West Coast
exterior of the Shore Hotel in Santa Monica, Calif. / Officials say Sunshine Enterprises perpetrated a “bait and switch” while violating the state’s landmark Coastal Act, which enshrines public access to beach areas. (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

California to fine developer for building pricey beach hotel

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LOS ANGELES — A developer could be hit Wednesday with a record $25 million in fines and fees for constructing a high-priced hotel on the Southern California coast after initially obtaining a permit for a property with moderately priced rooms, in what state officials called a “bait-and-switch” building scheme.

Sunshine Enterprises violated a state law that enshrines public access to beach areas, according to the California Coastal Commission. The agency staff is recommending approval of a $15.5 million penalty — the largest in its 40-year history, said commission supervisor Andrew Willis. Commissioners could recommend an additional $9.5 million in mitigation fees to make up the loss in low-cost lodging, he said.

“We hope this is a painful price to pay. We want this to be a deterrent,” Willis said Tuesday.

Sunshine Enterprises was permitted to rebuild and expand two motels — the Pacific Sands and a Travelodge — that were among a dwindling number of affordable accommodations along a tourist-heavy strip of pricey hotels near the Santa Monica Pier. The new hotel would not offer a bar, restaurant, spa or other “luxury” amenities and rooms would cost about $165 a night, according to the permit application.

But the company let that permit expire and instead built the boutique Shore Hotel, where rooms with a “bed and breakfast package” start at around $300 and ones featuring Pacific Ocean views can run up to $800, documents show.

Under the landmark Coastal Act, the commission protects resources including marine habitat, fisheries, shoreline public access and less-expensive visitor accommodations.

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