Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay Public Access Violation


June 1, 2019

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Half Moon Bay opened in 2001 in a location that was historically used for public access to the coast. As a condition of the coastal development permit, the hotel was required to maintain public use and coastal access. Unfortunately, that condition was never met and public access was not provided for nearly two decades. As part of an enforcement settlement, the hotel operator agreed to consent cease and desist orders including a new management strategy for public coastal access parking spaces, improved coastal access signage and to pay increased stipulated penalties for any future noncompliance with this Consent Order. In addition, the hotel operators agreed to an administrative fine of $1.6 million, a portion of which will help develop a segment of the California Coastal Trail via the Peninsula Open Space Trust. The hotel was also directed to create a plastic waste reduction plan and a media campaign to advertise the access opportunity. Commissioners unanimously approved the consent orders.

Why You Should Care

In the past six years alone, the Ritz Carlton engaged in more than 100 violations related to public access. The Ritz-Carlton’s tactic of blocking the public from historical access trails – including a segment of the California Coastal Trail – and Cañada Verde beach is an affront to all residents of and visitors to our state. This action will improve public coastal access, including California Coastal trail expansion. Restoration is long overdue and the people of San Mateo County and visitors to that part of the coast deserve to regain what has belonged to them all this time.


Pro-Coast Vote

Anti-Coast Vote

Commissioner Aaron Peskin successfully championed for an increase in stipulated penalties, from $5,000 to $25,000 per day per violation. This is meant to strongly incentivize the hotel operators to comply with the settlement agreement, especially given their history of ignoring prior enforcement action. Commissioners Peskin, Linda Escalante and others also supported concerns raised that a plastic waste reduction plan was needed at this hotel, as evidenced by the plastic pollution originated from the hotel on the adjacent beach - disturbing water quality and creating an experiential access issue. Commissioners Belinda Faustinos and Effie Turnbull-Sanders also ensured that the Ritz-Carlton would engage in a media campaign to advertise the public access and include ethnic publications that will reach communities of color and non-english speakers. With these measures incorporated into the consent orders from the diocese, Commissioners unanimously voted for approval.

Organizations Opposed

Decision Type

Cease and desist and Administrative Fine

Staff Recommendation


Coastal Act Policy