Martin’s Beach battle may be headed back to court: Surfrider defends San Mateo County Superior Court judge’s order, considers filing for sanctions

January 15, 2015
San Mateo Daily Journal

Attorneys fighting over the contended Martin’s Beach are geared up for another round in court having laid out arguments why a judge’s ruling the property be reopened to the public should or shouldn’t stand and whether the property owner is in violation of court orders.

San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach is expected to decided in the next 10 days whether to issue a written response or set a date for the parties to again battle face to face with oral arguments in court.

On Dec. 16, just 11 days after being ordered to reopen the secluded beach only accessible by boat or a single road just south of Half Moon Bay, the property owner filed a motion for a new trial.

Martin’s Beach LLCs, created by tech mogul Vinod Khosla who bought the property for $32.5 million in 2008, allege the court abused its discretion while a new law requiring he negotiate with the state for access or face condemnation conflicts with orders for him to reopen his private property.

The Surfrider Foundation, which won its suit claiming Khosla failed to garner mandated permits before barring the public from the beach, filed its response Thursday and plans to seek an injunction based in part on declarations the property owner and a sheriff’s deputy have threatened the public with trespassing citations not sanctioned by the district attorney.

“I find the filings for a new trial outrageous in that it flies directly in the face of what the judge ruled,” said Joe Cotchett, an attorney representing Surfrider. “It is clear that Mr. Khosla is going to take this case all the way to the Supreme Court. But it is equally as clear that he has to obey the law until some court says otherwise. We will stay the course on behalf of the public until this matter comes to a close.”

Attorneys for Martin’s Beach did not return requests for comment.

Surfrider has maintained its case is simple — closing the beach to the public, hiring security guards and putting up no trespassing signs changed the land’s use, constituted development and required a Coastal Commission permit.

After six days of trial, more than 53 exhibits and a trip to the secluded cove, Mallach ruled the property be reopened to the public as it had for the last 100 years until Khosla receive a Coastal Development Permit to do otherwise.

Applying for a permit

Establishing exactly how the property was previously opened is at the heart of the debate with the property owner contending he should be able to grant access at leisure, only allow people to drive to the beach and be able to charge $10 for entry.

In its motion for a new trial, property manager Jim Deeney, whose family previously owned Martin’s Beach, claims the judge’s orders have been difficult to uphold as he’s opened the property a few times and was met with people refusing to pay and walking to the beach, engaging in reckless behavior and visiting on days when the gate is closed.

“The requirement that Martins must either operate an unprofitable business or apply for a [development permit] to cease operating an unprofitable business on its private property is an error of law,” according to the defendant’s motion.

Surfrider contends the property owner must apply for a permit and iron out access parameters with the Coastal Commission.... (To read the entire article, please click HERE)