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Billionare Vinod Khosla Battles to Block Public Access to Popular California Beach
Surfers have been battling with landowners over access to beaches on America’s West Coast for years, but NBC News reports that the highest profile case of the lot to date involves some hard line action from a surprising adversary – billionaire Democrat supporter, Vinad Khosla. Khosla made his fortune by cofounding Sun Microsystems and then poured his money into green energy ventures as well as the coffers of the Democratic Party. He later bought an 89-acre piece of prime real estate on Martin’s Beach, near Half Moon Bay in Northern California – a popular surfing spot to which the property’s previous owners had allowed access. San Mateo County told Khosla he would have to maintain public access to the beach, a dictate that he went to court over and then lost. After allowing access for two years, Khosla decided to go rogue – locking his gate, and adding security guards along with a sign stating “Beach closed, keep out.”
In 2012, five surfers decided to go rogue themselves, jumping the gate and going surfing despite the warnings. The “Martins Beach Five,” as they later came to be known, were arrested as soon as they came out of the water but later had the charges of criminal trespassing dropped. Jonathan Bremmer, one of the surfers, subsequently decided to later file a law suit against Khosla alleging he was violating state law by blocking access. Bremmer’s action was followed by a suit from the Surfrider Foundation accusing Khosla’s company of failing to seek permits necessary to change access through the property that were allowed by the previous owners.
But in the end, billions triumphed over boardriders, with Khosla winning the day in a legal victory late last year as a judge ruled he wasn’t breaking the law by blocking surfers due to a longstanding special land rights dating back to its pre-statehood Mexican owner. Khosla declined an interview with NBC News but said in several sources that his actions come down to protecting his freedom in the form of his private property rights – and also that he’s the victim of “bureaucratic overreach.”
The ruling is currently under review, and in June, 2014 California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill allowing fines of up to $11,500 per day against any property owner who illegally blocks public access to beaches. So for now Martins Beach is still open to the public but if Khosla is successful it may not be for long. Surfer Mike Wallace told NBC News he’s aware his days of riding local waves may be numbered, and the irony of the situation isn’t lost on him. “It’s really ironic that somebody with those kind of green venture capital credentials is trying to close a beautiful spot like this,” Wallace said.
Via NBC News
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