Photo of closed beach via Shutterstock

When wealthy venture capitalist Vinod Khosla shut down public access to Martin’s Beach–one of California’s “hidden jewels”–he incurred the wrath of the local community. For well over a century, the surfers, fishermen, and picnicking families enjoyed access to Martin’s Beach via a private toll road; however, Khosla has blocked that road, thereby shutting the public out from the public beach. Despite protests, a San Mateo County judge recently ruled in favor of the rich billionaire’s right to lock out the local community.

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Image via bradleygee

Located about 35 miles south of San Francisco, the 200-acre, crescent-shaped beach has long been revered as a prized surf spot. Bookended by steep cliffs, Martin’s Beach is only accessible by way of a single private road. For over 100 years, the property around the beach was owned by the Deeney family, who allowed visitors fee-based access. When Khosla bought up the property for $37.5 million in 2008, however, he immediately constructed a gate at the top of the private road with a sign that read: “Beach closed, keep out.”

Outraged at the idea that wealth could so easily take away public access, the local community has fought back with lawsuits. One group who filed suit cited the California Constitution, which specifically states that beachfront property owners cannot prevent the public from having access to the beach. Late last month, however, Superior Court Judge Gerald Buchwald ruled that Khosla’s property was exempt from the California law due to a special land patent granted in the mid-19th century.

Undeterred, a second group of surfers have filed a separate lawsuit that accuses Khosla of having violated the California Coastal Act when he built locked gates and painted over billboards without the necessary permits.