Real Estate & Property Law

Judge and lawyers take field trip to beach in California coastal access case

The weather was spectacular Thursday as a California judge led lawyers on a field trip to the coast.

At issue in the San Mateo County case: Whether Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla was prohibited by the California Coastal Act from blocking an access road to public property at Martins Beach, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Khosla was not on the trip, but he and his counsel say the road leading to the ocean was never public and had a pre-existing gate. Therefore, they contend, the Martins Beach company he set up to purchase the beachfront property for over $37 million in 2008 had a right to close the gate without getting a permit.

The Surfrider Foundation, however, contends that the billionaire and his property managers were required to get a permit from the Coastal Commission, because their conduct constituted development under the statute.

In addition to closing the gate, Khosla hired guards, painted over a billboard that welcomed visitors and put up “keep out” signs, the Chronicle says.

“He’s attacking the right of any Californian to walk down any access road to get to a public beach,” Joe Cotchett, who represents the Surfrider group, told this newspaper. “That, to us, is illegal.”

The county has considered using its eminent domain rights to obtain the access road, but would then have to pay for it, the article notes.

Related coverage: “Suit filed over plan to block public trails on 66-acre grounds of planned new Oprah Winfrey home”

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