Victory for California beach-goers as billionaire tech mogul told to make coast public

Judge rules Silicon Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla must allow public access to the ocean in a decision which could have consqeunces for wealthy beachfront landowners all along California's coast

September 25, 2014
The Telegraph

In a major victory for California beach-goers, a billionaire tech capitalist has lost his bid to block the public access to the coast outside his property.

Vinod Khosla, founder of venture capital firm Khosla Ventures, gated off the land surrounding his $38 million (£23 million) home on Martins Beach, south of San Francisco.

Mr Khosla, who made much of his money investing in environmentally friendly startups, closed off the coastal road - which had been open to the public for 100 years - shortly after he bought the property in 2008, and hired guards to ward off trespassers.

For decades locals had picnicked, surfed and fished on the stretch of the beach, but Mr Khosla, 59, argued he had a constitutional right to exclude the public from the 89 acres of land as it was his private property.

However, the Surfrider Foundation, a surfer and environmental group, protested, claiming that Mr Khosla’s use of a locked gate on an access road to the beach required a permit under the California Coastal Act.

Ending a year-long legal battle on Wednesday, Barbara Mallach, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge, ruled that he must allow immediate access to the beach unless he applied and was granted a coastal development permit.

In California, unlike in many other states, all beaches are open to the public under the constitution. But private landowners are not always required to allow access to the coastline across their properties.

Surfers, environmentalists and locals alike had feared a victory for Mr Khosla would have encouraged other private landowners to lock out the public.

The area, just a few miles from Silicon Valley, has attracted a growing number of tech and investment magnates, giving rise to many land disputes over recent years.

The outcome of Mr Khosla’s case could hold ramifications for the dozens of wealthy beachfront homeowners all along the California coastline.

“There were lots of other wealthy landowners up and down the coast who were watching very closely, and hoping Mr Khosla’s argument was well-received,” said Eric Buescher, who represented the surfer association in court. “The ruling won’t just impact this one beach. It will impact the whole coastline.”... (To read the entire article, please click HERE)