One of the questions the Galveston City Council should resolve about its program to charge for parking on the seawall is whether the state thinks it meets the requirements of the law.
When the previous council was preparing to put the parking fee to a vote of the people, Steve LeBlanc, who was then the city manager, reminded the council that it would have to amend its beach access plan to include 30 minutes of free parking on the north side of the seawall and $1 an hour thereafter. Wendy O’Donohoe, who was then planning director, made the same point repeatedly.
The beach access plan also requires a minimum of 10 percent of the parking spaces — about 230 — to be free. Those spaces also had to be distributed throughout Galveston’s long, skinny “urban park.” They could not be grouped in one spot — let’s say west of 61st Street, where there’s not much but rip rap below the seawall.
Generally, when such changes are proposed, the Texas General Land Office approves them only if they promote better access for the public.
The key idea is that the changes have to be easier and more convenient for the public, not easier and more convenient for the city.
The city has to file a beach access plan because the beaches belong to the public. That means all Texans, not just the residents of Galveston. The city relies on the state to funnel a lot of public money back to the island to clean, patrol and rebuild the beaches. If the state finds that the city is not acting to ensure the public has access to its beaches, it’s a problem.
Amendments to the beach access plan take time — and they usually require public hearings, both at the city and state level.
Has any of that been done? Has the city really amended that plan to include 30 minutes of free parking on the north side of the seawall? Has it really scattered free sites throughout the length of the seawall?
We don’t think that’s happened. And, when we’ve brought up problems with the parking plan before, the City Council has brushed them aside.
We still contend that the main problem with the existing plan is that its expenses are so staggering there isn’t much money left to pay for amenities, such was restrooms, drinking fountains and showers.
We haven’t heard a convincing explanation of how that problem is going to be fixed. And we don’t know how the city plans to square its parking plan with its beach access plan.
The Daily News is filing a request under the Texas Public Information Act for any records that would show that the Texas General Land Office approved changes to the city’s beach access plan.
If the state agency didn’t, it would be best to know it now, before tourist season gets up to full speed.