The California Attorney General's Office has filed suit against a billionaire who's long tried to block the public from accessing a beach he claims as his own. The suit, filed Monday on behalf of the California State Lands Commission and California Coastal Commission, claims Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla has been "illegally" restricting public access to Martins Beach for the past decade, per the San Jose Mercury News. After purchasing the 89-acre property for $32.5 million in 2008, Khosla sought to close a private road and paid parking area the previous owners set up for public access, sparking a legal fight centering on the Coastal Act of 1976, which granted beach access to all. It seemed Khosla would need a state permit to close the road when the Supreme Court refused to hear the case in 2018. Then he scored an appeals court win in November.
Friends of Martins Beach had argued the previous owners' permission to use the road amounted to implied public dedication, per the San Francisco Chronicle. But San Francisco's 1st District Court of Appeal focused on the parking fee, ruling that because access was "permissive, it did not ripen into a public dedication." The state commissions dispute that, citing a 1970 Supreme Court ruling that determined implied dedication is established if the public has regularly accessed a route for at least five years. They say evidence shows families have accessed Martins Beach since the 1920s without being charged, including after parking fees were instituted in the 1960s or '70s, per the Mercury News. An attorney for Khosla, however, argues the state is trying to seize the billionaire's property "without compensation," using claims "repeatedly rejected by the courts," per the Los Angeles Times. (Read more Vinod Khosla stories.)