Judge Orders Property Owner to Reopen Gate at Martins Beach

A San Mateo County Superior Court judge Friday issued a final ruling affirming that a Silicon Valley entrepreneur must reopen a popular beach near Half Moon Bay that he closed to the public in 2010.

Judge Barbara Mallach Friday upheld her Sept. 24 tentative ruling that found property owner Vinod Khosla's effort to limit public access to Martins Beach was a form of coastal development, or change, as defined by the California Coastal Act of 1976 and later court decisions.

The tentative ruling found that the companies created by Khosla to manage his coastal property must obtain a development permit from the California Coastal Commission before changing public access to the beach.

Friday's final ruling took the order a step further, however, by specifying that a gate across the only access road to the beach must be reopened.

"The gate across Martins Beach Road must be unlocked and open to the same extent that it was unlocked and open at the time defendants purchased the property," Mallach wrote.

Attorneys for Khosla had argued that the tentative ruling should be interpreted to mean that pedestrians be allowed to walk on to the property, but not that the vehicle gate be reopened to the public.

Khosla, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems who is now a venture capitalist, bought the 53-acre property in 2008 for $37.5 million from the Deeeney family, who had previously allowed public access to the beach in the daytime in exchange for a parking fee. He closed the gate on the only access road in 2010 and hired security guards to keep people off the property.

Mallach issued Friday's ruling in a lawsuit filed by the San Clemente-based Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving beaches, oceans and public access to beaches.

Khosla's attorneys were not available for comment Friday evening, but an attorney for Surfrider Foundation said an appeal was likely.

Attorney Joe Cotchett, representing the Surfrider Foundation, issued a statement Friday that said "It has been a long struggle, but the public access has been preserved thanks to our judicial system."

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