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Home / Community / Commentary / Letters to the Editor / Keep Our Oceanside Beach Palapas, Shelters, and Gazebos Free from Fees

Keep Our Oceanside Beach Palapas, Shelters, and Gazebos Free from Fees

Oceanside has always been known as the “family friendly city”.  Let’s not change that by instituting a charge to use the palapas on our beaches and at our beach parks. The Harbor and Beaches Advisory Committee will be hearing and voting on Item #8 (Amending the Parks & Recreation Master Fee Schedule) at their upcoming meeting on Monday, February 19, 2018.  Please email them and ask that they do not support charging a fee to use the beach palapas/beach shelters/gazebos at our beaches.

Coastal Act Policy Article 2: Public Access, Section 30213 states in part, “Lower-cost visitor and recreational facilities shall be protected, encouraged, and, where feasible, provided…”   Currently, families gather to celebrate birthdays, reunions, and other special gatherings in our parks and on our beaches.  The structures at the beach/covered picnic tables, currently provide access to families and children who might otherwise not be able to enjoy our beautiful beaches; the use of the covered picnic tables is free and on a first-come, first-served basis.  It works; don’t fix something that is not broken.  Many families who use these areas bring non-ambulatory seniors to the beach as the areas provide handicap access (concrete flooring) to the beach.  Our beaches and access to them is guaranteed by the Coastal Act, please protect our lower-cost visitor serving uses and do not approve charging for the use of covered picnic benches/areas.

Buccaneer Beach is shrinking and has very little beach for beach visitors to access depending on the tide and the Loma Alta Creek is flowing.  The palapa is widely used by our schools, families, various groups, and visitors to the beach.  The bathrooms are in close proximity, and beach just across the street.  There are no other picnic areas on the beach or in the park except the one palapa which does provide handicap access for the non-ambulatory.  The only other tables in the area are used by the Buccaneer Galley (restaurant).  By charging for the use and reservation of the palapa, a current low cost visitor use will disappear.

Tyson Street Park and beach shelters across from the bandshell serve as gathering places for families and groups alike.  According to the Strand Development Plan (Offsetting Benefits Implementation Program) “…for every 225 feet of private development to occur on in that area (between Sixth St., and Wisconsin Ave.) of the Strand, one acre of parkland must be purchased and/or developed.  The mandate shall ensure that the policy of the Coastal Act to protect shorefront land for recreation and visitor serving use is satisfied.”  Currently, the park is open for public use and some private kiosks are situated within the park for lower cost visitor serving uses.  Funding to purchase the land for the park came in part from the Coastal Conservancy as well as taxes generated by the residential development of The Strand between Sixth and Wisconsin (San Miguel).  This park should remain available as a lower cost visitor serving use as it can facilitate family and larger gatherings.  Many people who are non-ambulatory can access the picnic areas at no charge.  There shouldn’t be a fee to sit at the picnic tables at the beach!

The harbor shelters share many of the characteristics of the other beach parks except it is unique in that overnight camping is in close proximity to these “shelters”.  Another “shelter” (palapa) is located approximately half way between these shelters and the harbor restrooms and boat launching area.  Again, these shelters provide much needed access to the beach in the way of picnic tables for the non-ambulatory as well as large family gatherings and various groups.  By charging fees to use this area, access to the beach will be minimized.

The Staff Report cites Council Policy 600-05  is driving the need to charge a fee for the use of the shelters.  They claim a cost recovery analysis and “service assessment tool” brought them to the conclusion.  On the other hand, Staff does not provide any of the information in the report or as an attachment.  Where is the cost analysis showing the need to charge a fee for the use of the structures? Currently, all parkland is on a trash pick-up schedule and restroom clean up schedule.  How are the above referenced beach gathering areas increasing costs?  Will the structures be rented out for a couple of hours?  The entire day?  Any limit to the same group renting it out every weekend (vacation rentals/hotels)?  Far too many questions and little to support the change.  It appears that this is merely being pushed as a method to generate revenue and hire additional staff.  According to the Coastal Act., the city is obligated to retain lower cost visitor serving uses, that means, we have plenty of “pay to play” along our beaches already.  Please do not fix what is not broken!   We just had an increase to parking rates at the beach, and now this proposal. Beach access is slowly diminishing for the low to moderate income family.

At this time, people self-monitor these areas and I would hate to see fences go up or “do not sit” signs go up along the beach.  Let’s keep Oceanside family friendly. We already have vacation rental employees who put up umbrellas and spread rows of beach chairs and pop ups over picnic tables along The Strand.  Let’s not take this away from the lower cost visitor serving public too! Please contact Harbor and Beach commissioners and ask them to vote “NO” to the loss of our low cost visitor serving uses in our parks and palapas at the beach.


Shari Mackin