Archive for April, 2006

Traffic Committee, Stinson Beach Village Association

Wednesday, April 12th, 2006

P.O. Box 706
Stinson Beach, CA 94970

Subject: GGNRA No-Fee Parking History
Stinson Beach Village Association Resolution dated, 10-03-04


The 1970s was a decade that involved a multitude of planning issues for Stinson Beach.
The community was simultaneously engaged in:

1.) Comprehensive planning for Unit 1 of the Local Coastal Plan.

2.) The proposed transfer of Stinson Beach State Park into the
Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA).

3.) Working with the Regional Water Quality Control Board,
(RWQCB), and the Bay Area Sewer Service Agency,
(BASSA), to form the Stinson Beach County Water District.

Prior to the transfer of the Stinson Beach State Park to the GGNRA, the park was administered by the California State Park System. In the 1960s, there was no admission fee for parking in the State Park. However, during the final years of State Park administration, a vehicle parking fee was imposed. The impact was immediately felt by the town since many visitors who previously parked in the park opted to avoid this fee by parking in both the commercial area of the town and the Calle and Patio residential subdivisions. It significantly impacted the town during the week and on busy weekends it created traffic havoc to the point of impeding public safety vehicles.

In 1975, the Marin County Sheriff’s Department provided the community with a traffic control officer to issue citations for vehicles improperly parked on public streets. That generated a lot of citations and revenue for Marin County but it ultimately had no practical effect in persuading visitors to use the fee parking facility because the visitors reacted by shifting their parking to the privately owned and maintained streets in the Calles and Patios. Because these streets are not part of the streets and highways of California, neither the California Vehicle Code nor country regulations were usable for parking enforcement.

Consequently, the Sheriff’s department advised the community that the traffic enforcement officer could not cite visitor parked vehicles on these privately owned streets and that it was a civil matter to be dealt with by the property owners. In 1983, the Traffic Control Officer position was eliminated.


When Stinson Beach learned that the State Park was scheduled to be transferred to the GGNRA, it was a matter of concern to the community because it seemed likely that the National Park Service, imitating their predecessors, would pay scant attention to the inevitable impact of a highly promoted Federal beach on the business and residential areas of the community. To address that concern, there were a number of meetings held between the GGNRA Park officials and local residents who were active in community affairs. It turned out that the concern was largely unfounded. A constructive dialog quickly developed between the community and Bill Whalen, the superintendent of the GGNRA. Bill Whalen and his assistant, Doug Nadeau, proved to be responsible and accessible administrators and demonstrated a gratifying sensitivity to the potential impact of the park on the local community.

For example, in response to a community concern regarding the loss of historic local use patterns on the beach area adjoining the Calles and Patios, Bill Whalen agreed to drop a GGNRA proposal to acquire the Marin County owned beach. That is why, today, this beach area is still a low-key jewel in the Marin County park system.

Another leading concern to the local community was the issue of fee parking. The historical parking problem during the State administration was discussed with Bill Whalen. He acknowledged the chaos that fee parking chronically caused in the community, particularly on busy days. He assured us that under his supervision, there would never be any access fee at the park but cautioned us that this policy could be subject to change by future regional superintendents.

Consequently, in a search for a more durable commitment to no-fee parking, the community enlisted the assistance of Congressional Representative Phil Burton who was instrumental in shaping the formative legislation that created the GGNRA. Mr. Burton’s response was gratifying. He expressed his own hope that the projected use intensity of the GGNRA would not significantly alter the character of pre-existing communities within or adjacent to GGNRA Park facilities. With respect to Stinson Beach, he fully supported the incorporation of language in the GGNRA Park Bill ensuring that the Stinson Beach Park would always remain a no-fee facility as a critical element in mitigating the impact of park visitor vehicle traffic in our community. This amendment was approved by Congress and subsequently codified in 16USC 460bb-3 (e), as follows:

(e) No fees or admission charges shall be levied for admission of the general public to the recreational area except to portions under lease or permit for a particular and limited purpose authorized by the Secretary. The Secretary may authorize reasonable charges for public transportation and, for a period not exceeding five years from the date of enactment of this Legislation, for admission to the sailing vessel Balclutha.

This legislation was truly prophetic because in later years, during the tenure of National Park Service (NPS) director William Penn Mott, there was an attempt to reinstate the parking fee in the Stinson Beach Park. Had the no-fee status of the park been merely a function of park policy or regulatory interpretation, Mr. Mott could have, and would have rescinded this no-fee provision regardless of the impact on the community. Fortunately, the no-fee provision was imbedded in the enabling legislation that created the GGNRA, and Mr. Mott was unable to secure Congressional support for changing this provision.


Despite a 30 year history of no-fee parking, a proposal has been resurrected to institute a fee for vehicle access to the Stinson Beach Park. The ongoing CTMP planning process addresses a variety of rationales for instituting such a fee but, when push comes to shove, the core rational is to provide a fiscal mechanism to help finance any implemented CTMP proposals. Stinson Beach has vigorously objected to the imposition of any vehicle parking fees in the park because it threatens to destroy the character of the community.

CTMP planners, however, have apparently not taken the community reaction seriously and seem more disposed to crafting some artful tactic to circumvent the no-fee parking provision by altering the name of the proposed fee from a “use” fee to a “parking” fee. Consequently, there is a mounting apprehension in the community that the CTMP planners are so focused on generating revenue from the park, that they have lost sight of the paramount obligation of the National Park Service to mitigate the impacts that park facilities can produce in adjacent communities.

In any event, this proposal to institute fees at the Stinson Beach Park for
revenue purposes suffers from this fatal planning flaw:

All the CTMP proposals outlined in the transportation plan are subject to the law of consequences – intended and unintended. However, for the bulk of these proposals, there is the remedy of aborting the proposal or suspending its implementation if it produces an undesirable result.The untoward result, as a practical matter, is reversible.

On the other hand, while a revenue driven parking fee can be aborted in its conceptual state, once that fee is actually implemented, for all practical purposes, it is, irreversible, regardless of the depth or breadth of the havoc it can wreak on the residents and businesses in Stinson Beach. The implementation of this proposal would be tantamount to unleashing a runaway train of adverse consequences for this community. It is a bad idea that falls well short of the threshold for cautious and responsible planning.

On October 2, 2004, the Stinson Beach Village Association voted unanimously to reaffirm their unequivocal opposition to the retention of any CTMP planning element that involves the introduction of any parking fee, use fee or financial extraction of any kind for vehicle access to the Stinson Beach Park. Incorporated into this resolution were the following findings:

a.) The imposition of a financial extraction of any kind
for vehicle access in Stinson Beach Park is contrary
to the unequivocal language contained in
16USC 460 bb-3 (e).

b.) The re-labeling of vehicle admission charges for
the purpose of negating or circumventing the no-fee
status of the Stinson Beach Park is contrary to the
legislative intent that inspired Congressional passage
of 16USC 460 bb-3 (e).

c.) The imposition of vehicle access fees of any kind
in the Stinson Beach Park will produce adverse
impacts on the surrounding community including,
but not limited to, traffic gridlock, the preemption
of commercial and residential parking spaces and
interference with the safe passage of public safety