News & Opinion | January 9, 2020 6:28 am

California Is Suing Billionaire Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist Over Beach Access

Vinod Khosla wants to keep the public off Martin's Beach

Martin's Beach
Martin's Beach in Half Moon Bay, where billionaire Vinod Khosla has been limiting access and charging fees to the general public.
JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images

Martin’s Beach once enjoyed a decades-long history as a favorite Bay Area beach destination, but 12 years ago, a Silicon Valley billionaire decided he wanted to change that.

Back in 2008, billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla purchased two large pieces of land next to the Half Moon Bay beach, which included the only public path to the sand and surf. Over the years, Khosla has fought relentlessly to keep the public off the beach, limiting access and charging beach goers, and now the state of California is fighting back.

On Monday, the California State Lands Commission and the California Coastal Commission announced the state was taking on Khosla and had filed a lawsuit to restore full public access to Martin’s Beach, CNN reported.

“This case goes to the heart of California’s public access mandate,” California Coastal Commission Chair Steve Padilla said in a statement, calling Khosla’s actions “a dangerous precedent for the future of public access in California.”

California’s state constitution mandates that the public be allowed to access all coastal beaches below the mean high tide line, and the California Coastal Act of 1976 requires that the state “maximize public access” to coastal areas. The lawsuit alleges that Khosla has largely blocked public access to the beach, and will “continue to deny, impair and obstruct the public’s right to use” it unless ordered otherwise by a court.

“Since the property was purchased by our client, the state, and small activist groups, have endeavored to seize our client’s private property without compensation,” Dori Yob Kilmer, an attorney for Khosla, said in a statement to CNN. “While such tactics are commonplace in communist systems, they have never been tolerated in the American system where the US Constitution precludes the government from simply taking private property and giving it to the public.”

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