Billionaire Vinod Khosla Complains of “Disfavored Treatment” and Files Suit

October 14 2016

San Clemente, CA. October 14, 2016 – On September 30, the legal entities owned by billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, Martins Beach 1, LLC and Martins Beach 2, LLC, filed suit in the California state court against the California Coastal Commission, the State Lands Commission (SLC) and the County of San Mateo County Planning and Building Department, as well as the individuals associated with those bodies, alleging that they have coerced and harassed him in violation of the Equal Protection Clause and other constitutional law provisions.

This lawsuit appears to be a veiled effort to deter these public agencies from following through on their efforts to protect public trust resources – to open up the gates of Martin’s Beach, a picturesque beach just south of Half Moon Bay. The public had long visited the beach until it was sold in 2008 to a then-anonymous owner for $32.5 million. Not long after the property changed hands, the billboard was painted over and a keycard gate was closed permanently to the public.

Essentially, Khosla, standing behind his legal entities, is attempting to “scare off” these public servants from carrying out their duties to act in the public interest. Notably:

  • The State Lands Commission has been directed by SB 968 to enter into negotiations with Khosla to try to facilitate an easement to the public beach at Martin's Beach, and consider pursuit of eminent domain if negotiations are not successful. After nearly two years, negotiations have clearly not been successful, which leaves eminent domain (the option of last resort) as the logical next available option on the table.
  • Also of note, the California Coastal Commission has been investigating historical public use of and access to Martin's Beach. If the agency finds it has enough information to make the case, it could opt to recognize and protect prescriptive rights that may exist.

“Billionaire Vinod Khosla is using this litigation to continue to cut off a treasured community resource from public access. We have faith that the agencies will see through this strong-arm attempt and continue their valiant efforts to protect public access to public trust resources,” stated Angela Howe, Surfrider Foundation’s Legal Director. “We will continue to support the agencies in defending this unfounded lawsuit and in their directive to protect public trust resources and coastal access for all Californians.”

Learn more about Surfrider’s three-years-and-running court battle against Khosla’s illegal closure of Martin’s Beach here.