Calif. Motel to pay $1.6 million penalty over public beach access

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. – One of Northern California’s maximum one-of-a-kind inns, the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, where rooms rent for $1,000 a night time, and Silicon Valley corporations often keep posh retreats, agreed Thursday to pay $1.6 million in penalties to the California Coastal Commission to settle years of violations of nation coastal laws

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The penalties, the second-largest in the commission’s history, were approved at a month-to-month fee meeting in San Diego.

The 261-room luxury oceanfront inn, golf path and spa changed into built-in 2001 after years of battles with environmentalists and residents in San Mateo County who said it’d block public get entry to to 2 sandy beaches.

To cope with those concerns, while the Coastal Commission first issued the undertaking a permit inside the Nineteen Nineties, the organization required the Ritz to build a loose public parking zone with 15 areas overlooking Cañada Verde Beach, a scenic beach just south of the inn. The commission additionally gave the hotel the option of constructing a second public beach automobile parking space a mile north at Redondo Beach or allowing the general public to park free in the hotel’s parking storage. The inn owners chose to set aside 25 public areas in its storage for beachgoers.

But over the years, hotel valets parked the motors of resort guests and golfers in the public spots or told members of the general public they couldn’t park there, despite more than one warnings and fines from the fee. The resort also did not place up signs and symptoms telling the general public the seashores are open and free to all of us, no longer simply resort guests or golfers.

After being hit with a $50,000 penalty by the fee in 2004, the resort promised modifications but did no longer supply. It was issued violations and paid additional penalties again in 2007 and 2011.

On Thursday, commissioners have been surely angry.

“When I see these legacy violations, there may be outrage and exhaustion,” stated Commissioner Donnie Brownsey. “You reflect onconsideration on the families and nearby folks and traffic who’ve not been capable of visiting the one’s seashores for almost a technology.”

Others cited that when families have tried to go to the beaches by way of driving down Miramontes Point Road, they face an intimidating array of hotel team of workers individuals, wealthy golfers, fences, guard stations and gates.

Mandy Sackett, nation coverage director for the Surfrider Foundation, an environmental group, stated it seemed like no coincidence that the motel has for years no longer made it clear to the general public that everybody can use the beaches and park there, despite the fact that the resort owners agreed to the one’s conditions to achieve the allows constructing the inn.

“Perhaps creating the phantasm of a personal seaside enables justify the exorbitant cost of the rooms,” she stated.

Rather than face years in courtroom, the resort owners negotiated a settlement agreement with the Coastal Commission staff in which they agreed to pay $1.6 million, $six hundred,000 of so that it will visit the Peninsula Open Space Trust, a Palo Alto land conservation group, to assist purchase an adjacent 27-acre assets north of the hotel with additional public beach access. The different $1 million will go right into a Coastal Commission fund that provides signs, trails, staircases and other facilities to help the general public use beaches across the state.

The company also agreed to enlarge the beach lot to 22 spaces, positioned up signs and symptoms, in reality, mentioning that the seashores are public, higher train its workforce, conduct media outreach, publish seashore records on its website and conduct a have a look at to lessen plastic pollution at the hotel.

“We need to be an amazing partner in this. We have spent a year or yr-and-a-half of operating through this. We have given pretty lots,” said Dave Hogan, chief operating officer of Strategic Hotels and Resorts, the Chicago-primarily based business enterprise that bought the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay for $124 million in 2004.

The agreement also set the penalty for any future violations at $25,000 in keeping with a violation in keeping with day.

“Past conduct is a predictor of destiny behaviour,” said Commissioner Aaron Peskin. “Not always, however, regularly. I do not want this to be some other Charlie Brown, Lucy and the soccer scenario.”

The agreement is the ultra-modern primary case the commission has pursued to hold public get right of entry to to California’s seashores.

Under a regulation signed with the aid of former Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014, the commission can quality humans or groups who build without allows alongside the coast or who block public get admission to to seashores as much as $eleven,250 per day — or $four.1 million according to year — for up to five years.

Last month, the fee hit a Southern California developer, Sunshine Enterprises, with $15.Five million in fines after it acquired permits to replace of the simplest low-value motels near Santa Monica Pier with a unmarried lower priced inn that could fee $165 a night time for a room, however then constructed a lodge with rooms up to $800 instead, without the allows achieving this.

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