Closed for three years, the secluded Martin's Beach area south of Half Moon Bay could become a battleground for picket lines and protest boats seeking to restore public access this summer.

A new campaign being launched by fans of Martin's Beach intends to take a "shotgun approach" by embarrassing the property's secretive owner. Press reports suggest the coastal jewel, which many locals remember visting throughout the years, is owned by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla.

Green-friendly investing has been a lynchpin for Khosla and his namesake firm, and critics hope to show his commitment to the environment is little more than a marketing veneer in light of the way he has banned the public from the beach area. They allege he has been circumventing the Coastal Act with the long-term goal to transform Martin's Beach into a private mansion compound. No formal plans have been submitted for developing the beach.

"You have this guy claiming to be green, and he's running roughshod over the local community," said San Mateo County Surfrider Chairman Edmundo Larenas. "He wants to be seen as a green venture capitalist, so this is his Achilles heel."

Meeting on Sunday in Half Moon Bay, a small band of Martin's Beach advocates began brainstorming ideas, such as having protestors trail Khosla around to his engagements. Participants also pondered the idea of chartering a boat to ferry picketers onto the shore of Martin's Beach, which legally remains public property even if access by land is extremely limited.

Among the attendees was county Supervisor Dave Pine, who gave assurances that government officials were as outraged as the public about Martin's Beach.

"Everyone in the county is angered by the access being blocked off," Pine said, pledging he would investigate getting an injunction to re-open the beach.

A cameraman was present at the meeting at the Train Depot to film interviews with surfers and families who wanted the beach to reopen. The interviews are to become part of a documentary intended to whet the appetite of media organizations. First in line for the camera, Tracy resident Terri Louwerens reminisced about the many summers she spent at Martin's Beach staying at her family's cabin, which it later sold. She has now organized more than 300 people through Facebook in an effort to keep the beach open.

"I have a son and I can't take him to the beach," she said. "I have all these memories that I want to share, but I can't do that unless this beach is open."

The local Surfrider chapter and county officials say the Martin's Beach owner has used subterfuge and his massive wealth to circumvent the Coastal Act. Since last year, county planning officials have denied permits for grading work at Martin's Beach, saying the owner must first address the public-access issue.

The controversy began in 2008, when the Deeney family sold Martin's Beach for $33 million to a shell company that kept its true owner's identity hidden. Surfrider organizers began to suspect Khosla last year after following up on tips, which were later vetted by a San Jose Mercury News reporter.

Khosla has never admitted or denied owning Martin's Beach. In a September letter to Surfrider, his lawyer Joan Gallo identified herself as a representative of the shell company and asked for people to respect Khosla's privacy. Gallo indicated the public-access matter would be settled through court.

"Mr. Kholsa certainly does appreciate the concerns of the surfing community's interest in Martin's Beach," Gallo wrote to Surfrider. "Once the fundamental legal question is resolved, I would be happy to discuss access arrangements with you."

Martin's Beach advocates fear taking the matter to the court system would play to Khosla's advantages, namely money for lawyers and prolonged appeals. At best, a court case would be a "50-50 toss up," said Surfrider spokesman Mike Wallace, who suggested they would find better odds if the matter came before the California Coastal Commission or the county.

 

 

(11) comments

Jonas Clausen
Jonas Clausen

A "true" environmentalist with $$ could have torn down the houses and put a fence around the land long ago. True surfers will surf this wave when they want to.

I feel that a public easement is a negotiation waiting to take place, the table being set and the seats being arranged. With respect, Mr Khosla would be wise to make offers rather than exact demands.

Grant84
Grant84

August, how long have you been in California and how connected do you feel to the natural environment. Coastal access is a big deal to people in this state. Mr. Khosla created a shell company to hide behind, denied coastal access, made every effort to exclude the public and talks through lawyers. Mr Khosla would like people to respect his privacy? I'm sorry, but he epitomizes everything people dislike about those who don't take responsibility for their actions.

Would it not be in Mr. Khosla's interest to work with the public and Coastal Commission? Ultimately, with enough pressure, the Coastal Commission could require a coastal access easement as a condition for a redevelopment or development permit for Martins Beach. There are several local government agencies that have the ability to assume liability and manage an access trail.

August West
August West

"I am being denied access to paint and photograph my favorite beach. "

You are being denied access to someone's private property. The beach is on the other side.

"Public access must be restored."

OK, if you say so. I guess that settles it.

Margo B
Margo B

My mom and grandparents used to go Smelt fishing there in the 30's & 40's and camp on the beach. My parents took me there when I was little and I used to go there with friends in the early 1970's in High School. It is the most peaceful place on the coast. Now as an artist I am being denied access to paint and photograph my favorite beach. Even if I walked in from Hwy 1 my car will be towed away. Public access must be restored.

riverandsnow
riverandsnow

While I'm not happy about some insensitive elitist sealing off Martin's Beach. He probably has the law on his side. Unless some time in Martins Beaches documentable history (for seven years straight) they were just allowing people to cross the property to the beach without asking for an access fee. As far as I know they always charged for access. The other break point would be if they ever had the county or State maintain the road down to the beach. I think it was always a privately maintained road.

Steven Hyman
Steven Hyman

As someone who is at Martins Beach often selling homes there I can tell you that it has changed dramaticially over the years due to Mother Nature. Before you used to be able to park cars 2 deep parallel to the ocean on the lower level. Now with the beach erosion, that road is barely wide enough now for 2 cars to drive on. So there is very limited space for parking cars other then the residents.

That being said, the cost to open the beach up to the public would be prohibitive and economically impractical with toll taker and repairing roads and restrooms. I question whether authorities can force someone to do something that will loose money. And of course all this will have to be done with permits and that will take years cause you know somebody will appeal whatever to the CCC.

So for those looking to surf, there are plenty of other places here to use. Some are even free.

FeelGoodTrackerApp
FeelGoodTrackerApp

I remember going to Martin's beach several years ago. There was something unique about it that made it special. It's a great beach to check out the waves and rock formations and to walk on.

I hope to be able to access the beach again it's right on the way to Half Moon Bay and is a great beach to check out.

I hope that the Martin's beach access issue can be resolved in a mature and fair way.

August West
August West

David,

"Movement" is probably an apt word. Just not in the connotation that you were thinking.

How is your perceived right to cross someone's property the "stakes?" How can you be "persistent" when nothing has even been established at this point? Great Britain did gift us something that will never be taken away - the Rule of Law. Decisions are not arbitrary. No mob can force anything here. What does Ghandi have to do with this?

I like this posting on Facebook "Please post comments on the online story...right now there are just two comments from detractors." Way to rally the "troops." David is providing even more fodder.

boomer
boomer

Ahhh I love the word "environmentalists" being used in quotes as if it is an obscene word. August will discover in the years ahead that the movement concerned about Martin's Beach development is no minor chorus, but rather a growing swell. The stakes? Our understanding of the stakes is that they go well beyond "who has the most money." Money certainly establishes Mr Khosla as the 800 pound gorilla. But never underestimate the power of persistence. I believe Great Britain may have some thoughts on the subject as they pertain to Mr Khosla's fellow countryman, Mohandas Gandhi. David Strohm

John Charles Ullom
John Charles Ullom

Classic. Surfers bitching about the beach being closed while Surfers for Profit shut down beach, bluffs, and harbor to do their thing. Do they even notice the irony?

Next we will have Private Property Rights Fundamentalists going up against "I trespass where I feel like it," contingent.

Pretty soon the dog walkers will let loose the hounds and treat the land with the kind of respect they do at Wavecrest. When the owners figure out that the locals don't give a damn about private property rights they'll write the whole mess off and sell it to POST.

Then POST will transfer ownership to the Feds with the caveat that people follow the rules.

Then the scofflaws will prove a point.

August West
August West

Scary to think that Supervisor Dave Pine (former board member of Committee for Green Foothills, Lennie Roberts front organization of environmental intimidation) has jumped to the conclusion, without the benefit of due process through either enforcement or litigation, that the new owner of Martin's Beach is required by law to continue to provide access to the beach along the driveway. The access issue is far from cut and dried.

The "green" preening by Larenas and the rest of the "environmentalists" has absolutely nothing to do with prescriptive rights of access. They are just a minor chorus of discontent. They do not even comprehend the issues at stake here.

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