Coastal commission opts not to rule on Sonoma Coast beach fee proposal

The decision, which followed a marathon meeting in Santa Rosa packed with hundreds of fee opponents, does little in the near-term to resolve the four-year battle over the fee proposal. California State Parks is seeking to impose day-use fees of up to $8 at eight beach locations, including Bodega Head and Goat Rock.The ultimate outcome could have profound implications on California’s bedrock policies protecting coastal access and the ability of Sacramento to impose new charges for public sites that have long been free to visit.

Several commissioners expressed reservations about many aspects of the state’s plan, in particular that it could restrict coastal access to low-income people. A few commissioners also criticized State Parks officials for pushing the fee plan without enough data to support the proposal and without enough public input.

But commissioners, who wield powerful statewide influence over coastal matters, declined to jettison the fee proposal. Steve Kinsey, a Marin County supervisor and chair of the 12-member commission, promoted the idea of continuing the debate, saying “a denial today doesn’t move the dial.”

Commissioner Dayna Bochco made the motion, which calls on commission staff, State Parks and county officials to meet on the fee issue. The motion directs commission staff to report at the agency’s June meeting whether there is a willingness among the parties to work together.

The board decided to continue the debate over day-use fees at several iconic Sonoma County beaches, to give warring agencies more time to reach consensus.

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