October 01 2018
The Surfrider Foundation, a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s ocean, waves and beaches, celebrates a landmark victory today in the battle to open Martins Beach and public access to California beaches for this and future generations.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to deny billionaire property owner Vinod Kholsa’s request to take up the beach access case, ‘Surfrider Foundation v. Martins Beach I and II, LLC et al,’ validates the Surfrider Foundation’s win in the California courts and preserves beach access protections mandated in the California Coastal Act.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision to deny review solidifies the state’s purview over beach access issues and management of public trust resources. It illustrates the strength and importance of beach access rights in California law, including the California Coastal Act,” said Surfrider’s Legal Director, Angela Howe, Esq. “This win helps to secure beach access for all people, as is enshrined in our laws. The Surfrider Foundation will always fight to preserve the rights of the many from becoming the assets of the few.”
After beachfront property owner and billionaire, Vinod Khosla, blocked existing historic public access to Martins Beach in San Mateo County, California, the Surfrider Foundation San Mateo County Chapter started a campaign to restore public beach access. In 2013, the Surfrider Foundation filed a lawsuit to enforce the public access protections mandated by the California Coastal Act. The Surfrider Foundation won the case at both the trial and appellate court levels, and the California Supreme Court denied the property owner’s appeal for review. The rulings held that the property owner’s conduct of blocking access to Martins Beach – which included a locked gate, a security guard, and the covering of a sign that advertised beach access – was considered ‘development’ under the Coastal Act and therefore required a Coastal Development Permit.
However, rather than applying for a permit as required by the California Coastal Act, Vinod Khosla filed a Petition forWrit ofCertiorari, to ask the nation’s highest court to review the California state court decisions regarding the applicability of the California Coastal Act and access to Martins Beach. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to grant that review, upholding the California Coastal Act and the state court’s demand that Khosla must apply for a permit to limit beach access. Unless and until that permit is granted, Khosla must not inhibit beach access and must keep the accessway open as it had been for generations prior to his purchase of the land.
“Today’s decision is a significant win for beach access rights across the nation,” saidEric Buescher of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, representing the Surfrider Foundation. “By declining to hear the case, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected the owner’s attempt to purchase a public resource. We’re grateful the California Coastal Act’s promise that the beach cannot be bought, but instead belongs to the public, has survived a billionaire’s whims which risked gutting the statute’s protections.”
Beaches in California are public trust resources. By law, the public has the right to beach access in the state of California from the mean high tide down. This right to public accessis guaranteed by the state’s constitution and mandated within the California Coastal Act.
For more than 100 years prior to Khosla's purchase, public access provided by previous owners enabled families, friends and children to spent time at Martins Beach, a sandy stretch of coast near Half Moon Bay, California. Hundreds of people have publicly shared their stories about multiple generations that enjoyed annual traditions, special celebrations, the ocean and waves, and family gatherings at their public beach. However, this history of use by local communities and the publicwas disrupted when the gate leading to the only accessway to the coast, Martins Beach Road, was closed and locked so that the public could no longer access the beach.
“It is important that public access to our shared coastline is protected and preserved, and that threats to access are challenged,” said John Claussen, chair of the Surfrider Foundation San Mateo County Chapter. “Martins Beach is just one example of that struggle, and we will continue to stand up to preserve the public's right to use the coast throughout San Mateo County, the state and the nation.”
About the Surfrider Foundation
The Surfrider Foundation is a nonprofit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s ocean, waves and beaches through a powerful network. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers in Malibu, California, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains more than one million supporters, activists and members, with over 160 volunteer-led chapters and student clubs in the U.S., and more than 500 victories protecting our coasts. Learn more at surfrider.org.
About Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy
Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP is dedicated to the community. The firm believes it has a responsibility to not only its clients but the community at large. CPM represents people or entities in cases involving just principles or causes. The key to CPM’s success is its experienced attorneys and staff and their innovative approach to litigating complex matters in a cost-effective and efficient manner. The firm’s clients include individuals, corporations, nonprofit organizations, municipalities and other public entities, pension funds, unions and their representatives, banks, business professionals, physicians, policyholders, homeowners, shareholders, and consumers.