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Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay Fined $1.6 Million for Denying Public Beach Access

HALF MOON BAY (KPIX) -- The California Coastal Commission slapped the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay hotel with a $1.6 million fine Thursday for repeatedly denying the public access to nearby beaches for almost two decades.

"The Ritz Carlon effectively stole from the people of California, because one of the things that makes California so great is that we get to go to the beach and we get to enjoy it," said Surfrider Foundation California policy manager Jennifer Savage.

The national organization is dedicated to protection and enjoyment of the world's ocean and beaches and had been closely monitoring the Coastal Commission's response to the complaints against the Ritz Carlton.

Cathy Mesina said she drove from San Jose to Cañada Verde Beach on Thursday because of the views, and because she knew she'd find parking. The beach can be accessed by using the Ritz Carlton.

"There's no street parking here, you can't walk here," said Mesina. "On the weekdays I know I can find parking, on the weekends there's no parking."

But that may soon change after the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay agreed to pay the Coastal Commission the fine, as well as add more public parking spaces at the Cañada Verde parking lot and add signs that make it clear the hotel's garage also has 25 public parking spots for beachgoers who want to go to nearby Cañada Verde and Redondo Beaches.

The hotel also agreed to add more signage that explains which trails and beaches can be accessed through the property.

According to the Coastal Commission, soon after the Ritz Carlton opened in 2001, the public claimed that hotel workers denied use of the public garage parking spaces. Beachgoers reported the hotel would use the spots for valet cars instead.

They also noted that there was a lack of signs which made it clear there was public parking available.

Mesina said she tried parking at the hotel once and never tried again.

"People are kind of looking at you," she said. "I know that security is around there so you kind of feel like you're not a guest. I usually try to buy coffee or something so I feel like it's OK for me to park there."

But the Ritz Carlton has now agreed to make it clear to the public that they are welcome.

"It seems like it's private and it's not well marked and so a lot of people have stopped using the beaches there," Savage said.

Time will tell if the hotel follows through with the agreement. The Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay has been fined for the very same issue twice before.

"As taxpayers, we pay for these beaches. They belong to us," said Savage.

KPIX reached out to the Ritz Carlton for a comment but is still waiting for a response.

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