Beach Access, Updates, Martin's Beach
January 26 2018

Martins Beach: The Battle Continues

by Jennifer Savage

Attempts to wrest back access to Martins Beach from billionaire Vinod Khosla ramped up last year culminating in both good news – a court victory – and bad – Governor Jerry Brown vetoed legislation by state Senator Jerry Hill that would have enabled the state to purchase the easement leading to Martins Beach.  

The Surfrider Foundation has worked diligently to open Martins Beach since 2010, when property owner Vinod Khosla locked the gates permanently to keep the public out. Surfrider has attempted to engage Khosla to work out a reasonable access plan, but has been met with litigious responses and accusations of blackmail. To open access to Martins Beach, Surfrider has worked on several fronts in addition to this litigation, including advocating to the Board of Supervisors in San Mateo County; advocating for the State Lands Commission to exercise eminent domain to acquire an easement to the beach; supporting state Senator Jerry Hill’s legislation SB 968 and SB 42, and supporting the defense of the Martins Beach 5.

In 2018, we remain determined to regain the right-of-way thousands of visitors to Martins Beach enjoyed prior to Khosla's illegal closing of the gate. After all, California's Coastal Act guarantees what should be a right everywhere, that all people can enjoy the ocean, beaches and waves regardless of income, background or where they own property.

Among our actions:

Surfrider Foundation's California staff and legal team is continuing to support Senator Hill's efforts around eminent domain.

We're preparing to, if necessary, argue our case at the U.S. Supreme Court. Khosla lawyers have until February 22 to file a request to be heard at the top level.

We're continuing to advocate at the California Coastal Commission and State Lands Commission to ensure our state agencies are pursuing all available options.  

Khosla's actions are not only illegal, but heartbreaking for so many longtime visitors to Martins Beach. Like Marilyn Barcellos, who wrote a letter to the California Coastal Commission last year and has allowed Surfrider to share it:

"Martin’s Beach is the only beach our families have been going to for over 120 years.  It’s our favorite beach in the world. My mother is 93 and her parents took her there when she was a child... We have been sickened these recent years not having access to this beach… it’s completely heart breaking. My husband’s family and my family have been going there since the beginning probably.  I know my grandfather went there, and his parents probably took him there… My Grandfather died around 1973 at the age of 81.  My mother is 93 now and still sharp as a tack.  She spoke at one of your meetings last year, of her lifelong experience being able to go to Martin’s Beach. I’m 69 now and I’ve been going there since we were tiny kids. My mother’s grandchildren and our nephews and nieces and THEIR children have been going there... until the gate got LOCKED by some 'rich' guy. So unkind... if you do the math above you can figure out that our families have been going there, weekly, monthly to enjoy the beach as families and to fish.  The fishing there was always great!  We’ve been going to this beach as far back as 1880 or before... Doesn’t the public deserve continued access to this beach based on precedence? I wouldn’t think it would hurt someone to share the beach with people who absolutely love it and have been respectful of it for so many years. WE ALL MISS MARTINS BEACH. IT WAS OUR FAMILY MEETING GROUND."

What may seem like a small issue, the closure or prevention of full public access to a single beach in an area that's relatively remote, we see as a matter of principle. The beach belongs to us all.