California’s beaches are definitely, definitely public.
That’s the final result of a decade-long quest by one man to restrict access to Martin’s Beach, which his property abuts, reached when the Supreme Court declined to hear his appeal against a San Francisco appeals court decision. California law states that all beaches are public to the high tide line, and some access routes are grandfathered in even on private property.
Billionaire venture capitalist and Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla bought an 89-acre beach village of 47 cottages on the California coast south of Half Moon Bay in 2008. He initially kept an access road that ran through his property open and charged $10 for day access, as the previous owner had done. But in 2010 Khosla installed a locked gate and armed guards at the road’s entrance. The Surfrider Foundation sued Khosla, who fought back on principle, despite having never spent a night on the property, which he told The New York Times he’ll probably end up selling.
If the Supreme Court had taken the case, it could have changed the nature of beach access across the United States. Khosla has portrayed himself as the victim, and said he pursued this case more on principle than anything else. He could now face $20 million in fines from the California Coastal Commission.