Billionaire Technology Investor, Vinod Khosla, Challenges the California Coastal Act

by Bill Davis

Back in 1972, 45+ years ago, Californians showed tremendous foresight in taking steps to preserve their coastline with the introduction of the California Coastal Zone Conservation Act (aka Proposition 20) which led to the creation of the California Coastal Commission.  The rationale for highlighting this is that one of it's objectives is to guarantee public access to California's beaches.  And as of Th, 2/22, that unfettered access is being directly challenged by Vinod Khosla with his appeal to the United States Supreme Court "arguing that he should not be required to allow public access to Martins Beach in San Mateo County" through his roughly 90 acre beachfront property which has the only road to Martins Beach.

For folks in San Mateo County this conflict has been ongoing since 2010 which was a couple of years after Khosla purchased the property in 2008.  While in Oct13 Khosla won a judgment that granted him rights to control access to the beach, this was contested roughly 8 months later by the Surfrider Foundation and eventually overturned by Governor Jerry Brown in Oct14.  While Khosla has tried to get California to buy a small slice of his property to ensure public access to Martins Beach, that too has failed and along with a California court mandate from Aug17 requiring Khosla to restore public access has set the table for his Supreme Court challenge.  

Given the initial law to provide public access to the California coastline was passed in 1972, reinforced in 1976 and Khosla didn't purchase the property until 2008, on the surface it would appear that Khosla is facing an uphill battle to restrict access to Martins Beach.  That being said, any final decision is at least a year, and likely longer, away and the US legal system certainly does not guarantee an outcome.  

Given Khosla's current focus "is driven by the desire to make a positive impact through scaling new energy sources, achieving petroleum independence and promoting a pragmatic approach to the environment" and that "He also is passionate about social entrepreneurship", one would hope a middle ground could be found here, but so far that seems to have eluded both sides.  As such, if anyone wants to follow this challenge as to whether the public will retain it's unfettered access to California beaches, we'd suggest doing it through Surfrider Foundation