This Beach is Closed: Surfers & Beachgoers, Meet the Primacy of Private Property

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Martins Beach - Half Moon Bay

Formerly Martins Beach in Half Moon Bay; with the road closed, I suppose that now we should call it Billionaire’s Beach. (But you’re welcome to go there by boat if you don’t mind the shark-infested waters!)

This isn’t an Orange County story — except that it sort of is an Orange County kind of story, if you know what I mean, even though it’s taking place in Half Moon Bay.  A billionaire has used an 1848 treaty to close public access to the public beach for which he owns the sole road access.  Because there’s still access to the beach from the shark-infested waters, if you start from across two gigantic rock formations, a judge has said “sure, you don’t have to recognize an easement just because people have been using this pathway for over 100 years.  Here’s CNNs video — I found it almost impossible to find, by the way, from the site itself!

When Silicon Valley billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla purchased 53 acres of pristine beachfront property in the community of Half Moon Bay, avid surfer Mike Wallace feared that public access to one of the most scenic beaches on the central California coast would be closed permanently.

Wallace’s fear came true when Khosla indeed closed access and a judge ruled in his favor, a decision that hinged on a court ruling from the 1850s. The dispute raises questions about the balance between private property and public domain, as well as the tech titan’s commitment to the environment as a well-known investor in renewable energy.

Khosla, who co-founded Sun Microsystems, purchased the coastal estate for $37.5 million in 2008. When the sale closed, so did a gate along Martins Beach Road and the only accessible trail to the sand. Locals were outraged, and lawsuits have been flying back and forth ever since.

“One of the unique aspects is it’s also protected by strong north swells and winds and there aren’t too many spots up here north of Santa Cruz that your able to have beautiful clean waves,” said Wallace, who coaches the Half Moon Bay High School surf team.

I believe that you’ve been warned about this thing before now.  (“First they came for the fire rings….”)

So what do you think, Orange Countians?  “Billionaires Barricade Beaches” OK with you, or not?

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 (in violation of Roberts Rules) when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Expelled from DPOC in October 2018 (in violation of Roberts Rules) for having endorsed Spitzer over Rackauckas -- which needed to be done. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. One of his daughters co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)