The developer of a Santa Monica beach hotel has been hit with a record $15.58-million fine for constructing an upscale hotel on the Southern California coast after initially getting a permit for a property with moderately priced rooms. According to news reports, the California Coastal Commission, the state agency that regulates development and activities along the coast, imposed the fine on Sunshine Enterprises because it violated a state law that enshrines public access to beach areas. Commissioners unanimously approved the fine, which is the largest imposed by the agency in its 40-year history.
Commissioners have told the hotel developer they wanted to see dozens of replacement rooms at an affordable price created either at the current hotel or nearby. They did not, however, give a deadline. Sunshine was permitted to rebuild and expand two motels (Pacific Sands and Travelodge), which were among a small number of affordable locations along a tourist-heavy strip of expensive hotels near the Santa Monica Pier. When commissioners issued the permit, they understood that the new Shore Hotel would cost about $165 a night, per the permit application.
However, the company let that permit expire and built a boutique hotel where rooms with a bed and breakfast package start at around $300. Rooms offering ocean views can run up to $800. The Coastal Act allows the commission to protect public resources including shoreline public access and affordable accommodations. Commissioners said they do not want beaches to become a place only for the wealthy and would like to see those who live near the coast to have access to public beaches.
Sunshine Enterprises has said that it will pay all the penalties and work with the commission to resolve this matter fully. Company officials acknowledged that the hotel was opened without a proper permit from the Coastal Commission. Sunshine lost the matter in court after commissioners declined an after-the-fact permit for the new Shore Hotel. An appellate court upheld the commission’s denial. The courts essentially agreed that the developer essentially made a bait-and-switch move, proposing an affordably-priced hotel and instead, building a boutique hotel with pricey rooms.
Potential Class Action for Pricey Santa Monica Beach Hotel
Anyone who may have stayed at the Shore Hotel paying exorbitant prices for the hotel rooms may have class-action lawsuit against the developer, the city of Santa Monica, which allowed the development to proceed without a proper permit, and other potential parties. Several state laws may have been violated here including the California Coastal Act, which requires affordable access to public beaches. There may also be a violation here of the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA), which deems unlawful any “method of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices undertaken by any person in a transaction intended to result or which results in the sale or lease of goods or services to any consumer.”
If you have paid high prices for rooms at the Shore Hotel in Santa Monica, please contact our law offices to find out if you can be part of a class action not only to receive fair compensation for your losses, but also to hold the parties involved accountable for the violation of these state laws. Call our California class action attorneys at toll-free at (877) 514-6933 for a free consultation.