BAY AREA NEWS GROUP
By BAY AREA NEWS GROUP and ERIC KURHI |
PUBLISHED: October 26, 2017 at 12:00 am | UPDATED: September 11, 2018 at 12:00 am
HALF MOON BAY >> A billionaire fighting a court decision requiring him to allow access across his property to secluded Martins Beach suffered a loss when the California Supreme Court declined to take up an appeal.
The rejection was lauded by lawyers for the Surfrider Foundation, which sued for access on the grounds that venture capitalist Vinod Khosla never got permission to lock a gate that had been open to the public for generations.
“It’s a very, very good result for Surfrider and the public in general,” said attorney Eric Buescher of the law firm Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy. “It will have important ramifications for access throughout the state.”
The decision that occurred Wednesday means that if Khosla wants to further pursue an appeal, he would have to take it to the U.S. Supreme Court. His attorneys did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the decision.
In August, the First District Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled 3-0 that Khosla violated the California Coastal Act when he ended decades of public access to Martins Beach, south of Half Moon Bay, after he purchased the 89-acre property surrounding the crescent-shaped, cliff-lined beach.
Upholding a 2014 ruling by the San Mateo County Superior Court, the appeals court judges on Aug. 10 ordered Khosla to open the gates immediately. Not doing so could result in fines of more than $11,000 a day.
Around the beginning of October, the gate started being opened to the public “” sometimes. Coastal commission officials have said it has been open for only limited hours and does not meet the requirement that access be granted as it was before Khosla bought the property in 2008.
“How permanent and consistent it has been open is in question,” Buescher said, who added that if Khosla wants to deny access, he would have to approach the California Coastal Commission and San Mateo County for a permit to do so.
The court defeat comes after a legislative victory for Khosla earlier this month, when Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that sought to create a pot for money that could have been used to purchase an easement over a billionaire’s land to a popular beach. Brown said the bill did “not meet the intent” of author Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo County, because it limited the state’s options to seize the land.
Buescher said they expect Khosla to appeal the legal matter to the nation’s top court. He has 90 days to do so, but could get a 60-day extension.
Khosla’s attorneys have argued the case is a violation of his private property rights. They could not be reached for comment Thursday, but earlier this month lead attorney Dori Kilmer referred to a 2016 blog post with no further comment.
“When the new owner purchased the property in 2008, it was told by County and Coastal Commission staff that it could not make basic decisions about the private access road to the beach and the amount of the fee, thus, the owner had no choice but to assert its property rights,” reads the blog. “It is the inherent right of any property owner to start, close, continue, or discontinue any legal business.”