25 Sep 2014

California surfers beat tech billionaire in fight over beach access

It was surfers versus a Silicon Valley tech billionaire, and on Wednesday, the surfers won -- for now.

A San Mateo County judge ruled tentatively Wednesday that Vinod Khosla, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, had wrongly denied public access to Martin's Beach, which for decades was visited by thousands of locals who picnicked, surfed and fished in its protective cove. 

The case resonated with some people because it reflected fears that tech billionaires were buying up coastal propertieswith the intention of keeping others out.

Joe Cotchett, an attorney for the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation, which brought the suit, called Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach's decision "a huge victory for all of the people of California."

"This is a battle of David versus Goliath," Cotchett said, "between the people who want to use the beaches and the wealthy who want it for their own private purposes." 

The previous owners granted beachgoers their only way to the beach by land, via a dirt road, and charged a small fee for parking. But in 2010, two years after Khosla acquired the property, his manager locked the gate, painted over a sign that had beckoned from California Highway 1 and posted security guards to ward off trespassers.

Khosla did so despite being told by county planning officials, the Coastal Commission and a different San Mateo County Superior Court in 2009 that he needed to seek a coastal development permit if any of his actions were to change the "intensity of use" of the water or access to it. 

Mallach ruled that by padlocking the gate, hiring security guards and altering signs without state permission, Khosla had wrongly denied public access to the beach, violating the California Coastal Act.

Mallach, however, did not impose about $20 million in fines that the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation had been seeking -- a total based on the maximum of $15,000 a day dating to the October 2010 gate closure.

Read More:http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-surfers-billionaire-court-victory-beach-access-20140925-story.html


  1. Same type of theft of the public common is happening in Utah and Colorado by wealthy land owners wanting the stream access and public wildlife and fish for their own greedy little asses, (or Big asses)!

  2. If he wants exclusive access, let him go back to his own country.

  3. When are you planning on returning to your country of origin?
    Of course, it is typical of people of your ilk to resort to xenophobia when you have nothing to add to the discourse.
    He is closing access via his land, whilst I think it is mean of him, look what the invaders did to the rest of the continent.

  4. The fact of the matter is that if access had been given for a set number of years, roughly 15 in most US states, then the previous owner has given the access route to the public domain. The foreign devil billionaire doesn't have a leg to stand on and he should be fined heavily and then sent back to whatever god forsaken country he is from.