The Surfrider Foundation is a nonprofit organization set up to protect oceans, beaches and the public’s access to them. In September of 2014, Surfrider brought suit against Vinod Kholsa to open the gates to his Martins Beach Property. Khosla, the founder of Martins Beach 1, LLC and Martins Beach 2, LLC, bought the property from a previous owner and continued their practice of charging a car parking fee to allow access to the beach. This continued until 2011, but then Kholsa closed and locked the gates leading to Martin’s Beach. He also hired security guards to be sure their were no trespassers. Surfrider filed suit against the billionaire at the CA Superior Court in San Mateo County. Surfrider wanted public access to the beach, as well as penalties against Khosla for a violation.
Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach sided with Surfrider in saying that Khosla had violated the California Coastal Act by blocking public access to the beach. She said permanently locking the gates and hiring a security guard clearly prevented public access to the beach. Judge Mallach said Khosla and his company must apply for coastal development permits if they want to lock the gates and prevent public access. Until the correct permits are granted, the beach must be publicly accessible. Surfrider also wanted Khosla and his companies to pay penalties for locking their gates, but Judge Mallach did not agree with the foundation. She said since Khosla’s behavior was “in good faith,” penalties were not justified.
Surfrider celebrated a victory and claimed that “great wealth cannot be used to circumvent and ignore the law.” Vinod Khosla is expected to appeal the decision. He said he was disappointed with the court’s decision and says he “will continue to seek protection of the constitutional rights of private property owners that are guaranteed by the U.S. and California Constitutions .” Fast forwarding into 2016, Kholsa’s years-long dispute is headed to trial. A federal appeals court in San Francisco has approved the case against Khosla and his attorney’s are eager to protect the right’s of coastal property owners in the upcoming trial.