West Coast
The Rosewood Miramar Beach Resort has replaced the heavy ropes and stanchions that ringed its guest area with less obtrusive ropes to outline its alcohol service area. An incident involving hotel security and a group of Montecito residents is under scrutiny by the California Coastal Commission. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

Rosewood Miramar Resort Ordered to Open Beach Access to Public

Coastal Commission weighs in on recent dust-up on sand with directive to remove obstructions or face fines of up to $30,000 a day

The California Coastal Commission has ordered the Rosewood Miramar Beach Resort to remove all stanchions, ropes and other beach access obstructions, or face a formal cease-and-desist order and hefty fines.

The agency sent a 10-page letter to the hotel on June 14 that reprimanded the resort for blocking public beach access.

“It has come to the attention of the California Coastal Commission staff that the Rosewood Miramar Hotel has discouraged and prevented public access to public portions of Miramar Beach through the use of private security guards and the placement of a rope fence, consisting of ropes and stanchions, on the beach,” said the letter to Seán Carney, the hotel’s managing director.

"The use of security guards on the beach effectively privatizes beach areas where the public has a right to be ...”

The letter, written by Tina Segura, the commission’s enforcement officer, notes that “ropes and posts have been placed on the beach and have remained on the beach on a consistent basis, which give the appearance that the entire beach is private, and discourage or prevent public access.”

The California Coastal Act states that beaches and the sand below the mean high tide line are open to the public, even if people own private property along the beach. Not everyone knows that — or is willing to abide by the law. The hotel would need a coastal development permit even to change access to the beach temporarily.

The Coastal Commission stated that it hopes to resolve the situation amicably, but made clear that if the hotel doesn’t remove its obstacles from the beach, it will seek a cease-and-desist order and the resort would face a fine of up to $30,000 per day.

The reprimand comes after a group of Montecito Union School families was asked to leave the beach area near the hotel because they were not guests. As Noozhawk reported previously, the families had gone to the beach to celebrate after the school’s June 6 sixth-grade promotion ceremony and planned to order food from the resort’s snack bar.

Instead, they were greeted by men in suits and sunglasses — private security guards, according to the hotel — and asked to leave the beach area. Some of the interaction was captured on video and posted on Facebook.

On June 15, Carney sent a letter to Segura stating that “we do have a number of questions about some of the issues raised in your letter and look forward to discussing them with you. We hope to meet with you as soon as possible with the goal of reaching a positive resolution.”

In the letter, which was shared with Noozhawk, he also acknowledged the goal of working together to resolve the issue.

The hotel has since removed the stanchions and replaced them with more subtle, light-colored rope hung between the resort’s beach umbrellas, to clearly outline the alcohol service area, which is required by its liquor license permit. “Public Welcomed” signs also have been added around the area.

“We share commission staff’s view as to the vital importance of maintaining the public’s rights of access to and use of public portions of Miramar Beach,” Carney said. “Not only do we welcome the public onto the hotel property, but hotel was specifically designed to encourage and enhance the public’s use of the Miramar property and to improve both vertical and lateral public beach access.

“From Day One, our goal has been to enhance public access to the beach and our hotel. If anything we have done was inconsistent with that goal, we apologize.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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