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Legal Blow for Vinod Khosla, Indian American Billionaire, in Martin's Beach Dispute


May 14 :
SFO, Northern California — A court in Northern California has sided with the government in its decision to open a beach adjacent to billionaire Vinod Khosla's property to the public, ending a lengthy legal struggle that began over ten years ago.
In 2008, the venture capitalist and Sun Microsystems co-founder acquired the 89-acre parcel of land. Almost immediately after that, Khosla secured the entrance to a narrow asphalt road that leads to the stunning Martin's Beach. Those who jumped the fence in defiance of the "No Trespassing" sign were first cited by the beach's security personnel.

For more than 150 years, surfers and fishers frequented the crescent-shaped beach. The beach, which was once owned by the Deeney family but is now open to the public for a nominal parking fee, was a popular spot for families to enjoy sunny afternoon picnics.

All beaches in California are publicly owned and maintained according to the Coastal Act of 1976. In a previous interview, Linda Locklin, who is a spokesman for the Coastal Access Programme of the California Coastal Commission, informed this writer regarding the lack of private beaches in California.

She went on to say that up to the "mean high tideline" level—the point at which waves begin to lap against the coast—all beaches in California are publicly owned. Khosla and Martin's Beach LLC have not sought for a permit from the Commission, which is necessary for any restriction of beach access.

The State Lands Commission and the California Coastal Commission filed a lawsuit against Khosla in 2020, requesting that he remove the no trespassing signs and the fence. A judge rejected Khosla's motion to dismiss the case on May 10, so the state agencies can move forward with the complaint; it will be heard in April 2025.

One of two lawsuits filed against Khosla in 2013 asked him to open the gate that goes down to Martin's Beach; the Surfrider Foundation was one of them. Following multiple rulings and appeals, the Surfrider Foundation ultimately prevailed in the case when Khosla's appeal was denied by the US Supreme Court. Khosla is no longer allowed to lock the gate or post no trespassing signs due to a permanent injunction. Khosla has always refused to address the subject with this writer in brief contacts at public occasions over the years. Although he claims he is not an activist for environmental causes, the venture capitalist does support several green technology businesses.