Martin's Beach in Half Moon Bay, California, is a beautiful stretch of sandy beach that has been enjoyed by locals and visitors for generations. This crescent-shaped beach is surrounded by high cliffs on either side and has one main road for ingress and egress. Unfortunately, after a sale to a new property owner in 2008, the road was eventually gated and signs were put up in an effort to make the beach private. The closure of Martin's Beach was a travesty to the locals that would visit the popular beach on a regular basis and to the visitors that would sometimes drive hours to spend the day at this special spot. Martin's Beach was a site for not only surfing, but also fishing, picknicking, and enjoying the beautiful coastal scenary and sea life. This was a spot where granddaughters learned how to smelt fish with their grandfathers, birthdays were celebrated, and surf classes were taught. However, the chances for future generations to make memories at Martin's Beach were brought to an abrupt halt when the locked gates and signs were erected at the entrance to the beach road. This is why Surfrider Foundation started the Open Martin's Beach campaign and why we filed suit on March 12th, 2013.
Early 1900s: The Deeney family purchases property adjacent to Martin’s Beach.
Early 1920s: The Deeneys lease Martin’s Beach to the Watts family, who manage the beach and visitor amenities. begin allowing visitors to drive down to the beach.
1976: The California Coastal Act is enacted. Underpinned by the Public Trust Doctrine, the act seeks to protect and maximize public access to the coast, amongst other things.
1991: The Deeneys assume control of managing Martin’s Beach and continue the practice of allowing people to visit, mostly during the summer, in exchange for a parking fee.
May 2008: With regard to public access at Martin’s Beach, San Mateo County Planning and Building Department tells Steven Baugher, manager of Martins Beach I and II, LLCs, that public access has existed and that it will need to continue to be preserved. Notably, this communication occurred prior to purchase of the property.
2008: The Deeneys sell two parcels of land adjacent to Martin’s Beach to billionaire Vinod Khosla, who acquires the land under the names Martins Beach I, LLC and Martins Beach II, LLC. He pays $32.5 million for the property, which totals 53 acres. (The price of the acquisition has long been reported as $37.5 million. However, Martins Beach LLC property manager Steve Baugher clarified the price during trial.) This land encompasses Martins Beach Rd, which is the only access way between Highway 1 and Martin's Beach. At this time, the beach continues to be accessible to the public, and it is not public knowledge that Khosla is behind the LLCs.
2010: After two years of complying with San Mateo County's request to maintain access to the beach, Martins Beach LLC permanently locks the gate to the public. Visitor logs show 1,044 vehicles visited Martins Beach from July 2008 to September 2009.
Aug. 3, 2011: Mike Wallace and Edmundo Larenas of the Surfrider Foundation San Mateo County Chapter pen and send a letter to Vinod Khosla, who was then only speculated as the property owner, to ask that he consider restoring public access to Martin’s Beach.
Aug. 16, 2011: First batch of letters from citizens asking the California Coastal Commission to take action to restore access is delivered to Commission
Sept. 12, 2011: Over a month after the initial letter was sent, a response to the chapter’s letter to Khosla is received from Joan Gallo of Hopkins & Carley, LLP. It states that “once the fundamental legal question is resolved [by the courts], I will be happy to discuss access arrangements” and asks that the chapter “respect Mr. Khosla’s privacy.” Chapter sends a reply letter to Ms. Gallo, again requesting that Mr. Khosla consider discussing restoration of public access. No response is received.
July 2012: Rally to Open Martin’s Beach is held.
Oct. 2012: Five surfers walk down Martins Beach Rd. to surf at Martin’s Beach. While there, they are stopped by the San Mateo County Sheriff and cited for trespassing. Their story is captured in a short documentary film by The Inertia and filmmaker Richard Yelland entitled Martin’s 5: Battle for the Beach.
A group called Friends of Martins Beach sues Martins Beach LLC on a various grounds, including the claim that cutting off access to the beach violated Article 10, Section 4 of the California Constitution regarding public access to navigable water. Through discovery on this lawsuit, it is definitively determined that Vinod Khosla is the owner behind Martins Beach I and II, LLCs. See http://www.surfrider.org/coastal-blog/entry/martins-beach-litigation-update
Feb. 7, 2013: Martin’s 5 are arraigned and judge finds that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute. The charges are dropped and the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office states that people seeking to access Martin’s Beach will not be prosecuted until the access issue is formally resolved.
March 12, 2013: The Surfrider Foundation sues Martins Beach LLC, claiming that blocking access to the beach required a coastal development permit, which Khosla neither sought nor obtained. http://www.surfrider.org/coastal-blog/entry/surfrider-foundation-sues-to-open-martins-beach-to-the-public
Spring 2013: Judges deny requests by Khosla's attorneys to issue temporary restraining orders to keep the public off the beach while trials are under way.
Oct. 24, 2013: San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Buchwald unfavorably rules on Friends of Martin's Beach v. Martins Beach I and II, LLC
Nov. 2013: Surfrider launches a public letter-writing campaign to Khosla, asking him to begin a dialogue with the community regarding public access to Martin’s Beach. 1728 letters were sent.
Feb. 3, 2014: An Open Letter to Vinod Khosla is published online
Feb. 10, 2014: California State Senator Jerry Hill (D – San Mateo) introduces SB 968, a bill aimed at restoring public access to Martin’s Beach. The bill directs the State Lands Commission to negotiate a right of way or easement from the property owner to facilitate public access to Martin’s Beach. If access cannot be negotiated by 2016, the Commission may acquire the land using other mechanisms, such as eminent domain.
May 2014: Khosla is required to testify in the Surfrider trial. During his testimony, he says he cannot recall important details relating to the purchase, use, or management of the property. (Full testimony can be viewed here: http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_26132020/document-vinod-khoslas-testimony-martins-beach-trial) This is the first and one of the only times Khosla has publicly discussed Martin’s Beach.
June 4, 2014: Friends of Martin's Beach appeals decision of San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Buchwald
July 16, 2014: Closing arguments of Surfrider Foundation v. Martins Beach I and II, LLCs.
July 24, 2014: California Coastal Commission begin process of collecting beach access declarations from past visitors of Martin's Beach
Aug. 21, 2014: SB 968 (Hill) passes through the California State Legislature.
Sept. 24, 2014: San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Mallach tentatively rules on Surfrider Foundation v. Martins Beach I and II, LLCs and finds that Khosla has indeed engaged in unpermitted development, which requires a coastal development permit.
Sept. 30, 2014: Governor Jerry Hill signs SB 968 into law, thus creating a state-led process for acquiring access to Martin's Beach
Nov. 12, 2014: Judge Mallach issues Final Ruling on Surfrider Foundation v. Martins Beach I and II, LLCs
Dec. 5, 2014: Judge Mallach issues Final Order to cease unpermitted development and open the gate to Martin's Beach Rd.
Dec. 16, 2014: Attorneys for Martins Beach I and II, LLC file a Notice of Intent to Move for a New Trial, seeking a new trial and presumably different decision than what was handed down by Judge Mallach in Surfrider Foundation v. Martins Beach I and II, LLCs
Dec. 21, 2014: First report of gate being opened in response to court order. Unfortunately, subsequent accounts report the gate open only periodically.
Jan. 1, 2015: Senate Bill 968 goes into effect: stating the State Lands Commission and Khosla to negotiate beach access by December 31, 2015.
Feb. 6, 2015: Judge Mallach denies request for a trial.
Feb. 13, 2015: Attorneys for Martins Beach I and II, LLC file a Notice of Appeal of San Mateo County Superior Court decision on Surfrider Foundation v. Martins Beach I and II, LLC, and seek to close the beach citing evidence visitors have trespassed, vandalized the gate and even made death threats against the property manager.
July 20, 2015: Surfrider Foundation holds public workshop to solicit input from public on public access preferences with concern to Martin's Beach and ongoing efforts to secure public access to the beach. A summary report from the workshop can be found here.
Oct. 15, 2015: California State Lands Commission makes an offer to purchase an easement from Vinod Khosla. Offer is not responded to, but counter offer to “trade” for another public beach in California is put on the table by Khosla.
Nov. 23, 2015: Opening brief filed with the California 1st District Court of Appeals by attorneys for Martins Beach I and II, LLC.
Dec. 31, 2015: Last day required for formal negotiations between California State Lands Commission and Vinod Khosla before the Commission may consider alternative means for acquiring an easement to facilitate access to Martin's Beach.
Sept. 30, 2016: Khosla (as Martins Beach I and II, LLCs) files suit against the California Coastal Commission, California State Lands Commission, and San Mateo County Planning and Building Department, as well as individuals associated with those bodies.
December 5, 2016: State Senator Jerry Hill introduces Senate Bill 42 to establish an account for aggregating funds for acquiring an easement to and along Martins Beach, and to appropriate funds.
August 9, 2017: The Surfrider Foundation prevailed in the appellate court litigation to open Martins Beach. The California Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District ruled that the trial court’s judgment in Surfrider’s favor is affirmed and awarded costs on appeal. “This is not simply a win for surfers in San Mateo County,” said Surfrider's Legal Director Angela Howe. “This is a win for all of the beach-going public that wish to enjoy California's beautiful 1100 mile coastline.”
Sept./Oct. 2017: SB 42 passes the state legislature, but is vetoed by Governor Brown because, due to an amendment in the legislative process, the bill language is not expansive enough to allow the State Lands Commission to use funds from the subaccount to support acquisition via eminent domain, and he felt it was important to preserve eminent domain as an option.
Late 2017/Early 2018: Senator Hill works with the Governor’s office and State Lands Commission to develop agreeable language for 2018 legislation to create the Martins Beach subaccount in the Kapiloff Land Bank Fund and authorize a transfer of up to $1 million from the Land Bank Fund into the subaccount.
February 22, 2018: On February 22, Khosla, via Martins Beach I and II, LLCs, filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court.
April 2, 2018: Notice of Appeal of Friends of Martins Beach case sent to California Appellate Court.
June 13, 2018: Surfrider Foundation files Brief in Opposition in response to Vinod Khosla's Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court.
June 27, 2018: Surfrider celebrates legislative win for Martins Beach: California's Governor and legislature take a stand to permanently restore public access by passing and signing into law legislation that authorizes funding for the state to acquire an easement or right of way to Martins Beach.
Timeline initially inspired by list of relevant dates featured in Mercury News