Ap­peals court backs or­der to un­block ac­cess to beach

The rul­ing re­quires bil­lion­aire landowner to open gate to area near Half Moon Bay.

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Bet­tina Box­all bet­tina.box­all@la­times.com

The cam­paign to main­tain pub­lic ac­cess to Martins Beach has notched a vic­tory, with a state ap­peals court up­hold­ing an or­der that re­quired a wealthy landowner to stop block­ing the only road to the sand.

The rul­ing, filed Wed­nes­day, doesn’t set­tle the tan­gle of lit­i­ga­tion over pub­lic en­try to the sweeping cres­cent south of Half Moon Bay.

But it does af­firm a lower court de­ci­sion that bil­lion­aire Vinod Khosla has to un­lock the gate to Martins Beach Road while the le­gal fight con­tin­ues.

Khosla, a co-founder of the pioneer­ing tech com­pany Sun Mi­crosys­tems, bought about 89 acres of coastal land next to the beach in 2008.

Two years later he posted “do not en­ter” signs, hired se­cu­rity and shut the gate to the beach road that the prop­erty’s pre­vi­ous own­ers had let ocean lovers use for al­most a cen­tury.

A panel of the state 1st District Court of Ap­peal did not rule on whether the pub­lic has a right to Martins Beach ac­cess, say­ing that issue would be de­ter­mined in a sep­a­rate case.

But in its 3-0 de­ci­sion, the panel did re­ject the ar­gu­ment by Khosla’s at­tor­neys that the lower court’s or­der had amounted to an un­con­sti­tu­tional tak­ing.

In the law­suit filed by the Surfrider Foun­da­tion, the San Mateo County Su­pe­rior Court had said Khosla must ap­ply to the Cal­i­for­nia Coastal Com­mis­sion for a de­vel­op­ment permit be­fore clos­ing the road. The court also is­sued an in­junc­tion re­quir­ing Khosla to main­tain the same level of pub­lic ac­cess that ex­isted when he bought the prop­erty.

The ap­peals panel af­firmed both pro­vi­sions.

“In the present case, the claimed tak­ing is not an in­ter­pre­ta­tion of prop­erty law. It is an in­junc­tion de­signed to en­force the permit re­quire­ments of the Coastal Act,” the panel said.

“There is a still a long road ahead, but we are en­cour­aged by this de­ci­sion,” Jack Ainsworth, the Coastal Com­mis­sion’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, said in a state­ment.

“We are hope­ful that the day will come when the locks are cut off the gates and pub­lic can once again walk across the sand at Martins Beach and go for a swim,” he said.

Khosla’s at­tor­neys could not be reached for com­ment.

In a state­ment, Surfrider’s at­tor­neys said they ex­pected Khosla to take the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Allen J. Sch­aben Los An­ge­les Times

COT­TAGES over­look Martins Beach, where bil­lion­aire Vinod Khosla has blocked the only road to the sand. An ap­peals panel up­held a lower court’s or­der that Khosla un­lock the gate to the road, but he is ex­pected to take the fight over pub­lic beach en­try to higher courts.

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