The Real Deal New York

This tech billionaire is taking his battle over a California beach to the Supreme Court just to make a point about property rights

Vinod Khosla said he'd be "depressed" if he won
September 01, 2018 10:00AM

Vinod Khosla and the California coast (credit: Wikimedia Commons, Alex Bellink on Flickr)

Media mogul David Geffen was Califorina’s beach villain du jour in the early 2000s when he tried to block public access to the beach in front of his Malibu home.

But as Silicon Valley’s overtaken Hollywood as the zeitgeist’s center of power and influence, it’s now Sun Microsystems cofounder Vinod Khosla who’s waging a battle over the beach.

Khosla – over seemingly nothing more than wanting to make a point about private property rights – is now fighting the state in a case that’s going to the Supreme Court and could rewrite the rules for 1,100 miles of California coastland, the New York Times reported.

In 2008, Khosla bought the 53 acres of land underneath Martin’s Beach, which is home to 47 cottages. After the purchase, the county told him he could either keep a public-access road open and charge no more than the 1972-era rate of $2 per car for parking, or apply for a Coastal Development Permit to change access.

But Khosla chose neither option and decided to sue the California Coastal Commission, the State Lands Commission and San Mateo County, claiming the government was forcing him to operate a money-losing parking business.

Khosla said he doesn’t even care about the property, but that he’s taking a stand on principle.

“If I were to ever win in the Supreme Court, I’d be depressed about it,” he said. “I support the Coastal Act; I don’t want to weaken it by winning. But property rights are even more important.”

The Supreme Court is deciding whether or not to hear the case. But if it does, it could have major implications for property rights.

“Now, if the Supreme Court takes it up, it could rule about every coastal management program in the United States,” said Angela Howe, legal director of the Surfrider foundation, a nonprofit that pushes for beach access and one of Khosla’s biggest adversaries. [NYT] – Rich Bockmann