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A day at the beach could get a bit more expensive. L.A. County is voting on fee hikes

Dockweiler State Beach
Camper trailers fill out the campground at Dockweiler State Beach in Playa del Rey.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Surfers, sunbathers and campers could soon be asked to shell out more for a day at the beach, with Los Angeles County supervisors poised to approve a set of fee increases Tuesday.

If approved, the proposal would boost parking fees at several popular beaches for the first time in a decade, as well as increase the cost of amenities such as equipment rentals and field trips. The vote would also establish new fees for camper vans and birthday parties — all in an attempt to reduce what officials say is a large deficit for beach services.

“When it comes to cleaning the beaches and maintaining the restrooms and other infrastructure on the county’s beaches, we currently are operating at about a $20-million deficit,” county spokeswoman Carol Baker wrote in an email. “Existing fees are not covering the full cost of maintenance, nor will the fee increases.”

About 50 million people use L.A. County beaches every year. Taxes cover the majority of operating and maintenance costs.

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“It’s like an amusement park, and it’s open every day of the year,” Baker said. “The cost of maintaining the beach goes up all the time.”

Other sections of the Department of Beaches and Harbors’ budget, such as the one covering operations in Marina del Rey, don’t have the same deficit. The marina, a county-owned plot of land with public-private operations, was expected to generate more than $22 million in net revenue, according to the county’s latest budget.

Overall, including administration, the department is expected to generate about $71 million in revenue — more than $2 million more than it anticipates spending during the year.

The majority of the proposed increases would raise rates on weekdays or during the winter, not during peak summer weekends when families flock to the beach to escape the heat.

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New fees are expected to generate less than $1 million a year in new revenue, documents show. Most of that revenue is expected to come from parking at the beach, where average visitors are likely to feel it.

“If you raise the price, it could reduce the ability of people to visit these beaches,” said George Wolfberg, chairman of the Pacific Palisades Community Council. “I think most people in our community could afford a modest increase, but this is everybody’s beach, and everybody may not have that ability.”

Under the plan, daily rates would go up by $1 a day on weekdays in winter at lots in Venice, yet the area is so popular those increases are expected to net $137,000 a year in extra revenue. A $1-a-day increase on weekdays at Dockweiler State Beach is estimated to yield $128,000 in the first year alone, with additional increases to follow.

The plan would also increase prices at Dockweiler RV Park by $10 a day to help fund a 20% expansion of the facility, including new staff and 19 spots for camper vans.

But the board can’t raise parking fees without approval from the California Coastal Commission, which leaves some of the most significant increases in limbo.

The Coastal Commission could not immediately comment on the plan or when it might weigh in. But if the county approves the proposal, price increases for sailboat storage and community room rentals and other programs are expected to take effect Aug. 1.

The cost to rent a kayak would more than double, to $25 an hour from $10. Renting space for a wedding at Dockweiler Youth Center would command upward of $300, from a previous minimum of $220.

“I think people who are driving to the beach are prepared to pay,” said Sina Monjazeb, owner and director of Sandy Days Kids Camp in Pacific Palisades. “This is a very expensive place to live, and costs just keep increasing.”

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Sandy Days was hit hard by a 2011 rule that boosted summer camp fees to 15% from 10% of its projected gross income, on top of a fixed “location bid fee” — costs that helped drive prices for campers to $85 a day from $55, Monjazeb said.

“If our operating costs go up, we’re going to have to pass that on to the consumer,” he said.

The proposal would streamline those fees, decreasing the overall cost for many. But Monjazeb said he’ll probably increase his prices next year anyway, to keep pace with the rising minimum wage.

“It’s just the cost of doing business,” he said.

Times staff writer Matt Stiles contributed to this report.


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