Surf’s Up. Supremes turn away tech billionaire in California Coastline Dispute

The US Supreme Court reaffirmed that property owners do not possess unlimited rights to exclude the public when that access serves a greater good.  At issue is the right of the public to enjoy public beaches and shoreline vistas.

Excerpted from San Francisco Chronicle 1.6.2020

Surfers, lawyers and legislators hugged and high-fived Monday at an impromptu party on a sandy cove in San Mateo County after the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to take the case of a tech billionaire who wanted to block public access to the beach.

The decision means lawyers for Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, will not get the opportunity to argue before the high court that he has a right to stop people from crossing his property to reach a picturesque beach.

Advocates for public access touted the decision, which keeps an access road open to Martins Beach, about six miles south of Half Moon Bay, as a victory for beachgoers across the country.

Martins Beach III 1.6.2020

“Money cannot buy justice, and arrogance cannot stop the public’s right to use our beautiful ocean,” said Joe Cotchett, the lead attorney for the Surfrider Foundation, which filed suit against Khosla. “Remember, this case is all about the public. That’s who it’s for. … It’s about the right of anyone — child, adult — to go down to fish, go down to swim, but, more important, to have access to our wonderful ocean.”

The crescent-shaped cove, featuring a distinctive pyramid-shaped rock, has been the subject of an ugly, almost decade-long clash between Khosla and surfers and other beachgoers that began when Khosla blocked the only road leading to Martins Beach. The Supreme Court’s rejection of the case now prevents the battle from becoming a test case for public coastal access around the country.