Judge to Rule Whether Billionaire Had Right to Close Martins Beach

The judge is expected to file a ruling in 30 to 60 days.

By Bay City News Service: 

The question of whether it was legal for a Silicon Valley venture capitalist to close public access to Martins Beach near Half Moon Bay is now in the hands of a Redwood City judge.

Judge Barbara Mallach took the issue under consideration Wednesday after hearing closing arguments by the non-profit Surfrider Foundation and companies representing property owner Vinod Khosla.

Surfrider Foundation argues that Khosla violated the California Coastal Act of 1976 by erecting a gate and restrictive signs on the popular surfing spot without a permit after he bought the property for $37.5 million in 2008.

Khosla's attorneys argue that the move to close the beach was within his rights as the property owner. Khosla, a cofounder of Sun Microsystems, testified during the trial that he never directly made any decisions on whether to close the beach.

Surfers and other public access proponents have protested the closure by going around the gate to access the beach, including a group of five surfers arrested for trespassing in 2012. Their charges were later dropped.

 Khosla already prevailed in a ruling on a previous lawsuit filed by the group "Friends of Martins Beach" that went to trial last October, successfully arguing that he has no obligation to open a private road to allow beachgoers access to portions of the beach he does not own.

According to the plaintiffs, before the sale, access to the beach was allowed for decades and visitors paid a small access fee to maintain the beach.

Attorney Joe Cotchett argued that Khosla needed a permit in order to build the gate as any beachfront development requires a permit under the California Coastal Act.

Khosla's attorneys argued in response that the Surfrider Foundation's application of the Coastal Act is unconstitutional and that Khosla has no obligation to make the beach open for public access nor to obtain a permit to restrict access.

If the judge rules in favor of the plaintiffs, Khosla will have to go to the California Coastal Commission to obtain a permit for the gate. She is expected to file a ruling in 30 to 60 days. 
TM July 17, 2014 at 12:33 PM
I like going to the beach as much as the next person. But from my history of understanding as a resident of the area since the 50s, the previous owner charged for using HIS driveway and for parking in HIS front yard. I'm sure anyone in Woodside with a large property could do that if they wanted? It was never the property owner's beach that he was charging to use or access. If the property owner happened to feel a kindness to clean up the beach from these users, then three cheers for the volunteers of the world. Anyway, if the court rules against this property owner, will the public then have the "right" to cross ALL the agricultural lands and properties of private homes and businesses that lie between Hwy1 and the coastal shoreline? If it was your farm, side yard, hotel, or restaurant how would you feel about these trespassers crossing your property to go play? I use to be able to go to all these beaches for no charge. Sometime back when the State started charging for parking and maintenance of facilities at many of their beaches. Where's the uproar now for that?
Richard Aldridge July 17, 2014 at 12:50 PM
Hawaii allows public access to all their beaches and it works very well. Kosla should have bought a different property as he knew closing the road to the beach would cause this problem. I hope he loses.
A Delargo July 21, 2014 at 10:54 AM
In case you're not aware, the land parcel carries rights as it has been kept intact since the original land grants long ago, legally that predates any Coastal commission edicts. The Coastal Commission rules do not apply, and that has been upheld in court.
A Delargo July 21, 2014 at 10:58 AM
I have the solution !! open a Pit Bull defense training facility on the property. With posted warning signs the owner would not be liable when the dogs chew up the trespassers. Win - Win for everyone. Maybe a wounded rattle snake hospital, hopefully none would escape, but warning signs would limit liability here too. Ha !
A Delargo July 21, 2014 at 11:04 AM
As far as Hawaii is concerned, there are many property parcels that have unique land rights that prevent trespass to the beach or some adjoining property. In this case the beach is not in question, only access through this person's private property.


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