Judge Barbara Mallach, presiding over the beach access battle between The Surfrider Foundation and billionaire Vinod Khosla, convened the court at Martins Beach Thursday during a record-breaking heat wave.
The judge wanted to inspect the property owned by Khosla, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, which comprises 53 acres, including the beach, 6 miles south of Half Moon Bay. At issue is whether Khosla had violated California Coastal Act when he had the gate to the access road, which was on his property, closed; had the billboard welcoming visitors pinted over; hired guards to keep people out; and erected “keep out” signs.
Environmentalists, surfers and beach lovers were furious with Khosla. They claim he violated the law because the 1972 California Coastal Zone Conservation Initiative and the 1976 California Coastal Act prohibit homes or developments from blocking public access to beaches. The entire coast of the state of California is considered public property, as well as all beach property below the mean high tide line.
The attorneys for Surfrider say that Khosla’s actions amounted to “development” requiring a permit from the Coastal Commission. Khosla’s lawyer stated that no development requiring a permit had been done, and that the judge’s tour would help prove that to the judge.
Despite a gag order about the beach tour, news emerged that the court found the beach very pleasant, according to a report by Peter Fimrite of the San Francisco Chronicle.