The California Supreme Court announced Oct. 25 that it would not hear an appeal by Indian American clean tech entrepreneur Vinod Khosla, who earlier this year was mandated by a lower court to open public access to Martins Beach, which abuts his $38 million coastal property near Half Moon Bay, Calif.
Khosla, the founder of Sun Microsystems and venture capital firm Khosla Ventures, now has 90 days to potentially file his case with the U.S. Supreme Court.
The battle over public access to the beach began in 2013, when the Surfrider Foundation sued Khosla to unlock the gate to a tiny road that provides the only access to the beach, a popular spot for surfers, picnickers, and fisherman for more than a century.
Khosla bought the property in 2008. A year later, a sign went up on the locked gate to the access road warning people against trespassing. Security guards initially roamed the picturesque beach to fend off those who had jumped over the gate to access the beach. Two lawsuits were filed against Khosla: one by the Surfrider Foundation, the other by the Friends of Martins Beach.
On Aug. 10, the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco affirmed a 2014 ruling by a San Mateo judge, which mandated that Khosla re-open access to the beach. The California Coastal Act of 1976 mandates that all beaches in the state must have public access, up to the mean tide line, the highest point at which waves can crash onto the shore.
Any restriction of beach access requires a permit from the California Coastal Commission. Khosla and his holding company have not applied for a permit, and have subsequently racked up about $30 million in fines.
The venture capitalist has taken an arrogant attitude towards the lawsuits directed at him. He has offered to sell the access road to the state of California for $38 million, the price he paid for the entire 89-acre property. He has also asked the state to swap with him a similarly-sized coastal property that does not require public access.
Khosla also blamed his staff during the 2014 trial, testifying that his property manager handled all matters related to the beach. He also stated that he did not have time to read letters from the California Coastal Commission, amidst his piles of daily mail.
For now, Martins Beach is open to the public (see earlier India-West story here). At press time, Khosla and his attorneys had not stated whether they would appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.