State Supreme Court: Martins Beach must remain open to public
A ruling requiring a Silicon Valley entrepreneur to open Martins Beach near Half Moon Bay to the public has been left in place by the California Supreme Court.
The state high court in San Francisco on Wednesday turned down an appeal by venture capitalist Vinod Khosla for review of a state Court of Appeal decision issued in August.
Unless Khosla successfully appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court for review, the California Supreme Court’s action means the state Court of Appeal ruling is the final decision in the case.
A lawyer for Khosla was not immediately available for comment.
Khosla claims he has a property right to close the only road to the beach.
In its August decision, the appeals court said Khosla could not block access to the beach through adjacent land he bought in 2008 unless he obtained a permit from the California Coastal Commission.
The panel said ending public access is a form of development as defined in state law and would therefore require a permit from the commission.
The appeals court upheld a similar ruling and a preliminary injunction issued by San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach in 2014, requiring Khosla to keep access to the beach open the same amount as the previous owners. The beach is used by surfers, families and fishermen.
The rulings were made in a lawsuit filed by the San Clemente-based Surfrider Foundation against two beach management companies created by Khosla.
Eric Buescher, a lawyer for the foundation, said the state high court’s action is:
“… a good result for the people of the Bay Area and for public access to the coast. … The Court of Appeal decision was well-reasoned and thoughtful and explains that the California Coastal Act (of 1976) protects the public’s right of access.”
The Surfrider lawsuit is one of three filed in the dispute.
Another lawsuit filed in San Mateo County Superior Court by a group called Friends of Martins Beach is due to go to trial on Monday on the question of whether the previous owners created a right of public access to the beach by keeping it open.
Friends of Martins Beach attorney Gary Redenbacher said he expects the trial in the court of Superior Court Judge Steven Dylina to last three or four days.
The two cases are based on different claims and even if the Friends of Martins Beach loses next week’s trial, the Surfrider case’s requirement to allow public access will remain in effect, unless the U.S. Supreme Court steps in.
Buescher and Rederbacher said the access to the beach road has been open some of the time for a parking fee of $10 in recent weeks but said they did not know exactly how much it has been open.
In a third lawsuit, Khosla’s two companies, Martins Beach 1 and Martins Beach 2, sued the Coastal Commission, State Lands Commission and San Mateo County in federal court last year.
The companies claim the three agencies are violating their constitutional rights to equal treatment, due process of law and protection from having property seized without just compensation.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White of Oakland has put the federal lawsuit on hold while awaiting outcomes of the two state court cases.