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Our County by Efren Carrillo - May 2015


Our County by Efren Carrillo - May 2015

by Efren Carrillo

Beach access is for everyone…Call to Action!

Did you know that both the California State Constitution and the California Coastal Act require that citizens have maximum public recreational opportunities in the coastal zone? The Coastal Act goes on to state that the public’s right of access to the sea, by beach or rocky coastline shall not be interfered with by development. This means that your right to access the coastal beaches and ocean is protected by both the California State Constitution and the Coastal Act.

In 2012, facing a budget crunch, California State Parks applied to our county permit department for permission to install pay stations, called iron rangers, at 14 beach parking lots on our Coastline. Bodega Head, one of our most valued and iconic view points along the Sonoma Coast is among those slated for parking fees.

 The permit application was deficient in that it did not include plans for Americans with Disability Access improvements needed to access these devices and no grading plans or design details for the individual beaches. Additionally the application came in as a minor project with no environmental consequences. 

Most importantly though, State Parks’ application did not include any baseline data information – figures for the current usage of the parking lots which would be subject to the proposed new fees. The mandate to provide maximum access requires baseline data in order to track any decline in access and usage should the iron rangers be permitted. Even as of the date of our hearing with the Coastal Commission, State Parks had provided absolutely no baseline data or figures for current use to either the County or the Coastal Commission. They actually alluded to data collection figures from Southern California where public transportation and development could not be more different than our rural coast with its own issues.

State Parks presented their new project to the Commission, and actually made the argument that imposing fees on our coastal beaches would increase access. I’m not sure how any reasonable person could come to that conclusion. Though Sonoma County, former Coastal Commission Chair Mike Reilly, and advocates from Coastwalk, Surfrider, and many other individuals made an extremely strong case, the 12 member panel deadlocked 6-6. This means that State Parks application will now be decided by the Coastal Commission and has been taken out of local hands.

Further, there is no guarantee that any of the funds collected will remain in Sonoma County or be used to improve amenities or service at our coast. And we will have no future control over the price tag set for parking.

When I consider our hard working families who may now turn away from a trip to the beach due to the expense or perceived cost of visiting our coast, it brings me back to the State Constitution. Our young families and children need and deserve to be able to immerse themselves in one of our state’s great natural wonders. They have the right to access…and charging to park at nothing more than a gravel lot along the coast may deny children and families that right, or push them into parking in unsafe areas on the other side of Highway One in the attempt to avoid the parking charge.

We hope that the Coastal Commission – charged with enforcing the Coastal Act’s provision for maximum public access – will bring State Parks, the County, and coastal advocates together in an effort to find common ground, because the project currently proposed has potential to do great harm to accessibility. It will be a travesty if we are looking back at this time in a decade or so and find that our beaches are for only those who can afford to pay the price.

Cinco de Mayo 

The 10th annual Cinco de Mayo will be celebrated on May 5th at Roseland Village on Sebastopol Road in Roseland. Roseland Village is owned by the Sonoma County Community Development Commission, and is in the middle of a historic transformation. Earlier this year, the derelict buildings came down, and now the 7 acre parcel is opened up and being prepared for interim uses. It will be a fantastic venue for this annual community event!

Last year, nearly 7500 people walked or rode a trolley to Cinco de Mayo. Sebastopol Road is closed from Dutton to McMinn. It is truly a cross cultural event, with something for everyone. Fabulous food, community organizations, and live entertainment fill the hours between 4pm and 9pm. 

This inspiring event is a perfect example of how a community can come together to replace a troubled history of fighting, drinking, and arrests into a positive family friendly occasion welcome to all. All of this was made possible by the fortitude of a few good people, many of whom are still involved today. They come from all walks of life and work hard to continue the tradition. Businesses, the County, and the City of Santa Rosa all contribute to the event, but it is the members of the organizing committee that are true heroes for Roseland.

If you’ve never been, you’re missing out! If you love the event, the committee can always use volunteers. Sign up at their website: