The California Coastal Commission issued a violation notice to Vinod Khosla this week to address the locked gates and blockage of coastal access as an unpermitted violation of the public access provisions of the Coastal Act. In the Notice of Intent to Commence Cease and Desist Order and Administrative Civil Penalties Proceedings, the Coastal Commission threatens to fine the Martins Beach property owner up to $11,250 per day (or $4.1 million per year) for up to five years. Despite this powerful enforcement authority, the Commission's Executive Director did state at the outset of the letter that “the Commission staff strongly desire to work with you to resolve these violations amicably, and remain willing and ready to discuss options to resolve the various Coastal Act violations on your property through a negotiated settlement.” In the notice letter, the Commission referenced Surfrider's strong Appellate Court victory on this issue to point out the court-affirmed violation of the Coastal Act.
The Commission clearly states that there is a vioaltion of the Coastal Act section 30600(a) and Section 1.1 of the San Mateo County Local Coastal Program which requires a Coastal Development Permit for any change in the intensity of use of land. The activity to limit access of the beach constitutes development, including the placement and closure of a locked gate across Martins Beach Road, the placement of various “no-trespassing” and “beach closed” signs, and a substantial increase in parking fees over the years (when access was allowed).
Property owner Vinod Khosla will have an opportunity to submit a Statement of Defense to the Commission, which is due on October 4, 2017. The consent proceeding does allow negotiation to find a mutual resolution to this issue, but as we know, negotiation efforts have failed time and again with Mr. Khosla. Thankfully, we have the California Coastal Act to ultimately guarantee access here.
In other news on September 18, 2017, as expected, Vinod Khosla issued a Petition for Review to the California Supreme Court in an attempt to bring Surfrider back to court to defend our Appellate Court ruling.
Finally, in the California legislature, Senate Bill 42, the bill to address loss of access at this treasured beach, is on the Governor's desk waiting for signature. If it becomes law, this bill will establish the Martin's Beach Subaccount (“Subaccount”) in the Kapiloff Land Bank Fund managed by the State Lands Commission, to allow the Commission to receive funds from public and private sources to fund acquisition of a right-of-way or easement for a public access route to and along Martins Beach in unincorporated San Mateo County at South Cabrillo Highway. The bill would also authorize the allocation of up to $1 million from the Land Bank Fund to the Subaccount to put to use toward acquisition of a right-of-way or easement. It is an extension of the multi-year effort of the State Lands Commission to also guarantee access to the state's public trust resources at Martins Beach.