towards salary.

BeachFan (anonymous profile)
July 19, 2012 at 8:59 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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