Judge orders billionaire to open gate to Martins Beach

December 5, 2014
San Francisco Chronicle

The billionaire owner of a Peninsula beach was ordered Friday by a San Mateo County judge to open the gates to the sandy haven, which he insists is his exclusive property.

Judge Barbara Mallach issued her final order in the contentious case, specifically telling venture capitalist Vinod Khosla that he had to reopen the gate to popular Martins Beach, a crescent-shaped inlet 5 miles south of Half Moon Bay.

Khosla, who closed the gate four years ago, was told by the court in July that his failure to obtain a permit before blocking access to Martins Beach was illegal. Khosla, however, argued in legal briefs after the trial that he did not believe he had to open the gate until after he had made an application to the Coastal Commission and he had been told by commission authorities to do so. The gate has been closed since the trial ended five months ago, but surfers and other beachgoers have been walking around it.

Mallach said in her final judgment Friday that Khosla was wrong and that he had to immediately open the gate, said Joe Cotchett, lead attorney for the Surfrider Foundation, which filed a lawsuit demanding public access.

“It has been a long struggle, but the public access has been preserved thanks to our judicial system,” Cotchett said.

Khosla paid $32.5 million in 2008 for the property, which includes 45 leased cabins along the coastal cliffs. He closed the only public access gate in September 2010, citing the high cost of maintenance and liability insurance. Surfrider sued last year, arguing that the sandy shoreline had been open to all comers since at least 1918 and belonged to the public... (To read the entire article, please click HERE)