Responding to an uproar over shuttered beach bathrooms, Los Angeles County supervisors agreed Tuesday to resume opening seven of the county's 52 beach restrooms early in the morning during the summer.
The action partially reverses a money-saving shift to later opening hours for beach restrooms that prompted an outpouring of complaints from surfers and others over Memorial Day weekend.
For decades, all of the beach restrooms opened as early as 5 a.m. and no later than 7 a.m. This summer, some were scheduled to open as late as 11 a.m.
Seven restrooms were selected to resume the early morning schedule: Will Rogers at Temescal in Los Angeles; Zuma No. 6 and Point Dume in Malibu; El Porto and 26th Street in Manhattan Beach; Knob Hill in Redondo Beach; and White Point in San Pedro.
But the plan still calls for the remaining 45 restrooms to open between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., which is likely to anger early risers. Santos Kreimann, director of the county Department of Beaches and Harbors, said the decision to delay openings was intended to focus more attention on cleaning restrooms when the beach is most crowded — in the late morning and afternoon.
"Let's take care of the majority of the people on the beach," Kreimann said in an interview.
The county runs most beach restrooms in L.A. County, except for those in Santa Monica and Long Beach.
Supervisor Gloria Molina called the plan a good compromise, but acknowledged that some residents would still be unhappy.
"We have to make sure the public recognizes the dilemma we are in financially," Molina said. She said the county won't be able to fully accommodate "some cranky jogger that likes jogging at 6 in the morning and likes changing in our bathroom."
She warned against making further accommodations to early risers. "I hate to see us refocusing and adjusting our entire plan for a couple of residents" that go to the beach at dawn, she said.
Kreimann said his department will use unexpected revenues, delay hiring and defer maintenance to make up the difference in operating costs, which will require hiring 13 temporary cleaning workers for the summer and two supervisors at an extra cost of about $372,000. Before Tuesday's change, the county Department of Beaches and Harbors had planned for a 6%, or $2 million, budget cut for the next fiscal year.
The county has struggled to keep up with a surge in beach use, which has climbed 79% since 2005, to 68 million annual visitors. Over the last two summers, extra money was available under the Obama administration's job-stimulus program to add 30 temporary maintenance workers at the beaches — nearly an 80% increase to the county-funded staff. But that funding has dried up.
Kreimann warned that beach restrooms get dirty quickly. But Supervisor Don Knabe, whose district includes many beaches, said that "people are using our beaches more than ever because of the free access.... You just have to fix it."