March 12 2013

Surfrider Foundation Files Lawsuit Against Martin's Beach LLC

The Surfrider Foundation today escalated their three-year effort to re-open Martin’s Beach for surfers, fishermen and the general public. 

Led by surfing attorney Mark Massara and Eric Buescher of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, the Surfrider Foundation filed a lawsuit against Martin’s Beach LLC, the owners of Martin’s Beach Road for violation of the Coastal Act for failure to obtain a coastal development permit for the new gates and restrictive signage imposed over the access road to Martin’s Beach.

Martin’s Beach is a crescent-shaped stretch of sandy beach surrounded by high cliffs. Several years ago a limited liability corporation purchased the property and closed the road. Several newspapers have reported that the property was purchased by billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla.

“This case is clear and simple,” said Massara.  “The property owner failed to obtain, and does not have, legally required permits for the gate, armed security guards and other measures undertaken to suffocate public access to a beach open and enjoyed by visitors for almost 100 years.”

Allowing a once-open beach access road to suddenly close under new ownership is bad policy that should not be tolerated.  Surfrider Foundation San Mateo Chapter and their partners believe this issue must be taken on aggressively and in many venues.  This Coastal Act litigation is a strong and logical next step in the campaign to Open Martin’s Beach.

“Given a century of access by families, fishermen and surfers to this unique sandy jewel on the San Mateo Coast, we believe the closure of Martin's Beach is not only disrespectful but illegal, ” says Surfrider Foundation San Mateo Chapter Representative Michael Wallace. “The access road is the only way in and out, the new owner's defiance not only blocks off the beach to the public, but deprives visitors, former cabin owners and families of access to fond memories of idyllic life there, and the joy of sharing that with the next generation.”

“This lawsuit represents an opportunity to give back to the San Mateo community and to ensure that everybody, no matter how wealthy or well connected, follows the laws in California which protect the coast and ensure access to California’s beaches,” Mr. Buescher, an attorney with Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy said.

Former San Mateo Congressman Pete McCloskey, co-founder of the first Earth Day and lead author of the Endangered Species Act, who worked with Massara on behalf of Surfrider Foundation to win the largest clean water action in American history in 1990 against two paper pulp mills in Humboldt County said, "I wish I were younger and had been with the five young surfers who broke the chain across the only access road to force recognition of the public's historic legal access to beautiful beach.”

For background information and photos of Martin’s Beach, please visit the Surfrider Foundation’s Press Center.