The 70,000 beachgoers expected to descend on Huntington Beach for the Fourth of July may find a shortage of one of the city's most precious commodities: parking spots.
Nearly half of the 2,400 spaces in the municipal parking lots near the pier have been sealed off to make way for a $16-million upgrade, the first major improvement to the oceanfront lots in 38 years.
As if that weren't bad enough, Pacific Coast Highway will be closed between Beach Boulevard and Goldenwest Street from 5 a.m. to about 2 p.m. for the annual Independence Day parade.
It marks the first time in the parade's 97-year history that PCH will be closed to accommodate the event, said Lt. Chuck Thomas, a spokesman for the Huntington Beach Police Department.
The parade route runs south from PCH and 8th Street then swings inland at Main Street, continuing past Huntington Beach High and City Hall. City officials predict 250,000 spectators.
The 70,000 people expected to visit the 8 1/2-mile-long stretch of city and state beach Wednesday will find 1,100 marked parking spots from Beach Boulevard north to Huntington Street out of service.
"It will cause some inconvenience," city spokesman Richard Barnard said, "but no matter when we would've done it, it would've impacted somebody. It'll be a good thing once it's done. And as [with] any good thing, you've got to be patient and endure some inconveniences. A few months of inconvenience for years of enjoyment and use is worth it."
People are urged to park in structures along Main and Orange streets. Underground public parking is also available at Pierside Pavilion, PCH and Main.
The $6.6-million upgrade to the beachfront parking facilities will include an expanded bike trail, a pedestrian bridge across PCH, upgraded concession stands, and new restrooms and shower stalls. Decorative artwork and tiles, security lighting and 380 palm trees will also be added. The project is expected to be completed by May, Barnard said.
Funding comes from the $4-million settlement from a 1990 oil spill, federal grants, and parking and concession stand revenue.
A second phase will cost $9 million and will begin later this year between Huntington and 1st streets. The work will include new headquarters for city lifeguards.