A state lawmaker is entering the battle over road access to a popular San Mateo coast beach that has been blocked by a Silicon Valley billionaire.
State Sen. Jerry Hill, a Peninsula Democrat, is unveiling a bill Monday to reopen a road to Martins Beach, for decades a popular surfing spot and hangout a few miles south of Half Moon Bay. Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla bought the beach property, including the road, in 2008 and closed it to the public. Khosla reportedly intends to build a residence on the land, which is now occupied by about 45 beach cottages.
As KQED Science reporter Amy Standen related in a feature story last month, Khosla has run into determined opposition from surfers, environmentalists and coastal access advocates. They argue that shutting down a long-established public route to the beach violates the state Constitution’s public trust doctrine, which bars property owners from blocking access to public bodies of water. A San Mateo County judge has rejected that argument, saying that the terms of a Mexican-era land grant allow Khosla to restrict access to the beach.
Hill’s legislation would order the State Lands Commission to open negotiations with Khosla to buy all or part of the property for a public access road. The bill would require the commission to acquire the property through eminent domain if no deal is reached within a year.
KQED’s Peter Jon Shuler is covering Hill’s press conference at the Martins Beach gate. We’ll have more from him on this story later Monday.
KQED’s Forum discusses Sen. Hill’s proposal:
Reporting on California land policy, planning and conservation is supported by a grant from the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation.