A new lawsuit, this one filed by the state of California, is seeking to restore full public access to Martin’s Beach.
On Monday, the state filed suit on behalf of the California State Lands Commission and the California Coastal Commission in San Mateo County Superior Court. The suit seeks to prohibit property owner and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Vinod Khosla from blocking the primary road down to the beach.
Access to the stretch of coastline south of Half Moon Bay has been a point of contention for about a decade. The state contends that Martin’s Beach historically has been used a public beach since at least the early 1990s. Locals recall using the beach for decades earlier than that. The Coastal Commission says it has written accounts, photographs, personal journal entries and news articles that reportedly prove the beach has been available to the public for generations.
“We’ve been considering the lawsuit just to establish once and for all the public’s right to access,” Coastal Commission Assistant Chief Counsel Alex Helperin said.
The lawsuit demands Khosla remove any signage, gates and structures that prohibit public use and to effectively allow the public to use Martin’s Beach road to access the beach.
Chief of Enforcement for the Coastal Commission Lisa Haage said the lawsuit stems from the uncertainty of not knowing whether the gate to the road will be open at any given time.
“People won’t go to the beach if there is an uncertainty of it not being open. Why would you get in your car and visit?” Haage said.
“We are concerned enough about it to file a lawsuit,” Haage said.
A separate lawsuit filed in 2013 by the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation resulted in a ruling that requires Khosla to filed for Coastal Development Permit to close the beach.
“The Court of Appeals held that it has to be open unless he gets a permit, which he never applied for,” Haage said.
Khosla purchased the property in 2008 and has sometimes closed the gate through the one access point that leads to the beach.
Late last year, the 1st District Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Khosla, prohibiting access. A lawsuit filed by the Friends of Martin’s Beach argued because previous owners allowed use of the road, this meant there was a “public dedication or implied” use of the route. The appeals court found otherwise, as the previous owner charged a parking fee for use of the beach.
The state’s latest suit is asking the court to consider “unexamined evidence” and confirm the public has the right to continue using Martin’s Beach.”
The Coastal Commission is asking people to share their history of Martin’s Beach by contacting: MartinsBeachPRS@coastal.ca.gov.