Los Angeles County officials are considering raising fees for certain facilities including parking lots in Marina del Rey and the RV lot at Dockweiler State Beach in Playa del Rey, as well as for recreation programs such as youth water sports camps, but they maintain that the rates are among the most reasonable in the region.

The county Department of Beaches and Harbors has proposed an increase in fees charged for various facilities and services in Marina del Rey and county operated beaches after reviewing which fees were comparable to the market rate, department spokeswoman Dusty Crane said. Following surveys of the fees, the department determined that some increases for parking lots and recreation programs were warranted, according to a staff report.

“We want to be able to sustain all of the programs that are operating right now, which is really important,” Crane said. “We try to take a look at the different programs and evaluate our fees to see if they’re at the market rate or below. What we found is that a lot of the fees hadn’t been changed for 20 years.”

In proposing to boost service fees, department officials want to make sure that they are able to manage and fund their operations properly, Beaches and Harbors Deputy Director Kerry Silverstrom said.

“In a number of instances we felt that to be within the market rate we should be higher,” Silverstrom said.

Among the recommended hikes are raising the Dockweiler Beach parking lot fees from $7 during the summer weekends to $10, and the fees for Marina Lot 4 near the launch ramp from $5 on the summer weekends to $10. Fees for the Dockweiler RV Park would be raised from $45 for the front row hook-up to $65 and from $43 for the middle row hook-up to $60.

All fees for the four youth Water Awareness, Training, Education and Recreation (WATER) program camps, which consist of sailing, surf, Dolphin and ocean sports, would be raised to $165, a minimum $15 increase.

The recommended increases would create $1.35 million in funding for the county in 2009-10 and an additional $2.3 million in future years, the staff report said.

If approved by the county Board of Supervisors, the fee hikes would take effect September 1st, except for the parking fees, which also require California Coastal Commission approval.

The Board of Supervisors was scheduled to address the proposal Tuesday, July 28th but continued the motion for two weeks after Fourth District Supervisor Don Knabe, who represents Marina del Rey, was absent from the meeting.

Knabe spokesman David Sommers said the supervisor has expressed concern that some of the planned fee increases, such as for the RV lot, are significant, and he wants to ensure that the hikes “are as equitable as possible.” When considering the proposal, the supervisors need to examine if certain beneficial services should be eliminated or maintained at a higher cost, Sommers explained.

“(Knabe) would rather keep them intact than to lose them,” Sommers said.

Marina del Rey resident Dorothy Franklin said parking lots in the Marina appear to be underutilized because of the existing fees and raising the rates will only add to the problem. She suggested dropping the parking fees for a few months to see if the usage changes.

“The more you raise the fees, the less the lots will be utilized,” she said.

Crane said department officials looked at areas where they could increase the rates with a minimal impact to the user and continue to provide quality service. In regards to the WATER program hikes, she noted that the department applies a “sliding scale” that enables families of all incomes to be able to take part in the recreation activities.

While Beaches and Harbors officials understand the financial difficulties families are struggling with during the recession, they believe that their program rates have been fair and won’t prevent people from accessing the services.

“We’re really affordable and we hope people won’t be impeded from access to our facilities,” Silverstrom said.

The department has also offered a variety of free programs for the public including the Summer Concerts and Movie Nights at Burton Chace Park in Marina del Rey, Crane said.

“Our goal is to keep the programs up to the quality that we feel the public is really looking for,” Crane said.

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