Wealthy California homeowners using boulders to restrict public access to hot springs: report

Some wealthy homeowners in a ritzy part of Santa Barbara County are under scrutiny after apparently taking matters into their own hands concerning public access to a popular hot springs. 

The millionaire residents of Montecito - home to famous celebrities like Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle - have reportedly been ordered to remove boulders they placed along the road to prevent hikers from parking there to visit the Montecito Hot Springs. 

SF Gate reports at least six different homeowners got letters from Santa Barbara County's Public Works Office back in March demanding they remove the boulders and other barriers near the trail by March 28 or face fines up to $850 a day, and even possible prosecution.

It's unclear if the obstructions were removed. 

The median price for a home in the wealthy enclave costs around $5 million, according to Zillow. That's up 5% from the previous year.

The trailhead has only a handful of parking spots for vehicles, and once those are gone, hikers are known to park along the road by the mansions.

According to the publication, barriers have been spotted in the area since 2022, as residents aim to make their homes less visible from the street. Similar letters were sent to residents at that time, too.

Parking is a known issue among hikers and visitors to the trailhead. 

"Parking: Horrible if you do not get there early enough to get the parking located in the front of the entrance! There had to be around 9-10 parking spots. You can park a few miles down in the neighborhood but be careful because there was a sign on the trail saying that parking tickets were being given out," one Yelper wrote.

"PARKING! There is almost NO PARKING HERE! Either you have to come really early in the morning (5-6am) to snag one of the 6 parking spots or you have to Uber/Lyft. Please don't rush your car being towed," another person reviewed.