The battle over Cali beaches: billionaire homeowner vs. surfers

A case heading to the Supreme Court pits personal property rights against a state law guaranteeing public access to the shoreline

From back: 2010 Mavericks Competition; Vinod Khosla (Credit: Shalom Jacobovitz; TechCrunch CC by 2.0)
From back: 2010 Mavericks Competition; Vinod Khosla (Credit: Shalom Jacobovitz; TechCrunch CC by 2.0)

Tides may be about to turn in favor on those who’d like to buy a private slice of California’s beaches. Tech billionaire Vinod Khosla is taking what he calls a textbook case of “physical invasion of private property” all the way to the Supreme Court in order to get surfers off his surf-side property in Martins Beach.

Bloomberg reports Khosla bought his San Mateo County property in 2008 and put up a gate to prevent the public from wandering onto his beachfront property, which launched him into a head-to-head legal battle with surfers who hired their own lawyer to prevent the beach from becoming private.

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The crux of the surfers’ argument hearkens back to a 1972 state law in California which guarantees public access to beaches.

Khosla, a co-founder of computer company Sun Microsystems, has been waging a multi-year legal battle to challenge the law and, if he wins, the surfers’ lawyer Mark Massara says the implications for access to California beaches could be “catastrophic.” [Bloomberg]Erin Hudson