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Silicon Valley Billionaire Ordered to Reopen California Beach

By George Khoury, Esq. on August 16, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Vinod Kholsa, one of the founders of Sun Microsystems, and a Silicon Valley billionaire, just lost in court again. Kholsa isn't losing in court on anything tech related, but rather, he is losing his private beach.

The California Court of Appeal denied Kholsa's appeal and ordered the beach-restricting-billionaire to reopen public access. The beach in question is called Martins Beach, which is located just south of Half Moon Bay, which is about 30 minutes south of San Francisco along the Pacific coast. Although the beach used to have public access, Kholsa, who purchased the property for $37 million, closed it down in 2009.

You Can't Own the Beach ... Man

While there may be some wealthy folk who try to skirt the law, simply put, in California, you can't own the beach below the average high tide line. In short, that means a property owner, even if they live on the coast, cannot legally own the sand below that average tide line.

Kholsa not only lost his appeal, but he was ordered to pay the nearly $500,000 in attorneys' fees for Surfrider, the non-profit group that advances the rights of the public's access to the coast that filed the action against him and has been pursuing the case for years now. At one point, the billionaire attempted to sell the state back some land to provide the public with coastal access, however, he wanted an absurd, borderline offensive, $30 million for a sliver of land, while he only paid $37 million for the entire property.

Kholsa does not appear to be giving up, but he only has a couple chances left now that the appellate court has finished with the case and issued a final order. Sadly, if an appeal to the California State Supreme Court is filed, this case, and the lack of beach access, could be dragged out for several more years, and potentially even longer depending on that outcome.

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