In 2008, Vinod Khosla, a venture capitalist and founder of Sun Microsystems, bought 89 acres of land south of Half Moon Bay that included a popular destination for surfers and sunbathers known as Martins Beach. The public had used the site for at least 70 years. But shortly after the sale, Khosla closed and locked the gate to the only road to the beach and made clear that the public was no longer welcome.
What ensued was a nine-year legal battle that pitted one man’s entrenched belief in his right to exclude people from his property with a long-standing public right to access coastal areas, as spelled out in the California Coastal Act.
Despite losing at a couple of levels in court, Khosla still refused to budge. The California Coastal Commission gave him until Oct. 4 to respond to its latest directive to open up, reminding him that they can and would fine him up to $11,250 a day for violations.
On Tuesday the gate finally swung wide — and public access was restored. It’s still not clear whether the legal battles are over, but it marks an important victory in the ongoing struggle to keep California’s picturesque coastline open to the public and not allow it to exist for the exclusive enjoyment of billionaires. Thumbs up to that.