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Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay: Public Exclusivity, California-Style

a lawn with chairs and a gazebo

Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, California
Available as a Marriott Rewards Partner Award
1 night = 70,000 points; 3-nights = 150,000 points;
5 nights = 200,000; 7-nights = 250,000 points
Paradise with an Ocean View
Some people have an image in their heads of California Pacific Ocean views. The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay has commanding views of the coastline and ocean. This resort, nestled between golf links, on the cliffs south of the small coastal town of Half Moon Bay, is about 45 minutes drive south from San Francisco.
Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay is oceanfront resort hotel living. Golf, martinis, and Pacific Ocean cliff top weddings. And with a Safeway just a mile down the road, you can even cut some expenses, if you are so inclined.

The half-mile road from Pacific Coast Highway 1 to the coastal resort had a sign that caught my attention. Past the long-settled mobile home park on the left and the newly built gated community luxury homes on the right, the road sign pointed one direction for coastal access parking, but it also stated 25 public Coastal Access parking spaces available at Ritz-Carlton resort. I drove to the hotel gate and inquired. The young guy took my license plate number and gave me an access code to the Ritz-Carlton parking garage gate. I drove in to the open-air, multi-level garage and parked in a space labeled “Coastal Accessâ€. Hotel guests pay $45 + 10% tax per day to park here in the same garage.

What’s up with that?

This is California, baby. Land of the voter initiative whereby the public is supposed to have a voice in the rules we live by. Back in 1972, the voters passed Prop 20, the Coastal Access initiative.

California had a population of about 16 million people when I was born in 1960. The population was over 20 million by 1972 when California voters passed Prop 20, a voter initiative to maintain public access to the coast.
It is said that Governor Jerry Brown in 1976, stayed in a hotel in Monterey built directly on the beach (I assume the hotel being referenced is now the Best Western Beach Resort Monterey). He commented, “That’s why we need a Coastal Act: so we can have more places like this.†“No,†said Bill Press, Brown’s director of planning and research. “We need a Coastal Act so we won’t have more places like this.†

There seemed to me to be very little development along the Central Coast of California in the 1980s. Back in 1991, I traveled along the California coast for about 1,000 miles from San Diego to Eureka. California’s population had topped 30 million by 1991 and had doubled in the 31 years since I was born.

In the past month, I have driven the coast roads from Orange County to San Francisco.
There has been a noticeably sizable coastal housing boom in the past 17 years. California’s population is estimated to be somewhere around 36 to 37 million in 2008. What would our coastline look like if the people had not initiated legislation for public access in the early 1970s?
The basic provision of coastal access, according to the California Coastal Commission fact sheet, that applies to the slew of hotel resorts popping up on the California coast in the past decade is:

“On sites with coastal development permit proposals, where investigation shows that public use is substantial enough to create potential prescriptive rights, the Coastal Commission is required to protect those areas of use prior to approving a development project that would interfere with those rights.

The California Coastal Act, Public Resources Code Section 30211, states:

Development shall not interfere with the public’s right of access to the sea where acquired through use, or legislative authorization, including, but not limited to, the use of dry sand and rocky coastal beaches to the first line of terrestrial vegetation.”

A feature of several California resorts built directly on the coast in the past 15 years is an improvement of access to the coast for people who want to look at the beach and sea, but not necessarily be on it. Public access visitors can share the grounds of the hotel with the guests.

The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay is a beautiful property with incredible views of the California coastline (if you are lucky enough to be visiting on a day without fog or clouds.)
This is hotel coastal resort living California-style where tourist visitors can mingle with local Californians exercising the right to coastal access.