Martins Beach at sunset (Photo courtesy Shutterstock)

Supreme Court declines to hear Khosla appeal of Martins Beach public access case

Martins Beach on the San Mateo County coast will remain open to the public for at least the time being after the U.S. Supreme Court today refused to hear an appeal by the Silicon Valley venture capitalist who owns the property.

The high court declined without comment to take up entrepreneur Vinod Khosla’s appeal of lower court rulings requiring him to keep open the only road to the beach.

The Supreme Court’s action leave in place decisions in which San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach and a state appeals court said Khosla’s beach management companies would need a permit from the California Coastal Commission before changing the longtime public access to the beach.

The state courts ruled in a lawsuit filed by the San Clemente-based Surfrider Foundation.

Eric Buescher, a lawyer for the foundation, said, “This is a huge victory for the people of California. The court rejected an attempt to privatize a public resource.

“What was at stake was the right of the people of California to have access to beaches,” Buescher said.

Dori Yob Kilmer, a lawyer for Khosla’s companies, said in a statement, “We are disappointed the United States Supreme Court decided not to hear this important case. No owner of private business should be forced to obtain a permit from the government before deciding who it wants to invite onto its property.”

The attorney said Khosla will go ahead with applying for a Coastal Commission permit. Khosla, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, bought the property in 2008 and closed the access road in 2009.

The injunction issued by Mallach in 2014 requires Khosla to keep the access open in a way similar to the previous policy until and unless he obtains a Coastal Commission permit.

The previous owners kept the gate to the road open most of the time in daytime, had a welcome billboard and sometimes charged a parking fee. The beach was popular with surfers, families and people who fished.

Buescher said the access road has recently been open to the public most of the time following the lower court rulings. He said trial evidence in the case showed that beach access was open for a century and that four generations of some families had visited the shore.

The California Constitution provides that beaches on the seaward side of the high tide line belong to the people of California.

Khosla has argued that requiring him to open the access road was an unconstitutional taking of property without just compensation.

-Julie Cheever, Bay City News

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