For Some, a Tan Will Become Cheaper : State experiment is cutting beach parking fees at Huntington Beach and Bolsa Chica

Ah, the pleasures of the beach. The sun. The waves. The $6 parking fee. Six dollars?

In recent years the California Department of Parks and Recreation raised parking charges at a number of state beaches. The state definitely needed the extra income. Still, $6 is a hefty price, especially for someone planning to stay only an hour or two.

When the increase took effect three years ago at Huntington Beach state beach, increasing numbers of beach-goers started parking on nearby streets. Residents found streets clogged and parking spaces nonexistent, and the state’s revenue from the fees plunged.

This week the state announced a two-month trial reduction to $5, starting Sunday, for parking at the Huntington Beach and nearby Bolsa Chica state beaches. That should placate local residents if it gets cars back into the beach lots, but it might also serve as a kind of “supply-side” experiment that eventually could increase revenues at other Southern California beaches. State officials say they hope to attract enough additional cars to Huntington Beach to make up for the $1 cut and that they might try the program at other beaches if it is successful. It’s worth a look. Cities and counties that operate beaches also should monitor the test and perhaps reduce their parking fees, some of them higher than $6. (Weekend parking fees at some Los Angeles County beaches are as high as $7.)


State officials and Orange County beach cities sparred earlier this year over the issue of curfews, and in that instance a state agency correctly if belatedly listened to what the localities directly affected had to say.

Adjusting parking fees in response to neighborhood concerns and allowing localities to do what they have to do to make their beaches safe are examples of how the cities and the state should cooperate on coastal issues. Both have to work to find ways to bring one of the state’s major assets within the reach of most without unduly penalizing those lucky enough to live close to the waves.