Martins Beach: Appeals court hands Khosla win and loss

Jim Gensheimer/staff archives (2015)

By Aaron Kinney |

PUBLISHED: April 27, 2016 at 10:26 am | UPDATED: March 10, 2017 at 4:43 pm

SAN FRANCISCO “” A state appellate court gave Silicon Valley investor Vinod Khosla some good news and bad news Wednesday in a lawsuit involving public access to Martins Beach, a cove near Half Moon Bay.

In a 52-page opinion, the 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco upheld the main element of San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Gerald Buchwald’s 2014 decision in Khosla’s favor. The court found the public does not have the right under the California constitution to cross Khosla’s property to reach the shoreline.

“We view this decision as a win for our client and for all coastal property owners,” said Dori Yob, one of Khosla’s attorneys.

But the court also reversed a key part of the decision. That part of the dispute will return to the Hall of Justice in Redwood City for trial, according to Gary Redenbacher, the attorney for plaintiff Friends of Martins Beach.

Redenbacher argued that the previous owners of Martins Beach, the Deeney family, dedicated the road leading to the beach for permanent public use by charging a parking fee, operating a convenience store, and advertising that the beach was open to the public.

It’s unclear when the trial will begin, but Redenbacher said he’s confident he’ll prevail.

“It’s just a matter of time, as far as I’m concerned, before that road is open to the public,” Redenbacher said.

The appellate panel also rejected Buchwald’s unusual finding that Khosla owned the tidal zone and submerged land off the coast of Martins Beach, which Khosla bought for $32.5 million in 2008.

The lawsuit is one of two seeking to restore public access to the beach. The other one, brought by the Surfrider Foundation, is also under appeal.

In a separate matter, the California State Lands Commission is expected in coming months to decide whether to use eminent domain to buy access to the beach along Martins Beach Road, a private road off Highway 1.