Billionaire Forced to Testify as Surfers Battle Silicon Valley in Beach Access Fight
A Silicon Valley billionaire will be forced to testify on Monday as surfers battle venture capitalist Vindo Khosla over access to a popular northern California beach. The case may be the most significant challenge to the state's public access laws.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Surfrider Foundation has accused Khosla "of flouting the California Coastal Act when he blocked the only road into Martins Beach" from the public.
A lawyer for Khosla's company countered and said that, "Surfrider, in this lawsuit, is asking to protect an access right that simply doesn't exist." But they were denied their motion to prevent Khosla from testifying in the matter, and Khosla will have to do so on Monday as the trial resumes.
As the Chronicle noted, a 1972 "California Coastal Zone Conservation Initiative" made the "entire coast public property, including beaches below the mean high tide," and the lawsuit presents the biggest challenge to that initiative.
Khosla "is famous for his backing of bold, eco-friendly projects and is a darling of Democratic politicians," and is company paid "$37.5 million for the property, which includes 45 leased cabins along the coastal cliffs."
Surfrider is claiming that since the "closed gate means the only way people can get there is from the ocean," Khosla is in violation of the "public access provisions in the coastal act."
Lawyers for Martins Beach have also weighed in, saying the previous historic $5 "beach fees prove that the public never had a right to access that beach."