Ritz-Carlton
The owners of the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, agreed to a $1.6 million fine for longstanding violations of the coastal access rules. Review file photo

Owners of the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, have agreed to pay a $1.6 million fine and make improvements to public access around the resort as part of a settlement agreement with the California Coastal Commission. The resort also agreed to pay as much as $25,000 a day for any future violations.

The action was approved by the Coastal Commission on Thursday during its three-day meeting in San Diego.

The agreement came in the form of an amended consent order following years of violations of the coastal development permit that allowed construction of the luxury resort two decades ago. The action represents the second cease and desist order over permitting violations on behalf of the Ritz, which is now owned by SHC Half Moon Bay, LLC.

A Coastal Commission staff report called the terms “mutually acceptable.” They require the Ritz-Carlton owners to pay $1.6 million and to make a series of changes designed to make the beach more accessible to all, regardless of whether visitors stay at the luxury resort. According to the terms of the agreement, the money will be split between the Peninsula Open Space Trust, which will use its share to purchase property immediately to the north of the resort and ultimately extend the Coastal Trail, and the Coastal Commission. The state’s portion of the money will go toward other remediation projects, according to the staff report.

In addition, the resort agreed to develop a new management strategy for public parking spaces within the hotel garage, to expand the number of spaces available at the Cañada Verde lot, and to provide public access maps and better signage, among other things.

The Coastal Commission also said it would slap the resort owners with a $25,000-a-day fine should the resort owners continue to violate state law.

The Coastal Commission maintains it began hearing complaints about public access surrounding the resort shortly after its 2001 opening.

Resort owners paid penalties for violating the terms of its permit twice before, in 2007 and 2011, and made assurances through the years that it would ultimately comply, according to Coastal Commission staff.

“Despite those assurances,” the staff report states, “violations continued to occur, with over a hundred documented between 2013 and the present.”

More recently, staff says, the resort has worked “closely and cooperatively” to find a resolution.

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