Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

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By Anna Marie Gott

An open letter to the City Council of Santa Barbara:


The Hotel Californian would not have been approved if it had not agreed to build the public parking structure at E Mason and Helena and then permit the general public to park in it under the same terms as the City's own public parking lots. Unfortunately, despite a legal requirement to do so and a year of reports, the Hotel Californian is still blocking the general public from parking in the parking structure to ensure its guests and visitors have preferential access to parking. 

My question for the Council:

When will the Council say enough is enough and direct the City Attorney to take meaningful action that would ensure the Hotel Californian is prevented from excluding the general public from the public parking structure in favor of their guests and visitors to their hotel?

I first reported problems with the parking structure last summer and numerous times since. Nothing has changed. 

How do I know? July 6th I watched drivers being flagged down by two valets. Drivers were told there was no available parking in the parking structure but they could "wait." 

The effect of making drivers “wait” ensured that some drivers would leave immediately which other others “waited” or left after “waiting” and being denied access. All while there were EMPTY parking spaces in the parking structure.

Interestingly the sign read: OPEN.

I walked over to the entrance of the parking structure to see if it was full or if there were empty spaces.  Besides the empty handicaps spaces there were parking spaces available. (I took photos of the empty spaces.)

As I exited the parking structure a vehicle was "waiting" at the gate. The driver said the valet told him the parking lot was “full.” I told the couple about the free spaces I saw and what the hotel had done in the past. I asked the driver to call the attendant and told him what to say to get in.

The driver never got the chance to call the attendant at the Hotel Californian. One of the two valets "manning" the entrance of the parking structure to tell drivers to "wait" walked over.

The valet explained that the Hotel Californian's parking structure was installed with an electric gate system that could NOT determine when the parking lot is full, or not, based on the number of vehicles that entered or exited. This left it necessary for the valets to stand at the entrance and tell drivers the lot was “full” and they "wait" in line to get in.

When I said there were open spaces the valet said they must have lost count because they were “busy.”

The driver permitted entrance.

The excuse given was certainly inventive, but it was simply a new excuse to go with the others the Hotel Californian valets and management have used when they’ve gotten caught "red handed" preventing the general public from parking in the parking structure.

The Hotel Californian has a long list of things it does to prevent the general public from accessing the public parking structure. They include:

  • Rigging the touch screens to say the parking structure was for guests of Hotel Californian only,

  • The touch screen fails to work until a valet comes to help and taps the same button you just tapped to get a ticket,

  • The credit card machine won’t accept your credit card,

    • Why is a credit card required to enter the parking structure?

  • Call attendants tell drivers the parking structure is only for guests and visitors of the Hotel Californian,

  • Valets standing at the entrance saying the "Open" sign was broken and the lot was “Full,”

  • Valets and management saying the equipment was malfunctioning,

  • “Lot Full” signs placed at the entrance to the parking structure,

  • Cones placed at the entrance to block drivers from waiting to get into the parking structure.


Is the City Council done letting the Hotel Californian play its “parking games?” If the answer is "yes" please direct the City Attorney to take any legal action necessary to stop the Hotel Californian from preventing the general public from parking in the public parking structure when there are empty parking spaces inside.

If you want to weigh in on this issue email the City Council at

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a-1563134219 Jul 14, 2019 12:56 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

This is an ongoing problem and I agree completely that something must be done. This was not a gift from City Council, there are stipulations that are being completely ignored. Get rid of the software that allows the gate to deny entry, regardless of "open" status. Let people go in and check for themselves if there is parking, with a 10min grace period without a fee (can't remember if this lot has an initial free period or not).

a-1563134365 Jul 14, 2019 12:59 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

Perhaps people should start calling the non-emergency police line when this PRIVATE company blocks PUBLIC access. If that sign says open, they must let the public in - period, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

a-1563201336 Jul 15, 2019 07:35 AM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

Poor public relations from Californian Hotel - tell others and recommend spend money elsewhere. Loss of money might help them change their methods of operation.

a-1563136921 Jul 14, 2019 01:42 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

City IS POORLY Managed. The reasons we have: parking issues, trash on sidewalks, vacation rentals in neighborhoods, homeless downtown, massive pension liabilities, over-evelopment or vacant stores, outrageous AUD rental housing costs with 0% available to those earning more than decent incomes and loopholes galore that let commercial development open with little to no parking is the City Administration and no-nothing Councilmemer's. I can't decide which is worse most days. The ones that try to get anything developed just to develop to get a feather in their cap or the Dummies elected or appointed who have no idea that what they are told at City Council meetings don't reflect reality. We need full time Council Members with real experience and guts to say NO to out of town developers and who will overhaul the city. We need NEW management!

Always_Running Jul 14, 2019 02:17 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

This is a voting year. As the high-schoolers call it “Senioritis;” decline in performance or motivation. On the November ballot will be District 1 (Eastside), District 2 (Mesa), District 3 (Westside), and District 6 (downtown). Deadline to file is not until August. I’d vote for anyone who has a platform to “hire a parking attendant for the Hotel Californian.”

VinSB Jul 14, 2019 01:42 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

I have run into this problem and encountered these excuses. This is ridiculous. They need to remove the crossing gates not only here, but in all city lots. Why do we need assistance to see whether a parking lot is full only to back up into the roadway. Allow motorists to enter and see for themselves!

a-1563201206 Jul 15, 2019 07:33 AM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

How many businesses, including governments, do you know are well run. Usually money overpowers justice.

calmich Jul 14, 2019 01:53 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

Are these 'valets' city employees? If not, why do they have access to the gate codes? Why is the city parking enforcement not following up on this? Has this city become only for the tourists and the vagrants?

a-1563141338 Jul 14, 2019 02:55 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

Valets work for Hotel California. Just doing their jobs. They really can't help it if their employer scammed the City and did what big developers do which is to make big promises with plans to deliver nothing. The City gets taken to the cleaners every day. No one is dotting "i's" or crossing "t's." Making people accountable makes enemies. Just look at the downtown. City is getting negative PR for a lot of issues. What is their solution? Give away the sidewalks. Eliminate rents. They give away parking and make it worse for residents. Just wait. Developers are going to make out like bandits with putting massive housing developments downtown and our residents won't be living their. The retired and wealthy will move in.

a-1563137718 Jul 14, 2019 01:55 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

OP. Thank you for all of your research into this and your very well-written article. The public, locals or otherwise, should not be denied utilization of a public parking structure. Thank you for adding the link to Santa Barbara City Council. I shall send off a short email now, weighing in and demanding, nicely, that The Council rectify this problem with The Californian.

a-1563143573 Jul 14, 2019 03:32 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

The OP's link does not work. Copy and paste this instead: >>>>

a-1563138739 Jul 14, 2019 02:12 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

The above is a viable link to remit an email to our Mayor and City Council.--------------------When I used the link provided by the OP, my email was rejected as "Delivery Status Failure."

a-1563138897 Jul 14, 2019 02:14 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

To make it more clear-------------HERE is a viable link to remit an email to our Mayor and City Council.--------------------When I used the link provided by the OP, my email was rejected as "Delivery Status Failure"----------Use this link instead----------------

flusher Jul 14, 2019 03:28 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

Perhaps an additional 15-20 “legal” parking spaces can instantly be made available if a majority of business owners would remove obstructions/barricades/no Parking signs from the public right of way on Helena Street (between Cabrillo and East Mason) adjacent to the parking structure in question.
One business uses (blocks) the sidewalk and ADA compliant ramp to store trolly bikes.
Think about it;
15-20 parking spots could be reclaimed overnight!

The City right of way is right up to the existing buildings, meaning that “NO” private parking is possible.

a-1563144991 Jul 14, 2019 03:56 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

Businesses replace parking with patio dining (check out 220 Gray), things for sale, sheds, equipment, company trailers, vans and trucks. It's supposed to be customer parking! And they don't provide parking for employees. Employees need to parachute in. City is permitting all the parking problems. They waive parking for BIG RIGS and everything in between.

aragorn Jul 14, 2019 03:37 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

Anna Marie Gott should represent District 6 as SB City Council Member. All those who reside in District 6 please write in Anna Marie Gott's name on your ballots this coming November, 2019. I am. "VOTE FOR ANNA MARIE GOTT FOR SANTA BARBARA CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 6!"

420722 Jul 14, 2019 04:00 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

I would love to see Anne Marie run for mayor of SB. She cares about issues big and small for RESIDENTS! Something I don’t think our current mayor really gives a crap about but that’s my own personal opinion.

Red Creek Jul 14, 2019 09:12 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

It would be refreshing for a SB mayor or councilperson to stand up to vested interests in tourism and business and work for the people of the City who live here.

a-1563200964 Jul 15, 2019 07:29 AM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

Does the mayor whoever it is have that much more power than other council members? Seems like a lot of mayors are scapegoated for the decisions of the entire staff.

a-1563159557 Jul 14, 2019 07:59 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

SB Voters choose to subsidize corporate business with give aways including State St multi-million parking garages. WHY do locals pay to build and staff fgarages? The voting sheep majority love Gail Landis, DNC Chief and they do as ordered.. DNC Party Boss Gail Landis controls all but 2 on SB Council. Only Dominquez and Rowse can think and vote independently. Gail Landis has repeatedly published her orders for: housing, more tenant subsidized housing to their lesser neighbor,, free overnight parking for vehicle Dwellers, less public lot parking except for tourists, more free street parking, and fee increases passed by 51% versus 2/3 majority or 67%. Public defication, urnation, drug injecting, and formication are OK. Watch who you voters select this November! The DNC Slate.!! There will be 7 DNC puppets versus only 5 now. Council puts last SB local citizens , our vets, mentally ill, and elder homeless . Tourists and illegal migrants are Council priorities. SB will do everything possible for their favored identity groups. Fund & VOTE Gott and find us 5 more candidate who are not DNC. No More Controlled Desperados. Otherwise, give it up: move! Thanks Gott! 700 houses dropping in price.

a-1563163161 Jul 14, 2019 08:59 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

It's not a terrible deal, should the rules be followed and the public not denied access to public property. TOT brings in a lot of money to the City, I can see why this deal was made in the first place. BUT, Hotel Californian has soured the deal. They have some explaining to do, that needs to include an actionable plan to NEVER let this happen again.

shorebird Jul 14, 2019 09:04 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

Did you mean fornication instead of formication. Fornication can be public problem. Formication is a personal problem.

a-1563165975 Jul 14, 2019 09:46 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

Loopholes & NO Enforcement. City won't keep or fund a functioning enforcement department. Documentation is lax. Work or business operations contine. Fines go unpaid. Little is fixed. It's forgotten or "abated" and repeated. The result? More of the same. Businesses encroaching into neighborhoods. Noise. Lack of parking. Illegal construction. Tax evasion. Health and Safety issues... The city is messed up. Needs a total overhaul. Those DCC Dems (Murillo, Friedman, Harmon, Gutierrez and Jordan) won't do a damn thing for residents. It will all be about pushing one bad decision after another for the rich, powerful and politically connected who fund their campaigns while they told crumbs to residents. Santa Barbara is in the grip of those who only care to strip Santa Barbara of it's beauty and charm in order to enrich themselves. People need to get organized and revolt or all we love is lost.

Luvaduck Jul 15, 2019 08:33 AM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

Made me giggle. You're right. While public fornication might entertain some, hardly anyone is amused by stinkos. <G>

Luvaduck Jul 15, 2019 08:34 AM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

Made me giggle. You're right. While public fornication might entertain some, hardly anyone is amused by stinkos, not even other stinkos. <G>

a-1563307664 Jul 16, 2019 01:07 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

Simple: Assign a staff member from city planning department to man the kiosk, rotating four hour shifts, every staff member gets a turn.
The best teacher is to personally experience the results of their failed planning.

andrewbaker77 Jul 14, 2019 09:02 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

Congrats SB. You banned AirBnB - locals who rent out their own rooms/houses, so you could get this - corporations who take over your rights.

PitMix Jul 15, 2019 09:08 AM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

Fail to see how short term rentals doesn't cause more parking problems on our local streets in addition to corporations taking over the parking garages. None of those short term rental people coming to party in SB drive cars?

letmego Jul 15, 2019 09:44 AM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

Um, whenever I travel and rent an AirBNB, I drive a car. But...only one car, and we rent SFH or apartments/ condos. Now, of course I'm sure that it's not always the case (some houses prob get multiple cars). My SFH has two off street spaces though...

biguglystick Jul 16, 2019 08:24 AM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

Andrew, if your'e complaining about the city clamping down on STRs that means you are a homeowner who wants to ca$h in on the STR boom and you are already wealthy if you own a home in SB and you've got the means to build it out into a short term rental. Short term rentals have further driven the crippling housing crisis for locals who do not own. This is GREED, pure and simple. You want more than you could get for a long term rental. Shame.

a-1563167487 Jul 14, 2019 10:11 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

That video, wow. "The system does not actually count spots"... Lol, uh, yeah bud, it does. Cars aren't magically entering and leaving the structure without going through the gate. You know, the gate that counts the cars entering and leaving, and changes the light from "open" to "lot full" when it exceeds 123 (total number of spots). The deal made with the City is that all the parking is first come first served, regardless of public or valet/hotel guest status. What a scam. Folks, if that light says "open", stand up for yourselves - we paid for this lot!

a-1563169368 Jul 14, 2019 10:42 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

False promises. Rigged system. Government giveaways. Santa Barbara is just as bad as Washington DC. Vote them all out. Recall the Mayor, Cathy Murillo!

Ehdat Jul 15, 2019 07:33 AM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

Locals all know there is easy available parking just one block away for just a cheap 10 bux a month pass. This war on private property is a waste of time, but thanks for sticking up for the lost tourist.

a-1563216386 Jul 15, 2019 11:46 AM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

It's not private property, it is a 100% public parking garage that the City has allowed the hotel to use on a first come first served basis.

Ehdat Jul 15, 2019 01:11 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

Wrong. Private parking lot. Conditioned to allow for public parking. Also the City did not drop lanes for their set backs. There was no parking before on State. It was to improve and widen the public sidewalks. State Street is 2 lanes for a couple miles, north of Gutierrez, there is no need for 4 lanes. Those City people just did a huge study of the funk zone, and found as a result that there was plenty of parking if you know where to go. Gott lady is right about the problems with the lot, but she also loves fighting the City, and has way to much time on her hands. I wish she would spend more time on getting the price of craft beer cheaper for us locals!

REX OF SB Jul 15, 2019 07:52 AM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

I've never used that parking structure, but it would seem the problem could be easily solved by having a full-time City parking attendant on duty at all times, which would assure there would be no further shenanigans from the hotel. There are attendants at all the other City lots, so why not this one?

a-1563221485 Jul 15, 2019 01:11 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

The "people" who cared to "correct the injustices" got old and worn out. Or have already passed on. If I never attend another City Council/Planning Commission/City or County Parks Dept/County Supervisors/Architectural Board of Review meeting ever again in my life-----I will die happy. It is time-sucking, generally unrewarding, frustrating, anxiety-causing and downright depressing to take time out of one's life to fight the good fight. Mostly, it is a lost cause unless you can rally the masses. The masses now are from elsewhere and have no personal investment in keeping things nice. They all came from places where things are worse than here, so they say, "Well, it's still better than . . ." Yes, I sound like Debbie Downer, I know. Just sharing my disenchantment with trying to protect Santa Barbara.

a-1563306983 Jul 16, 2019 12:56 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

It's the water, made everyone's spine weak. ref. response to recent comments by the current president of the White House

PitMix Jul 15, 2019 09:11 AM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

In the old days this kind of reporting would have been done by the News Press. Unfortunately that business model is no longer valid, and we have to rely on concerned citizens with the time and resources to follow up on these issues and publicize them. If sunshine is the best disinfectant, where will our free press sunshine come from in the future?


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