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Billionaire Owns the Land, but Can't Deny Access to the Beach

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down a billionaire's case to close off public access to a California beach.

Vinod Khosla bought 89-acre Martins Beach in Northern California for $32.5 million, then put a gate across the only road that leads to the ocean.

The Surfrider Foundation sued for public access, and every court along the way agreed: California beaches are public.

Open the Gate

The High Court issued a per curiam decision without comment. It let stand a decision from state courts, which said Khosla had to open the gate.

Joseph Cotchett, one of the attorneys representing Surfrider, said no one can create a private beach in California.

"Beaches are public in California, and the immensely wealthy must comply with the Coastal Act just like everyone else," he said.

Khosla has limited options now, especially since he refused to pay permit applications that would have allowed him to change the public access route.

Eminent Domain

He had tried to sell an easement for $30 million, but lawmakers mobilized in the meantime.

The California legislature has earmarked $1 million to exercise eminent domain, and San Mateo County has agreed to contribute $1 million.

According to Courthouse News, state Sen. Jerry Hill said it should be enough to secure a permanent easement across the property.

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