Court orders Vinod Khosla to open gate to Martins Beach

August 11, 2017 | Environment
Martins Beach: Vinod Khosla wants it just for himself | Photo: Sporleder/Surfrider

Silicon Valley billionaire Vinod Khosla will be forced to restore public access to Martins Beach, near Half Moon Bay, California.

A State appeals court ordered the Indian-American businessman to unlock the gate of his $32.5 million property and allow people to access the road that leads to the beach.

Martins Beach is not only a popular beach in Northern California but is also a well-known surf spot with spectacular wave-riding characteristics.

Khosla bought the 89-acre property in 2008 and shut down the public access to the beach a few months later.

Since then, the tech billionaire has never allowed the general public - beachgoers, fishermen, surfers, residents, and tourists - and even hired guards to make sure no one had access to the beach.

"This is one of the most important issues of the day. Can wealthy individuals buy up our beautiful beaches and say, 'screw you, you can’t walk to the water anymore?'" noted Joe Cotchett, the attorney who represented the Surfrider Foundation.

The legal battles have been running since 2013.

The Surfrider Foundation has always alleged that Khosla's behavior was a violation of the California Coastal Act, which preserves public beach access and limits development along the coastline.

Last year, the 62-year-old businessman said he would only sell the access through his property to the beach for $30 million, but the rights to use the path have a market value of only $360,000.

"This is not about closing the gate to your house or to your backyard. It is closing the gate to an access road, or path, that allowed people for all these years to put their feet in the water, catch fish, or go surfing," added Cotchett.