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 [email protected]gov.

Do you have an opinion on something local? Share it with us at [email protected]. The views and opinions expressed in Op-Ed articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of edhat.

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a-1594079106 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----------------

a-1594079106 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-1594079106 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-1594079106 Jul 14, 2019 03:32 PM
Parking Wars at Hotel Californian

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

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-1594079106 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.

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-1594079106 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.

a-1594079106 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.”

a-1594079106 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-1594079106 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-1594079106 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).


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