Is the County Really Taking Private Property for Trailhead Parking?

Have you heard anything about 61 parking spaces being added along E. Mountain Drive near the Hot Springs trailhead? The county told a new resident that it’s using eminent domain and cutting into people’s properties. —J.

Some background for those of you just joining us: there has been a surge of interest in the springs on the Hot Springs Trail, where limited legal parking leads visitors to park wherever they think they can get away with it—often angering neighboring homeowners in the process, not just with their creative parking but also with boorish behavior. Everyone agrees that something has to change, but how?

“Montecito Fire is conducting a neighborhood-wide fire evacuation study, which will set the tone for discussions regarding the Hot Springs trailhead,” says Montecito Trails Foundation president Ashlee Mayfield, who knows more about the trails than anyone. “If people can’t get out because of trailhead parking, the county is going to have to find alternate solutions for the parking. That said, it’s also important to the county to provide trail access. So the county’s Parks and Public Works divisions, along with Montecito Fire and residents, are working together to try and figure out viable solutions.”

The talk of eminent domain likely relates to the county’s right to do as it pleases with the land directly alongside roads, regardless of whether homeowners have blocked it with plants or rocks. When the county looks at possibilities for official parking, however, I have to imagine it will prioritize land that doesn’t immediately impact homeowners.

In another new development, the county’s Parks Division has added “no overnight parking” signs at the spaces directly adjacent to the trailhead. (The 8 a.m. start is harsh, but that’s the way the countywide parks ordinance is written, for now.) Assuming the rule gets enforced, it’s a step in the right direction—nighttime visitors have been especially disrespectful—but only a small one, because anyone can legally park on the shoulders of Montecito roads for up to 72 hours unless official county signage indicates otherwise. (There’s more on street parking in this helpful Montecito Journal article from 2019.) As a result, I wouldn’t be surprised if we eventually see a ban on overnight parking in a to-be-determined radius around the trailhead.

“What’s needed is a bit of patience to wait till the fire study, which is due next month,” says Mayfield. “Then we’ll all be able to come up with a plan.”

Got a question? Email [email protected] or text 917-209-6473.


Previous Burning Questions:
••• Why does the Coast Village Road median look so bad?
••• Is Santa Barbara going to introduce residential compost bins?
••• When will Santa Barbara Junior High’s flagpole be replaced?
••• What’s the point of this light pole?
••• Why is the Hermosillo exit on the 101 closed?
••• Has Victor the Florist closed for good?
••• Why are the city’s parking lots scanning license plates?
••• What’s inside Paseo Nuevo’s State Street tower?
••• What’s the point of these markings on Laguna Street?
••• Why is there a giant red shoe off Highway 101?
••• Will the Dorinda Triangle ever get beautified?
••• Are we no longer allowed on the SBHS baseball field?
••• What does “SBTP” on this post mean?
••• What’s up with the “no e-bike” signs on local trails?
••• Why is Franceschi House in a holding pattern?
••• Why is there a train station inside this State Street storefront?
••• What’s happening with this derelict house in Summerland?
••• Is there a story behind Lucky Penny’s bell?
••• Why is there wood on some power lines?
••• Can you explain how sundowner winds work?
••• Why is there a pressure cooker attached to this utility pole?
••• What’s this concrete ramp thing on East Beach?
••• Why does “USA” get written on the street?
••• What are those poles in the ocean near the Ritz-Carlton Bacara?
••• Are people really allowed to set fires in the middle of Montecito?
••• What’s the story with the half-finished lot next to the Montecito Country Mart? 


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I was born at Cottage Hospital and have lived (mostly) here in SB my entire life. My father made it a point to introduce me and my brother to many of our beautiful hiking trails, which I’ve continued to explore well into adulthood, including Hot Springs. Riven Rock has always accommodated the parking lot overflow with few, if any issues. Well over 50 years, and there has never, best that I can recall, been an issue with parking, until Haz and Rachel moved into the neighborhood.

Erik Torkells

I don’t think we can pin this one on Harry and Meghan. The hot springs were essentially dead for years, because the water was being taken by nearby residents; when that changed in recent years as a result of legal action, the hot springs were reborn—and then people looking for outdoor activities during the pandemic discovered them in droves. (This is an oversimplification of the history but you get the idea.)


I grew up in Montecito and have lived (mostly) here for 50+ years. Hot Springs trail was never crowded until a few years ago, and it has nothing to do with the Royals.
I agree with Erik, also Instagram (and geo tagging the location of the Hot Spring that make it look like some sort of aqua utopia) has been a major culprit for the overcrowding (especially from people from out of town looking to hike and take selfies in the Hot Spring). Do a search of the location and you will see, its a bummer. Not sure of the solution, but something needs to give.


I agree with everyone. I would like to find some way to encourage people not to post or take pics at the springs. I enjoyed the springs at Ecotopia in Ojai and sigs all around let people know that the space was sacred and not a place where photos or drinking were allowed. We should do the same in SB.