Silicon Valley Billionaire Testifies in Lawsuit Over Disputed Beach

May 12, 2014

Billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla testified Monday that he can’t remember much about the management of a $37.5 million San Mateo County beach property that’s at the center of a coastal-access lawsuit.

In Superior Court testimony in Redwood City, Khosla said he could not remember anything specific about his intentions for Martins Beach, south of Half Moon Bay, about directions he might have given his manager for the property, or about a lawsuit or appeals filed in his name in connection with the tract.

The Surfrider Foundation has sued Khosla to restore public use of a road to the beach, which was closed off after the billionaire bought the 100-acre property in 2008. The suit is the latest in a series of actions that challenges the closure of the road to Martins Beach as a violation of state laws regulating development on California’s coastline and safeguarding public access to it.

Surfrider attorneys subpoenaed Khosla, saying that as owner of the property he had vital knowledge of any decision made regarding the tract.

But in his exchanges with attorney Joseph Cotchett, representing the Surfrider Foundation, Khosla said he couldn’t provide details about locking the gate across the beach road, partly because property manager Steven Baugher was responsible, partly because his discussions with Baugher were in the presence of attorneys and thus privileged. For instance, this exchange reported by KQED’s Peter Jon Shuler:

Cotchett: Did you discuss with Mr. Baugher the locking of the gate?
Khosla: All such discussions happened in the presence of counsel.
Cotchett: Did you tell Mr. Baugher, ‘Please lock the gate’?
Khosla: No, not at any specific time that, not that I can recollect.
Cotchett: You never told him, ‘Lock the gate’?
Khosla: He’s the operations manager and he makes those decisions.
Cotchett: So he locked the gate.
Khosla: I assume he made that decision.
Cotchett: So he made the decision to lock the gate. Who instructed him to lock the gate?
Khosla: I did not instruct him. I do not know who instructed him. It must have been at the advice of counsel.

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