Martins Beach: Lawmaker Proposes Eminent Domain for Access on Khosla's Property

February 06, 2014

San Jose Mercury News

By Aaron Kinney

HALF MOON BAY -- A Peninsula state senator is ratcheting up the pressure on Vinod Khosla, a Silicon Valley billionaire who has blocked public access to secluded Martins Beach since buying the property for $37.5 million.

State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, will introduce legislation Monday that would instruct the California State Lands Commission to purchase a private access road leading to the beach, which is cut off from coastal access by towering bluffs. If the commission isn't able to reach a deal with Khosla within a year, according to the proposed bill, it would be authorized to acquire the road through eminent domain.

"To me there is no better or more appropriate use for eminent domain," said Hill, citing the public right to access navigable water under the California Constitution. "There is definitely a public purpose."

Khosla, one of the world's wealthiest venture capitalists, locked a gate on the road in 2008 shortly after buying the 89-acre property, situated a few miles south of Half Moon Bay. The previous owner, a family that owned Martins Beach for much of the 20th century, had for decades allowed the public to use the road for a small fee, and even provided concessions.

Attorneys have filed two lawsuits against Martins Beach LLC, the listed owner of the property, to restore public access. A suit brought by the Surfrider Foundation is slated for trial in the spring. The other, filed on behalf of a second group of surfers, was rejected in October by a San Mateo County Superior Court judge. Gary Redenbacher, attorney for the group, plans to appeal once that ruling is final.

Attorneys for Martins Beach LLC did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment.