State senator introduces bill to reopen public access to Martin's Beach

By Sasha Lekach | Bay City News Service

Legislation introduced Monday would help restore public access to a popular surfing beach near Half Moon Bay that has been blocked off since 2010 by the property owner, Portola Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla.

State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, introduced a bill that would reopen the road to Martin's Beach, located just off state Highway 1 a few miles south of Half Moon Bay.

A gate was put up along the road in 2010 and there are signs deterring beachgoers from going through the property to get to the shore.

Surfers and other protesters have gone past the gate to get to the beach and in 2012 a group of five surfers was arrested for trespassing on the property.

The San Mateo County District Attorney's Office dropped charges in that case.

Two lawsuits have been filed against the landowner, Mr. Khosla, who purchased the property in 2008 for $37.5 million, according to Sen. Hill's office. Both suits have attempted to regain public access to the waves.

Last October, a San Mateo County Superior Court judge ruled in one of the suits filed by an attorney on behalf of the group "Friends of Martin's Beach" that the property belonged to Mr. Khosla and leaves its usage up to him. That decision effectively makes the only way to access the secluded shoreline by water and the ruling is being appealed.

A separate lawsuit filed last March by the Burlingame-based Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy law firm on behalf of the Surfrider Foundation is scheduled to go to court in May. In that case, the Surfrider Foundation is arguing that Mr. Khosla failed to obtain a proper permit for the gate and restrictive signs and is violating the California Coastal Act.

Sen. Hill has proposed requiring the State Lands Commission to enter into negotiations with the property owner to make a portion of the property a public access road.

If Mr. Khosla cannot negotiate a deal within a year, a portion of the property would be acquired by the commission through eminent domain and a public road would be created, according to Sen. Hill's proposed legislation.

If the bill passes and is signed by the governor, it would go into effect as soon as January 2015.

Following enactment, there is a one-year time period until January 2016 allotted for negotiations before the road could be opened to the public, Sen. Hill's spokeswoman Leslie Guevarra said.

— Bay City News Service


Posted by Matthew Self, a resident of another community
on Feb 10, 2014 at 10:32 pm

Way to go, Jerry Hill!

It is a critical public interest to retain public access to our beaches. If this access can be bought up and closed off, then others will follow. I'm glad our tech industry creates great private wealth, but that wealth should not result in losing access to our public beaches.

Posted by Beach Comber, a resident of another community
on Feb 11, 2014 at 12:57 pm

I agree wholeheartedly with Matthew Self. Access to our public beaches is a fundamental right under California State Law. Allowing a landowner to abruptly cut off historic access is wrong. I hope it won't come to eminent domain, but that Mr. Khosla will come to understand that barring the public from accessing a beach that they and their families have accessed for generations is wrong and he will come to the table to negotiate viable public access so that everyone wins.

Posted by question mark, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 11, 2014 at 6:37 pm

Does anyone know if the new owner is even a US citizen?? Sad if he could buy what belong to all Californians.

Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 12, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

So what the courts have stipulated, a State Senator wants to take away? And force someone to negotiate by LAW?

Simply an OUTRAGEOUS take on behalf of and by the Government.

This has NOTHING to do with Access, this is PRIVATE land that has deeded restriction that the Court held up and now some surfers and a Senator want to take it back. What ever happened to land rights? Do you all want the Government to demand that you negotiate a better deal next time you buy/sell your home?

Offensive indeed.....and my guess is that the law will not hold up in court. Just Government money wasted to appease some constituents. Scandalous, wasteful, and shameful.

Roy Thiele-Sardina

Posted by pvrez, a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Feb 12, 2014 at 5:42 pm

@Beach Comber & Matthew Self

so if descendent's of the Ohlone would like access to your back yard because they used it for generations, you wouldn't mind if the government seized it and gave it to them would you?

the property is privately owned and Khosla gets to decide who has access. if you want to surf there, take a boat.

Posted by Patriot , a resident of another community
on Feb 13, 2014 at 10:02 am

We have two foundational documents that protect access to beaches, the California Constitution (1879) and the California Coastal Act (1972). California has a long and active history of beach access protection and there is extensive community support, both private and public. The issue of Martin's Beach does not revolve around surfing, just because surfers benefit from beach access does not diminish the importance of upholding our Constitutional rights.

The new legislation requires Vinod Khosla to be held to the law, just like the rest of us. Khosla and his team have failed to apply for permits, failed to follow court orders, and failed to follow law. The legislation does nothing but give Khosla and his team one year to comply with these laws and work through the permitting process with San Mateo county and the Coastal Commission. Since he was forcibly exposed as the owner earlier this year, Khosla has remained silent on this issue.[Portion removed. Don't speculate on other posters.]

As I was there only yesterday and personally escorted news crews down to the beach, I can guarantee Martin's remains beautiful and garbage-free, awaiting a visit from you and your family. Don't worry, the Sheriff's Office and District Attorney are refusing to prosecute illegitimate trespassing charges!

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 13, 2014 at 10:28 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Irony = An anonymous person calling himself 'Patriot' accuses someone else of "post comments using secrecy and subterfuge to forward his agenda."

Who is Patriot?

Where does he live? The exact street address please so that we can come visit you with outré news cameras.

Posted by Mike Keenly, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 13, 2014 at 12:10 pm

There's nothing outrageous here. Sen. Hill's legislation proposes to negotiate with the property owner. If the negotiation is not successful, then the state can acquire a section of the property by eminent domain, which it has the right to do.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 13, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

If the state wants access there is farm property on either side of the Martin's beach property that the state could acquire with much less difficulty and cost, and once at the high water mark people can walk anywhere else below the high water mark.

Posted by Coastsider, a resident of another community
on Feb 13, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Interesting to hear what the denizens of Menlo Park and Atherton have to say about this. I hear surfer-bashing and "so if descendent's [sic]of the Ohlone would like access to your back yard because they used it for generations, you wouldn't mind if the government seized it..."

Wrong. This issue is much different than someone wanting access across your backyard, unless you happen to live on beachfront property in Portola Valley (hah!) California law treats beach access differently than other types of access because the California Constitution recognizes the public's right to use our public beaches. Generations of families, up until the day when Khosla padlocked the gate, accessed that beach. Families. Children. Parents. And surfers and beach-combers. We picnicked and played in the sand and the surf. Then a billionaire bought the property and locked the gate. Good for Jerry Hill for listening to his constituents and taking on this issue.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community
on Feb 13, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Since this is complicated by historic land grand rights, it'll be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

Posted by Mike Keenly, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 13, 2014 at 4:46 pm

If you'd like to read about what's happening in the courts, you can use the following San Mateo County weblink (enter Case number 520336):

Web Link

Posted by HAH, a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Feb 13, 2014 at 9:23 pm

@Roy Thiele-Sardiña
[Portion removed; stick to the issue and avoid personal attacks.] Oh and by the way, no one owns the beaches.

Web Link

Posted by tom h, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 15, 2014 at 9:04 am

hello it's the peoples beach we pay for it, duh

Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 17, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.


Not sure what offensive comment the editor took out....

I never said they should't have access o the Beach. it is the law. However crossing someones private property to get it IS NOT OK. and taking that property to get access is also not OK.


Posted by Old MP, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 25, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Folks - this article does not mention the foundation for Kholsa's claim to his right to close off the property:

From the SF Chronicle 10/28/2013:
..."Buchwald ruled that because of a clause in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that required the United States to recognize Mexican land grants as long as the owner filed a claim - and a unique situation in which the original Mexican owner passed his 1865 patent for the beachfront property down through the generations - Khosla has the right to block public access to the road leading to the beach, despite the public trust doctrine of the California Constitution."

Like it or not, he's got a pretty good real estate lawyer! Given the above, eminent domain seems to be the only answer. Or as suggested above, buy a portion of adjacent property and create beach access that way.

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