Bacara stopped putting this notice on cars after the City of Goleta said closing beach access this way would require a Coastal Commission permit.

Haskell’s Beach next-door to the Bacara Resort will close for the Labor Day weekend along with Santa Barbara County’s other beaches, but the resort, now run by the Ritz-Carlton, might have jumped the gun. On Tuesday evening, Mary Johnson found a note on her car that said she was illegally parked, her license plate was being recorded, and her car would be towed and impounded if she didn’t move it immediately. “All the cars in the parking lot got notices,” she said, including her friend Paula Bagalio’s.

Neither of them were going to accept the warning. Longtime residents of the area, they knew of the battle to keep public access to Haskell’s Beach when the resort was being developed and that the public parking lot was a concession Bacara had agreed to. “Surfrider worked long and hard to keep that beach open,” Bagalio remembered, which she believed was 24/7 access. They contacted Supervisor Gregg Hart, the Goleta mayor and city council, and the Coastal Commission.

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“They can’t restrict parking,” Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte agreed of Bacara’s limitations. “They have to go through the Coastal Commission and get permission,” she said, a fact Perotte knew because the city had to do the same thing to close the parking lot at the Ellwood butterfly preserve, which will also be shut until the Labor Day weekend is over. A member of Hart’s staff confirmed to Johnson that Bacara must stop its warning notices because its coastal permit did not contain parking restriction provisions.

Bacara, however, is still planning to close the gate at night. “The parking lot will be closed as of this evening for Labor Day weekend,” said Marcel Marta, who is a member of the Ritz-Carlton security staff. “And in the future, it will be closed at dusk like other beaches around California.” The reason wasn’t just COVID, he said, but incidents of drinking, garbage dumping, and overnighting in the lot. They did stop handing out the flyers, he said, because of the unrest it was causing. The hotel’s management did not immediately return calls for comment.

According to the mayor, city staff will hold a summit with Bacara’s general manager sometime next week. And up at the Coastal Commission, a staffer replied to inquiries, saying they were still looking into the original agreement with Bacara to determine the exact terms of the parking lot hours.

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