The California State Lands Commission and Coastal Commission filed a lawsuit against tech billionaire Vinod Khosla on 6 December 2020, Monday for allegedly restricting people from accessing Martins beach in San Mateo County. The San Mateo spot is popular among locals and tourists for surfing and fishing.
He was reported to breach California's Constitution. The constitution guarantees public access to all costal beaches below the mean high tide line. Moreover, as per the California Coastal Act of 1976 requires that the state “maximize public access” to coastal areas.
As a matter of fact, the legal battle was around a decade long bitter battle. The series of exhaustive legal fights spanned more than a decade since 2010, after he began blocking people from accessing the beach.
Back in 2008, venture capitalist Khosla purchased two large pieces of land next to the Half Moon Bay beach for $32 million. The properties also included the public path to the sand and surf, over the years, he has fought to keep the public off his land, limiting access to the beachgoers.
Moreover, in 2012, two non-profit organizations, the Surfrider Foundation and Friends of Martin’s Beach, sued Khosla with two different lawsuits demanding access to the public beach.
According to CNN, "On Monday, the California State Lands Commission and the California Coastal Commission announced the state was taking on Khosla and had filed a lawsuit to restore full public access to Martin’s Beach."
When asked about the case, The California Coastal Commission Chair Steve Padilla stated, “This case goes to the heart of California’s public access mandate." He also called Khosla’s actions “a dangerous precedent for the future of public access in California.”
In response, attorney of Khosla, Dori Yob Kilmer said, “Since the property was purchased by our client, the state, and small activist groups, have endeavored to seize our client’s private property without compensation."
Kilmer further added, "While such tactics are commonplace in communist systems, they have never been tolerated in the American system where the US Constitution precludes the government from simply taking private property and giving it to the public.”
Khosla has not still given the permit. After the Supreme Court decision, he has opened the gate from 9 am to 4:30 pm for the public.
The motorists are charged around $10 for parking their vehicles at the beach.
A source speculated that if the commission wins, it will be virtually impossible for Khosla to obtain a permit from the Coastal Commission to close the gate. Moreover, he would end up with fines of $20 million for illegally earning from the parking fee.
Vinod Khosla is a silicon valley billionaire entrepreneur and venture capitalist. He is the founder of Khosla Ventures and co-founder of Sun Microsystems.
As of January 2020, Vinod Khosla is estimated to have a net worth of $2.5 billion.