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California could take private land in beach-access battle




Environment Updates

California could seize Martins Beach to ensure beach access for the public

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 23 January, 2015 - The California State Lands Commission could seize private land for public use and end the ongoing access battle at Martins Beach in Half Moon Bay. The battle started when billionaire venture-capital investor Vinod Khosla locked the only gate allowing access to the small beach which occasional hosts a fun right at the north end and a ledgier left on the south end.

The California State Lands Commission agency said in a letter that it will consider using its eminent-domain powers if an agreement with Khosla isn’t reached by Jan. 1, 2016. 

The state could take the land surrounding the beach and the beach down to the high-tide line. California’s eminent-domain actions would need approval by the state’s controller, Betty Yee, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and Finance Director Michael Cohen. In its 77-year history the State Lands Commission has never seized private land for public use. 

State officials last month invited Khosla to begin talks to sell the state a right of way along Martins Beach. Khosla claims that since the beach is privately owned that there is no public use easement to the area. In court documents the Khosla camp claimed that paying an attendant to collect fees from visitors was not economically feasible.

Surfrider has been working to keep access open to the beach along with other environmental access groups. Khosla's efforts to keep the public out of the beach he owns underscores a growing unrest between long-time residents of the San Francisco Bay Area and the influx of wealth from nearby Silicon Valley.

Khosla, the 58-year-old co-founder of Sun Microsystems. Khosla is famous for his backing of bold, eco-friendly projects and is a darling of democratic politicians. His limited liability company paid $37.5 million in 2008 for the property, which includes 45 leased cabins along the coastal cliffs.

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