Getty museums raise parking fees: Still the best bargain in L.A.

The magnificent museums glittering atop the Santa Monica Mountains and alongside Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu just got a little harder to access. The crown jewels of the J. Paul Getty Trust, the Getty Museum and the Getty Villa, have been open to the public for free, less a $10 parking fee.

But with the Trust's $4.2 billion endowment badly dented by the financial crisis -- it lost 27% in the last fiscal year -- cost-cutting measures have had to take place even in these rarified halls. The museums are still free and open to the public, but parking will now set you back $15. The increase will go into effect July 1.

Critics say this is tantamount to an admission fee, and will prevent lower-income families from visiting the sites, which highlight treasures from the Getty's vast art collection. With virtually no public transportation available to either of these sites, visitors have to drive. Space is so tight at the Getty Villa, reservations are required.