Billionaire Vinod Khosla Must Let The Public Access His Private Beach, Judge Rules

September 24, 2014

The billionaire who wanted to bar off a strip of California coastline near Half Moon Bay must let the public in, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla must open the gate to the access road to Martins Beach, a cove that runs alongside property Khosla bought in 2008, ruled San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach.

The case painted Khosla as the “billionaire behaving badly” against a coalition of surfers fighting for public access. The beach had been open — and accessible to anyone willing to pay a $5 parking fee — for years, but in 2010, Khosla barred the gate to the road that runs over his property to the beach and set up occasional security guards to block trespassers.

In court in May, Khosla repeatedly said he had no involvement in the decision to shut off beach access, repeating the line “I do not specifically recall” dozens of times during testimony.

Judge Mallach specifically ruled that Khosla’s blocking of the beach was done illegally because he did not obtain a coastal development permit first. Her ruling is not final, but it’s unlikely to change before she issues a final ruling in a month. After that, Khosla will have to seek a permit from the California Coastal Commission before changing access to the beach. The judge did not levy any fines against Khosla.

There’s a chance the Commission could allow restricted access, but attorney Eric Buescher, who represented the plaintiff Surfrider foundation, said it’s unlikely to go Khosla’s way.

“He might have had a chance five years ago, but given that he’s spent the time since then saying he doesn’t care what they think, I doubt it’ll be a warm reception,” Buescher said.

Both parties seem unlikely to greet each other with a smile. Khoslatold the San Francisco Chronicle in July that he’d decided to close off the beach because the commission was demanding unreasonable things from him about the property, which sits between Highway 1 and the coast. He said they suddenly asked him to charge 1973 prices — $2 parking — and have the beach open 24/7, which would have huge insurance costs and liability... (To read the entire article, please click HERE)