Donate

Silicon Valley Billionaire Battles Surfers Over Beach Access

, KQED Science | January 13, 2014 | 123 Comments
  • Share:
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • Email
Pelican Rock marks the northern end of Martins Beach. (Amy Standen/KQED)

Pelican Rock marks the northern end of Martins Beach. (Amy Standen/KQED)

Martins Beach, three miles south of Half Moon Bay, was once a hidden gem of the San Mateo County coastline, known to just a handful of local surfers and people who rented cottages along the shore.

Those days are over. The small beach has become ground zero for a protracted legal battle between locals and one Silicon Valley billionaire who would like to keep the public out.

For locals, “a little Yosemite”

Even on a windy gray day, Martins Beach is perfect. About a quarter mile long, the beach is hidden from Highway 1, accessible by a winding road that passes through a small community of modest beach houses.

At the south end of the beach, cliffs jut up from the ocean; at the north, waves crash against a massive rock formation shaped like a shark fin.

“I think John Muir would roll over in his grave if he thought we’d be losing access to this completely unique spot,” says Mike Wallace, who coaches the surf team at the local high school.

Mike Wallace used to bring his high school surf team to practice at Martins Beach. Here, he stands next to a mural depicting the beach's former owners. (Amy Standen/KQED)

Mike Wallace used to bring his high school surf team to practice at Martins Beach. Here, he stands next to a mural depicting a former cabin-owner. (Amy Standen/KQED)

His daughter caught her first wave off of Martins Beach.

“For a lot of us, it feels like a little Yosemite of the coast,” Wallace says.

But the heart of the battle is not on this beach, lovely as it may be. All California beaches are public — that is, from the ocean up to the high water line.

The real heart of the battle is the road that leads to the beach. Because other than a boat, there is only one way to get here: the road.

The turn from Highway 1 can be hard to find. A large sign that once beckoned visitors to Martins Beach is now painted black. This particularly galls Wallace.

“You know, out of sight, out of mind. Paint the sign black and all of a sudden the public loses interest and it falls off the map. We don’t want it to fall off the map.”

Sold to an unnamed buyer

In 2008, the property was sold for $37.5 million to a private owner. The sign was painted and a gate went up, saying, “Private property. Keep out.”

Silicon Valley investor Vinod Khosla is the new owner of Martins Beach. (James Duncan Davidson/O'Reilly Media, Inc.)

Silicon Valley investor Vinod Khosla is the new owner of Martins Beach. (James Duncan Davidson/O’Reilly Media, Inc.)

Initially, Wallace and other regulars weren’t sure who the new owners were. The legal documents cited an LLC called, simply, Martins Beach.

But eventually, they figured it out. The new owner of Martins Beach was Vinod Khosla, the Silicon Valley billionaire investor best known for his investments in clean tech.

Part of what’s gotten this case so much press is that Khosla isn’t the type of person you’d expect to find in a show-down with environmentalists, such as Mark Massara, a long-time surfer and attorney on one of four lawsuits filed so far over Martins Beach.

“Even for billionaires with a solid track record of conservation efforts, taking coastal property and trying to privatize it… people are generally not willing to allow that to happen,” says Massara.

Massara and others argue that the road to Martins Beach has been used by the public for decades.

The previous owners, the Deeney family, charged a $10 fee to people who wanted to park their cars there. There are public bathrooms at the beach and a café, now closed.

There is, in other words, a longtime precedent of public access at Martins Beach, says Massara, even though the property does not contain an easement requiring public access on the road.

Surfer and environmental attorney Mark Massara at home near San Francisco's Ocean Beach. (Amy Standen/KQED)

Surfer and environmental attorney Mark Massara at home near San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. (Amy Standen/KQED)

The courts haven’t always agreed.

In October, a county judge ruled that Khosla can keep the public from walking or driving to the beach.

Because the beach contained no easement when it was acquired through a 19th-century Mexican land grant, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Gerald Buchwald ruled, the property is not subject to the state’s constitutional laws regarding public access.

Massara says that precedent could imperil public access up and down California’s coast.

Setting a precedent

“Make no mistake,” Massara says, “if it stands in this case, it’ll inspire other efforts by other wealthy individuals.”

That decision is likely to be appealed. Meanwhile, Massara, along with the Surfrider Foundation, has filed another lawsuit, which may go to court this spring.

A David and Goliath battle waged entirely in paperwork

The Surfrider suit contends that Khosla is required to seek permits from the California Coastal Commission for any improvements to the property. That includes several recent changes: the gate at the top of the road, road maintenance and an emergency seawall constructed on the beach this winter.

This seemingly dull and technical point – building permits – may turn out to be the true arena for the Martins Beach battle, particularly if the investor plans to remove the cottages when their leases expire in 2021 and build a private residence.

The beach's former owners, the Deeney family, ran a cafe on Martins Beach. (Amy Standen/KQED)

The beach’s former owners, the Deeney family, ran a cafe on Martins Beach. (Amy Standen/KQED)

Think of it as a David-and-Goliath battle waged entirely in paperwork, between a billionaire and the chronically-unfunded agency in charge of issuing these permits, the California Coastal Commission.

A state agency intent on public access

We couldn’t get a comment from Khosla for this story. His office in Menlo Park forwarded our request to his lawyers, who declined to answer questions.

For their part, staff members at the Coastal Commission say they’ve tried to negotiate with the owner from the start.

“We asked them if they wanted to resolve it. In fact, we met with the owner’s attorneys,” says Nancy Cave, a district manager for the North Central Division of the California Coastal Commission, which has fought to establish public access to California beaches since its founding in 1972.

“They showed no interest in resolving. They only wanted to litigate.”

Nancy Cave and her staff want to keep Martins Beach open to the public. Khosla will need permits from the Commission if he wants to do almost anything on the property.

So, Cave thought, maybe they could strike a deal. She was wrong.

“They showed no interest in resolving,” says Cave. “They only wanted to litigate. They wanted us to act so they could litigate.”

In two separate lawsuits, Khosla’s attorneys have argued that developing the property will not require permits from the Coastal Commission. Both suits have been dismissed, the second by Khosla’s attorneys themselves.

Massara believes this drawn-out litigation plays to Khosla’s strength: a personal fortune that far exceeds the Commission’s annual budget of $16 million.

Steeling for a fight

Commission staff members say they’re well used to taking on affluent land owners, most famously, David Geffen, who tried (and failed) to keep the public from accessing a path near his Malibu Beach estate.

Talking to Cave and her colleagues, you get the sense they’re steeling themselves for a drawn-out fight.

Martins Beach is home to the residents of about 45 small beach houses, all of whose leases expire in 2021. (Amy Standen/KQED)

Martins Beach is home to the residents of about 45 small beach houses, all of whose leases expire in 2021. (Amy Standen/KQED)

“We’re pretty used to litigating against deep pockets,” says Alex Helperin, senior staff counsel for the Coastal Commission.

“We’ve been in litigation with a lot of wealthy adversaries,” he says.

“Does that stop us from doing our work?” says Nancy Cave, “No.”

The first of the permits on the Martins Beach property — for an emergency seawall built recently to prevent erosion – is due this month.

Explore: , , , , ,

Category: Audio, Environment, News, Radio

  • Share:
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • Email

About the Author ()

As a radio reporter for KQED Science, Amy's grappled with archaic maps, brain fitness exercises, albino redwood trees, and jet-lagged lab rats, as well as modeled a wide variety of hard hats and construction vests. Long before all that, she learned to cut actual tape interning for a Latin American news show at WBAI in New York, then took her first radio job as a producer for Pulse of the Planet. Since then, Amy has been an editor at Salon.com, the editor of Terrain Magazine, and has produced stories for NPR, Living on Earth, Philosophy Talk, and Pop Up Magazine. She's also a founding editor of Meatpaper Magazine.
  • David Corby

    I live near Ocean Beach in San Francisco so I am familiar with foot and vehicle traffic that can occur when the conditions are right. At times it becomes downright impossible to find street parking and I have to deal with a bunch of half naked surfers changing into street clothing just outside my windows. I can only imagine what Martin’s beach looks like when horde of surfers decides that they want to catch some waves. I don’t think I would be thrilled about letting surfers access Ocean Beach if they had to go through my back yard to do it. There are plenty of privately owned areas that restrict access to beaches as a consequence of their geography. Simply cutting off access to a natural resource such as a beach is not a good way to be a citizen of the world. There needs to be a middle ground established between public access to the beaches and private ownership of the surrounding land.

    • Michelle

      Having been to Martins Beach, the popular surfing area is actually not even within view of the houses. And people just walk on a road, not residence’s backyards to get to the beach. By the way, you sound upset, I would be happy to take your half-naked-surfer-beach view. ;)

      • David Corby

        I am not upset but a bit perturbed and confused by the audacity on both sides of the issue. While the beach itself is not and cannot be private; the land around Martin’s beach is private and you have to cut through somebody’s property to get to it. The owner should have taken public interests and access into account when he bought the property. Flat out closing access to any part of the coastal resources is not in anybody’s interest. At the same time, the public also needs to stay off this guy’s land and respect his current property rights. Oh and if you really want to live as close to the ocean as I do then start reading up on rust prevention. I can handle surfers and the occasional traffic jam. They really do not bother me. The rust caused by salt water is my biggest complaint.

        • Codewizard

          Why should he take into account the “public” viewpoint? They are not paying for the land?

          I’m stunned by the Marxist attitude of some here. This belief that you have a Right to someone else’s property is astounding. How about i take your paycheck next week, and our care the week after? I bet you won’t be so “understanding” then.

          • XanderJay

            He should take into account the “public” because that public will be his neighbors.

            Love thy neighbor.

          • http://wiseoldsnail.org/ wiseoldsnail

            heh . codewizard is likely a self-proclaimed christian … but a shill is a shill … codewizard apparently has a quota to meet, according to his pay scale in shill world

          • Cunno2001

            The public owns the beach, and rightly so. In Hawaii they have a law that every (I think it’s a 1/4 mile) there HAS to be access. It just makes sense, and if this makes it a “Marxist” notion in your mind, then you’re a closed minded idiot. This foreign born dickhead made his money on “clean” technology. In other words, it was MANNA from the government. He should be put out of everyones misery.
            on the other hand, the beaches in Northern Cali are famous for the local surfers and residents being just as selfish with the waves and the beach as the billionaire dickhead. Soooo, in my learned opinion, it’s a wash. “Codewizard” ?….. give me a break.

        • http://wiseoldsnail.org/ wiseoldsnail

          why live so near the ocean if you’re concerned about rust? my motorcycles earned their rust badge even inside my garage there … still … a small price to pay for that slice of lovely

    • melindabyerley

      actually, when the law says that the public has the right to access the land, that is the appropriate behavior. You chose to live near Ocean Beach. You can’t buy land there and then fight a court battle to keep everyone out. Or like Khosla, you can, but don’t expect everyone to just shut up and move along.

      • http://facebook.com/dballing/ Derek Balling

        They can access the beach in the legal fashion – by coming in via boat.

        There is no right of way on his property, no easement, and thus the LAW says that the public has no right to use his private property in this fashion without obtaining permission.

      • Codewizard

        Yes, you can. The law DOES NOT say that the access must be on PRIVATE land.

        • XanderJay

          Private land that will need lots of permits and licenses which literally puts one’s projects at the mercy of California Citizens.
          CEQA will be the HAMMER.

        • y_p_w

          California Coastal Act of 1972. Yes it does state that easements and public access on one’s private land are a condition of getting permits to build stuff in the coastal zone.

    • Codewizard

      Sadly David this is they type of person who feels they have a RIGHT to something that YOU pay for. Typical Californian.

      • Mike Kitterman

        It is easy for me to recognize that Codewizard is really just crying out for medicine. Because I come from a place where we treated similar illness with a gunny sack hat and a baseball bat. Not out of anger, coercion, or to support our perception at all. Simply out of love. Codewizard deserves and needs that love from us. I would not condone or suggest such treatment today as that leveling of balance might upset any existing imbalance. Experience does leave me confident though that his health and happiness would experience a full recovery if such methods were hypothetically used. So don’t get worked up thinking that his real issue lies in his words. Dave is just showing that he is hungry for some man love.

    • http://wiseoldsnail.org/ wiseoldsnail

      aw, poor baby … having to witness ‘half naked surfers changing into street clothing’

      seriously . i lived at ocean beach for a long time . beach traffic was inspiring and calming … knowing that my fellow humans were out having fun at and in the ocean

      there doesn’t need to be middle ground . there needs to be unfettered access by non-polluting humans to all oceans, beaches, forests, deserts, and rivers … unless an actual concern for overcrowding evolves, such as too many thousands on the same trail into the grand canyon … then a slowing of access is reasonable, not blocking access

      meanwhile, we need to completely block access to building and polluting (oil exploration comes to mind) on or near oceans and beaches … that would resolve the issue immediately

      we have the right to decide these things, and some (such as coastal access) have already been decided

  • Kenny Stone

    Well, this was a “preexisting condition”, so to speak, before he moved in. He should of known when he bought the house that it would also come with beach access, even if it isn’t legally required.

    • Geotron VonDoja

      I’m sure he was aware of it (how could he not have been?). But, as the article alludes to, he has more than enough money to eventually get what he wants, a private beach for himself only. Hopefully we Californians are still up to the task to limit that ability (it’s no secret that the CCC is chronically unfunded primarily due to right wing “budget hawks” continually in the pockets of the wealthy for whom this is of primary interest), because one by one, if you allow one wealthy person to privatize a beach we will eventually lose all public access entirely.

    • http://facebook.com/dballing/ Derek Balling

      Just because the old owners allowed it doesn’t mean new owners are bound by that, unless it’s in the deed. And it isn’t.

      • http://www.ltparis.com LTParis

        Question is if easement rights fall into some type of statutory requirement. It will be interesting to see this play out.

        As a side note, bad form on the owner.

        • http://facebook.com/dballing/ Derek Balling

          Already answered in the article : the deed pre-dates any such requirements, and so there is no legal easement/right-of-way.

        • Codewizard

          Yes, how dare he fight for what is HIS. Because you no doubt would NOT do that, right? I mean, if I took your car, you would be happy that I was using it, right?

          • Bandwagon_Castaway

            So, if some one wants to build a pipeline on a piece of land they don’t own, and the owner doesn’t want them to, it’s not OK for the government to send the pipeline through anyway, right?

          • http://wiseoldsnail.org/ wiseoldsnail

            thank you

          • http://wiseoldsnail.org/ wiseoldsnail

            access to the ocean is not HIS . but good try (not really)

      • Codewizard

        Yea, but the Socialist who have destroyed California DON’T want to hear that. They want FREE stuff, that OTHER people pay for. It’s even better if it’s those “evil rich.”

        • Rusty Shackleford

          Apparently if I want to go fishing near the beach I’ve been fishing near since I was a child, I’m a socialist who wants free stuff.

          I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

          • http://wiseoldsnail.org/ wiseoldsnail

            omg . codewizard only wants to acknowledge the law when it suits his wealthy benefactors

      • http://wiseoldsnail.org/ wiseoldsnail

        actually, eminent domain is all about new owners being held to the status quo of access, especially to beaches and oceans and other wild or even semi-wild places

        • http://facebook.com/dballing/ Derek Balling

          That’s actually not at all what “eminent domain is all about”. Eminent domain would be about the State paying him for taking his private property away from him and then that private property becoming public property.

          • http://wiseoldsnail.org/ wiseoldsnail

            that’s not the only use of eminent domain, as eminent domain can be exacted without actually purchasing land, but only forcing access

          • http://facebook.com/dballing/ Derek Balling

            I’m not sure what you’re trying to describe, but it’s not eminent domain.

            Under our Constitution, eminent domain requires fair compensation.

          • http://wiseoldsnail.org/ wiseoldsnail

            ‘fair compensation’ is a relative term

          • http://facebook.com/dballing/ Derek Balling

            Except it’s not, really. There’s centuries of case-law to support that he has to be compensated at or above fair market value for the property.

    • Codewizard

      Well your law career won’t be long lived. Pre-existing condition is a medical insurance term.

      Also, no one can say for sure if they were legally passing or not. I have SEEN NO proof.

      No easement, no required access. See my analogy above.

  • KellyMac

    Wow- what an incredibly lame move- I guess this guy didn’t get the memo about how we do things in CA. The beautiful nature of the west has always been the great equalizer- from which everyone can and should be able to benefit. I hope the coastal commission and surfrider foundation can assemble the means to beat this guy into the sand.

  • KellyMac

    Wow- what an incredibly lame move- I guess this guy didn’t get the memo about how we do things in CA. The beautiful nature of the west has always been the great equalizer- from which everyone can and should be able to benefit. I hope the coastal commission and surfrider foundation can assemble the means to beat this guy into the sand. Else, we will definitely have to throw some rowdy low tide parties on the part of the beach to which we maintain our rights :-/

    • William Mulholland

      “Wow- what an incredibly lame move- I guess this guy didn’t get the memo about how we do things in CA….”

      Maybe he did?

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/04/sean-parker-wedding_n_3384555.html


      ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Blank )

      • olke

        Disgusting!
        Reprehensible!

      • XanderJay

        At least he wasn’t watching porn like that Wisconsin 7th grade teacher, dude got reinstated and 200k in back pay.

    • Codewizard

      Maybe he believes in the AMERICAN way vs the People’s Republic of Kalifornia’s way?

      • Matt Scheaffer

        Yes the American way of letting the ultra rich do whatever they want and fuck everyone else. You are such a good little serf fighting for the rights of those who would throw you in a fire if it would make them a buck.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        Ah yes, the AMERICAN way – where if you’re rich you can do whatever you want and if you’re not you can fuck off and die.

        Suck a dick and spread your teaparty shit elsewhere Codewizard

      • http://wiseoldsnail.org/ wiseoldsnail

        again … we live in a democratic republic, not a capitalist serfdom

  • LonesomeDove

    Martin’s Beach is a very cool little piece of California enclave that should stay it’s bohemian self – it would be a shame to see it go…

    • Codewizard

      So you are for, or against the public access across PRIVATE land?

      Seems to me that MORE people would be BAD for what you want.

      • lilbidness

        In this case I would be for it, troll. This is a historical landmark which has been used by generations before he moved in. If he gets his way I pray thousands trample this bigots property for not trying to find a positive outcome for both parties. Build a side entrance to the beach at the cost of the city??? I’m sure people would donate for that to happen

      • http://wiseoldsnail.org/ wiseoldsnail

        the whole point of wanting clean oceans and undeveloped beaches is for humans to enjoy nature … is this really that complicated in your head? or do your employers require you to behave as if a vacant vessel sits atop your neck?

  • dat

    I can’t think of a more appropriate use of Eminten Domain than this case.

    • Codewizard

      it’s EMINENT Domain, and it doesn’t apply. Not that the PRK, or you care. You just want to “feel good” by stealing what does not belong to you.

      • XanderJay

        1972 Proposition 20 passed and in 1976 Prop 20 was made permanent.

        It was passed so all Californians can enjoy their resources.

        1969 President Nixon passed NEPA and in 1970 then Gov. Reagan passed an even more encompassing law called CEQA.

        Environmentalism isn’t Right v. Left.

        It’s an understanding of the Global Commons we all share

      • XanderJay

        What facts or critical thoughts do you bring instead of just judging random strangers on the internet?

      • dat

        Codewizard. You’re correct. I fat fingered the keyboard when I posted that. Thank you very much for correcting me. I am a better person for it now.

        Also, I do not seek to feel better by taking from others, quite the opposite.

      • y_p_w

        It does apply. I was listening to a program today where one of the participants was a conservative attorney. Even he indicated that if the government was willing to pay for the road, they could acquire it via eminent domain.

        Eminent domain is written into the US Constitution.

  • Greg Howell

    Public open space is for the people NOT to be bought up by the greedy rich. See what is happening in Australia as we speak with words by Joel Parkinson, World Surfing Champ. http://joelparko.com/ and join the fight https://www.facebook.com/SaveOurSouthernBeachesAlliance

    • Codewizard

      PRIVATE property IS NOT OPEN space.

      • http://www.climatewave.com/ Greg Howell

        If you knew what you were talking about Code…. I’d discuss this issue with you but obviously you don’t with an inane comment like that.

      • http://wiseoldsnail.org/ wiseoldsnail

        oceans and beaches are not private property, child

  • Matt

    This wealth worshipper is seeking to privatize what belongs to the public. A pox on him and his ilk.

    • Codewizard

      The land WAS ALREADY PRIVATE, you dope.

      • http://www.climatewave.com/ Greg Howell

        It seems like you’ve got a lot to say hiding behind a pseudonym. Just because your opinion differs from others there is know reason to start name calling…just confirms how little your ….knowledge is.

      • Matt

        ALL beaches in California are public. Learn California law, asshole, or better yet, go back to the shithole you are originally from and stay there. We don’t need carpetbagger wealth worshippers further fucking up California. Fuck you and your anti-public attitude.

      • XanderJay

        I like how you really emphasize your non-sequiter with CAPS.

      • XanderJay

        Prop. 20 1976

  • Dave Crane

    I appreciate that the Surfing community is taking a leadership role in trying to restore access to Martin’s beach. Martin’s beach is also special to some fisherman, beach combers, multiple generations of families and many other people.

    I remember going to Martin’s beach when I was in high school. It was (and still is) a great place to watch the surf and check out the interesting rock formations among other things.

    I thinks this could be a pivotal case for retaining access to to natural places in California and throughout the United States. Imagine if someone bought and closed the famed Lake Tahoe Flume trail that is used by mostly mountain bikers but is used by other groups as well. What if somebody bought the historic Lover’s Leap rock climbing area and locked the public out?

    I’m not a lawyer but it does not seem right to me that someone can buy a piece of property that people have been legally crossing for over a 100 years and just put a lock on it.

    • Codewizard

      Wow, indoctrination is working in California.

      I’m amazed at how people in California think that what is NOT theirs, IS theirs. Stunning.

      An analogy for you:

      You go to WalMart and traipse around LEGALLY for YEARS. The store closes. A new company opens up. Do you have the RIGHT to continue to enter that building? NO let me repeat NOOOOOOOOOO. Again, let me spell it out for you: NNNNNNN OOOOOOO.

      Got it?

      • Guest

        maby it is time to take your meds dear

      • Tap the dancer

        maybe it is time for your meds dear

      • Rusty Shackleford

        ALLOW ME TO DELIVER THIS UNRELATED AND HIGHLY INEFFECTIVE ANALOGY

        • http://wiseoldsnail.org/ wiseoldsnail

          heh . thx for the giggle

      • Tom

        The point people are trying to impress upon you is that, because the original owners never fought for the access road to remain private (i.e closing the road), and never contested years of continued “illegal” access, by property laws that land becomes public property. The same thing happens when your dick neighbor moves your property line while you aren’t home. if you don’t notice, after a certain period of time (i’m from maryland, where that period is 1 year), that land legally becomes his. And furthermore, does anyone know who performs the maintenance on the road? because if the state is repaving it, grading, filling potholes, etc. its not his road anyway, even if he owns the land around it.

      • http://wiseoldsnail.org/ wiseoldsnail

        ah, walmart … seriously, man? walmart is a concrete box built with tax exemptions for which we all pay … the business within also supported by taxes we all pay … via subsidies to underpaid workers …

        still … no comparison between walmart and the ocean, child

  • petethexman

    As a former Coastal Commission staff member in the 1980s, I’ve seen this scenario played out over and over. The so-called issue of Spanish land grants pre-existing and somehow superceeding laws like the Coastal Act isn’t an issue at all — land grants occurred in the early 1800s all over California, so Martins Beach isn’t any special or privileged circumstance.

    It isn’t just a matter of the Coastal Act. What was alluded to regarding public access along the road involves what is known as a prescriptive right. Areas with a history of public use can have the right of access through prescriptive rights regardless of the existence of Coastal Act policies. Prescriptive rights have a lengthy history — and by lengthy, I mean going back to English common law in the 1100s. The standards for a prescriptive easement involve, among other things, that the public use be open, “notorious” (which means well known and not secretive), and continuous for a period of time. Many prescriptive rights inure in a time period as short as 5 years or as long as 20. And it isn’t just the coast. If your neighbor builds a concrete block wall between your back yards and it turned out to be on your property and not his (a very common occurrence), over that period of time, if not otherwise contested or challenged, it could become his property if he was to pursue that.

    Access to the water is a right guaranteed not just to and along the coast but to any body of water — lake, stream, pond, whatever. Article X Section 4 of the California Constitution, enacted shortly after statehood in 1850, states in part that the public has a right to access of “the waters of the state of California,” that no person, organization, corporation, or any other entity can block access to the waters of the state, and that the Legislature, in enacting future laws, must give THE most liberal application of those rights possible.

    Case in point: When I lived in Lake Arrowhead in the San Bernardino Mountains in southern California, the homeowner association there blocked public access to the lake unless you were an association member/property owner on the lake. The dam was constructed beginning in 1922 and has always been in private ownership by the association. During the drought in the early- to mid-1990s, the lake level dropped nearly 20 feet, and boat owners who didn’t have docks that could adjust to fluctuating water levels couldn’t launch their boats. Their solution? Not take personal responsibility, certainly. No. They had the Community Services District (for water and sewage disposal) enact an ordinance that charged everyone within the District (whose boundaries far exceeded the area of the homeowners’ association) higher rates to raise $60 million to subsidize the wealthy lakefront property owners who didn’t have adjustable docks — fewer than 100 property owners, in a community with over 12,000 permanent year-round residents. This money was for purchasing water from the State Water Project through convoluted three- or four-step water swapping deals with other water districts to obtain water indirectly AND was done in a manner that avoided any approvals that could be conditioned to force public access to the lake directly.

    The solution to these problems? Be vigilant. Always be vigilant. The ocean is OUR ocean, and access to the beaches and water is an integral part of the culture of California. This tiny beach, away from view, away from virtually everyone except those very few lucky individuals who live there, is important. It only takes one bad precedent, one bad court ruling, to have impacts not only on this beach, not only on all California beaches, not only all bodies of water, but to any resource belonging to the people of California, whether it be a small creek in the eastern Sierra, a forest, or a desert.

    • Codewizard

      Thank God, I no longer live in California, where stupidity (aka Marxism) rules.

      Odd, that the apparatchik claiming to know “the law,” would reference as a “precedent” English Common Law. Why? ECL has NO bearing on California. The Mexican Border states, most western states, Florida, and Louisiana are NOT governed by ECL. They are based up on the French system.

      Even when ECL is invoked, property Rights ALWAYS trump the Socialist taking of property; not matter how much the Peoples Republic of Kalifornia apparatchiks whine about it.

      • XanderJay

        You’re not even sniffin’ Pete’s ability to reason and write.

      • XanderJay

        Was socialism the cause of Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo losing ALL of his land?

      • Matt Scheaffer

        I think the rich taking whatever they want is capitalism, not marxism.

        • Mike Kitterman

          It sure is.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

      • Joe Smyth

        Actually Codewizard, Louisiana is the only state that uses civil law (Napoleonic), as opposed to common (English) law, which the other 49 states use. So it does indeed apply in California.

      • y_p_w

        A prescriptive easement is more like it. The previous owner allowed vehicles to pass through for a fee. That would normally come into the Coastal Act’s definition of a traditional use. However, that wouldn’t run into a prescriptive easement since there was expressed permission.

        What some have indicated is that the owner didn’t take any measures if someone entered on foot. In that case, a prescriptive easement might have been established.

        In any case, they’re talking about possibly using eminent domain to either buy the road outright or set up a public easement.

      • http://wiseoldsnail.org/ wiseoldsnail

        you seem to have a confused notion that capitalism is the type of government in this country … back to school, child

    • Mike Kitterman

      You seem very informed. Thank you for your comments.

  • Tamer Nadem

    He didn’t become a billionare by being nice

    • Codewizard

      Maybe he did?

  • Johhny Tbone

    build a sanitation plant nextdoor….

    • Codewizard

      CCC would not grant a permit for that.

      *LMAO* that’s the best part of your stupidity, you don’t even understand the consequences of what you want; yet you blast away.

      • XanderJay

        CEQA process might not allow it.

        Which would be the California citizens and their decision making bodies not granting a permit.

      • Johhny Tbone

        sarcasm (ˈsɑːkæzəm) — n1.mocking, contemptuous, or ironic language intended to convey scorn or insult2.the use or tone of such language [C16: from Late Latin sarcasmus, from Greek sarkasmos, from sarkazein to rend the flesh, from sarx flesh]

  • Bret

    This paragraph contains all you need to know about who is going to win;”Because the beach contained no easement when it was acquired through a 19th-century Mexican land grant, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Gerald Buchwald ruled, the property is not subject to the state’s constitutional laws regarding public access.”

    Period end of story, there is no legal leg for the public to stand on, the man owns the land he can do what he wants with it. If you don’t like it make more money then him and buy it back.

    • XanderJay

      Most of the 19th century Mexican Land Grants(dating back even further under the Monarchy of Spain) were either ignored or stolen through the United States courts which in hindsight was breaking American law.

      You mean Americans break their own treaties??!!!?

      If you don’t believe me, do a search on Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and look up another rich, powerful self-made man named Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo.

    • y_p_w

      They’re talking about using eminent domain. Even if the appeals court accepts this judge’s interpretation, that can’t stop the state from acquiring the road via eminent domain provided a fair price is paid.

  • SomeguyInSB

    I have a feeling he’ll back down and donate the land to a public trust. Khosla is wealthy but he is not an antagonist. This may turn out better for everyone in the long run…

  • Andrew Alden

    The beach is already doomed by the seawall. The entire California coast is eroding, and only fresh land can add new sand to it.

  • Calen

    The beach is a public right-of-way. In what world can you own the beach?!? That’s just absurd!

    • http://facebook.com/dballing/ Derek Balling

      He doesn’t own the beach. The beach is, as the article says, part of a public right of way.

      It’s just that there is no way to get to that right-of-way from land, only from the water. To get there via the land, you have to cross across his private property, and he refuses to allow people to do so, as is his right.

      • intergalacticSpartacus

        So basically he’s trying to steal the beach since only he will have reasonable access to it. Are you on Khosla’s legal team or something? Anyways, that greasy-palmed Judge’s decision is being appealed.

        • http://facebook.com/dballing/ Derek Balling

          You can kayak in, swim in, boat in, surf in… there’s plenty of access to that beach.

          There is no requirement (legally) that he give you access to his non-beachfront land just so you can have convenient access to the beach.

          • y_p_w

            Coastal access is a requirement of the Coastal Act. if he wants to develop, he’s going to need a permit from the Coastal commission.

          • http://facebook.com/dballing/ Derek Balling

            Holy cow dude, how about you read the article first?

            The property is already developed. He’s not required by any existing law or right of way to give others access to his property. The coastal area is still “public access” it is just inaccessible via land.

            Surf in, and there’s nothing he can do to stop you from picnic’ing on the beach.

          • y_p_w

            The Coastal Act should still apply.

            I mean – there are people who have gotten in trouble with the Coastal Act provisions simply for failing to filed for a coastal development permit when they installed a new toilet. The deal with Sean Parker’s wedding was that the owner of the Ventana Campground was supposed to keep it open to maintain compliance with the Coastal Act. The Four Seasons Half Moon Bay was out of compliance when they failed to provide the required 25 parking spaces for the public to access the coast.

            Change anything that materially affects coastal use (including shutting down a parking area). Besides that – the owner has been filing for development permits but seems to be trying to get around the Coastal Act.

            Besides that, there might have already been a prescriptive easement established since the previous owner didn’t explicitly allow people on foot to enter without a fee but they did anyways.

        • Codewizard

          So basically you are trying to steal HIS property. But you think that’s O.K. don’t you?

          How do you steal a beach? Where would he hide it? Is it a beach if you move it?

      • Calen

        Yes, I see that now. I skimmed. I’m surprised the county or state didn’t buy it when it was for sale. I suppose he does own the road fair and square.

    • Codewizard

      Calen pull your head out.

      The Beach is NOT a public “right of way.” On top of that; the beach can be owned; just not in the PRK.

      • Calen

        Yes, the beach is a public right of way. The public trust doctrine was upheld by the supreme court of the United States in Illinois Central Railroad v. Illinois.

      • Calen

        Codewizard- I just read some of your other comments. No one likes a troll. The public trust doctrine applies to waterways and beaches across most of the free world and has since ancient Greece. America is not the fascist oligarchy that you seem to wish for. I think your values might more closely align with the laws of the state of Saudi Arabia. I’m not being snarky or retaliatory, seriously, you should read up on it. They pay no taxes, you have absolute right over your property, and against police search and seizure (if the police chase you home and you get there before they stop you, you’re free and clear). They do have a public healthcare system that is rated 26 in the world (US is 37) but other than that I think you’d like it there.

  • XanderJay

    The upcoming generations are going to have less and less access to nature.

    • Codewizard

      So? 99% of the world is still “nature.”

      • XanderJay

        which are either uninhabitable or in third world countries.

      • XanderJay

        Out of all the Trees that once existed in the continental U.S. only 5 percent remain untouched.

      • XanderJay

        Please cite your source.

  • colinvincent

    There is special place in Hell for this kook…

    • Codewizard

      You mean the nuts who think they have a right to take what is not theirs? HINT: Bureaucrats.

      • http://wiseoldsnail.org/ wiseoldsnail

        i’m pretty sure that’s not what he meant . of course maybe, given your display of absolute ignorance so far, you really are this confused . HINT : shill

  • oaklandeasy

    The seawall when built will ruin the waves in that cove.

  • Chuck Allison

    Where are the acts of civil disobeanence when we need them? This would be an excellent time for surf rider foundation to put up. They seem to have moved away fron confrontation in the last decade. Now would be a good time for bunches of folks to take a walk down that road for a day at the beach…….and do it several times a month until an agreement is reached

    • Codewizard

      Reserved for something IMPORTANT.

  • http://science.kqed.org/quest Craig Rosa

    Hi Everyone:

    One of the Editors speaking here – just a reminder that name-calling and personal insults are not permitted in our comments. Please review our Terms of Use. Comments in violation of our policy will be deleted, and repeat offenders will be banned.

    Carry on.

  • Becca

    Gee, wouldn’t it be sweet if people with dough saw joy and beauty in the rest of the human race? I’d be so happy to see high school kids catching waves in the water off my hunk of land — AND walking down a road on my property to get to this public space.

    Thanks for getting this story out there.

  • suzinne barrett

    Pretty disgusting how the wealthy can trump the rights of the general public. This is NOT this man’s beach. He just wants a comfort zone around his property. As someone who prevailed in court (w/o an attorney no less), am routing for the underdog – the surfers who stand for California a lot more than this filthy rich tech head.

  • Matt Scheaffer

    Hi my name is Code. I am a complete fucktard. I will respond to every comment on this page with a complete lack of understanding of public beach laws in CA and instead scream things about freedom and socialism. Also, every thought I have ever had was spoon fed to me from Glen Beck and Alex Jones. Also, I am fucking retarded.

  • one guys

    And the bag of douche goes to….Khosla.

  • JayChong

    Public property should be accessible to the public, and not just by water, but I wouldn’t use eminent domain, or the threat of eminent domain, to reach that outcome. http://lawblog.legalmatch.com/2014/02/12/bill-proposed-reopen-california-beach/