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Lawsuit to Open Martin’s Beach Goes to Trial

April 30 2014 | Beach Access, Legal,
by Chad Nelsen

One year after filing suit to open access to Martin’s Beach, a well-loved beach and surf spot south of Half Moon Bay, California, the Surfrider Foundation’s lawsuit is set for trial on Monday, May 5 at 9 a.m. PDT.

Surfrider Foundation challenges that property owner and billionaire venture capitalist, Vinod Khosla, violated the California Coastal Act when he posted signage to detour visitors and closed the only public access road to Martin's Beach, after purchasing his 200-acre development in 2008. This ended decades of enjoyment of the beach by the community and visitors who happened upon the picturesque hideaway.

“Surfrider’s lawsuit is about requiring Mr. Khosla to comply with the same laws, rules and regulations that every other person in the state is required to follow,” says Eric Buescher of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, outside counsel for Surfrider Foundation on the case. “Surfrider’s suit presents an important issue regarding regulatory compliance with the Coastal Act, and seeks to protect the public’s rights to access the coast in the face of increasing efforts to privatize coastal property throughout the state.”

While a favorable decision on this matter may not immediately open Martin’s Beach to the public, it would require the property owner to adhere to the law and seek a permit for the development which prevents public access, and would give the California Coastal Commission and the public an opportunity to have a say in the matter.

Surfrider Foundation encourages members of the public to get involved. Here’s how:

1. Attend the trial (wear blue!) during the week of Monday, May 5

Location: San Mateo County Superior Court, 400 County Center, Redwood City, CA 94063. 

For time and courtroom assignment info, please check back Monday on http://martinsbeach.blogspot.com

2. Write a letter supporting a California bill to open Martin’s Beach: http://tinyurl.com/support-sb968

3. Write to Vinod Khosla, the property owner:  http://tinyurl.com/write-khosla

4. Tweet Vinod Khosla and encourage him to open Martin's Beach at: @vkhosla

5. Join the Surfrider Foundation: http://surfrider.org/join

 

Other happenings to secure access to this public beach are underway.

In late 2012 Redenbacher and Brown, LLC, a Santa Cruz-based firm filed a separate lawsuit aimed at reopening access to Martin’s Beach on behalf of a group known as the Friends of Martin’s Beach.  This case, which takes a broader approach and argues that the California Constitution prohibits an individual or entity from preventing the public access to public beaches, was heard last year and an appeal is anticipated. 

In February 2014 State Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) introduced legislation to establish permanent public access to Martin’s Beach.  His bill, SB 968, would require the State Lands Commission to negotiate purchase of a right-of-way from the property owner to facilitate public access to the beach.  If purchase cannot be negotiated by 2016, the Commission would acquire the property via eminent domain. 
For more information about Surfrider’s Open Martin’s Beach campaign, please visit, http://martinsbeach.blogspot.com.

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