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Martins Beach lockout prompts surfers’ lawsuit

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Martins Beach
The California Supreme Court has left in place a lower court ruling that ordered owner Vinod Khosla to restore public access to Martins Beach south of Half Moon Bay.

As surfers, the Surfrider Foundation would rather been donning wetsuits than filing lawsuits.

But in their role as protectors of the world’s beaches, the group was stirred to legal action Monday, filing suit to re-open Martins Beach in San Mateo County to public recreational access.

Even among Northern California’s many idyllic beaches, Martins Beach is a jewel.

Loved by surfers and other locals looking to avoid crowds at other nearby beaches, the crescented cove is tucked away off Highway 1 a few miles south of Half Moon Bay.

To access Martins, beachgoers must drive along a private road and traverse private land. For decades, the land’s previous owner allowed public access to the beach for a modest fee.

When a new owner bought the land in 2008, things changed. Signs went up, gates were locked, armed guards were even hired to prevent the public from reaching Martins Beach via private property.

After five surfers were cited for trespassing on Martins Beach last October, the Surfrider Foundation stepped in to help them with their legal fight. The criminal charges were later dropped, but work on a civil suit continued.

Attorneys for the foundation filed their suit in San Mateo Superior Court on Tuesday. In a statement, foundation attorney Mark Massara said:

“The property owner failed to obtain, and does not have, legally required permits for the gate, armed security guards and other measures undertaken to suffocate public access to a beach open and enjoyed by visitors for almost 100 years.”

Jesse Garnier
Jesse Garnier is the editor and founder of SFBay. A Mission District native, he also teaches journalism as assistant professor at San Francisco State University.

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