In September, San Mateo County Court Judge Barbara Mallach ruled against Silicon Valley billionaire Vinod Khosla in a lawsuit regarding public access to Martin’s Beach, a secluded stretch of oceanfront just south of Half Moon Bay.
According to the ruling, Khosla was in violation of the California Coastal Act when he neglected to obtain a permit before posting signage and locked a public access gate that led down to the beach.
The California Coastal Act was created in 1976 to maximise public access to the state’s beaches. There are now more than 1,150 public access points on the California coast in the form of state parks, stairways, and narrow paths.
The Surfrider Foundation first filed suit against Khosla in March 2013, and most of the arguments took place this past July.
On Friday, Mallach issued a final order that requires Khosla to immediately restore beach access to the way it was when he first purchased the property.
“Defendants are hereby ordered to cease preventing the public from accessing and using the water, beach, and coast at Martins Beach until resolution of the Defendants Coastal Development Permit application has been reached by the San Mateo County and/or the Coastal Commission,” the ruling reads. “The gate across Martins Beach Road must be unlocked and open to the same extent that it was unlocked and open at the time Defendants purchased the property.”
Khosla purchased a 53-acre parcel adjacent to Martin’s Beach for $US37.5 million in 2008. A few months after Khosla made the purchase, a gate leading from the Pacific Coast Highway down to the parking lot was locked, and signs forbidding entry were posted.
Since the gate had been left unlocked under previous owners, the court is ordering Khosla to return it to that state now.
Mallach’s final order also gives Khosla 60 days to appeal the ruling.
“The Surfrider Foundation remains vigilant to protect beach access rights, not only in this case, but also in other cases where the beach is wrongfully cut off from the public,” legal director Angela Howe said in September.