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The battle for public access to Martin’s Beach is heating up.


The Inertia

The long, hard battle to gain public access to Martin’s Beach is heating up of late as a bill introduced last year in the California State Senate gains steam. The bill, introduced last December by Sen. Jerry Hill, D- San Mateo, would allow State Lands Commission to direct $1 million into a new fund that will be used intentionally to gain back the land that was denied to the public by tech billionaire Vinod Khosla.

Back in 2008, Martin’s Beach was deemed inaccessible due to Khosla’s dramatic purchase of about 90 acres of beachfront property. The public and advocacy groups have filed numerous lawsuits, complaints and everything in between in an effort to restore public access to the beach. Vinod Khosla has fought back, asking a ridiculous $30 million from California for access to his private playground of coastal beauty.

Khosla had previously argued that the beach was private property, but no longer. If passed, the legislation would use eminent domain to take control of 6.4 acres in hopes to restore public access, so that beachgoers, fishermen, and surfers can enjoy the crystal beauty beach once again.

Currently, the State Lands Commission cannot use public funds under the auspices of the Land Bank Fund to expropriate private property with compensation for public use. SB 42 would create a “Martin’s Beach Subaccount” in the fund for the express purpose of creating public access to the beach. It would be supported by public, private, and non-profit donations.

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“This bill is not just about a beach in my Senate District, it’s about all of our constituents’ constitutional right to public beach access. This constitutional right is being threatened by a billionaire who wants a private beach,” Senator Hill said.

The bill is making its way. It must pass through the two house of Legislature to be able to be considered by the governor, according to Senator Jerry Hill’s office. It was passed in the Senate on May 31 and by the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on June 19. The bill is now awaiting a hearing date with the Assembly Judiciary Committee, then the Assembly Appropriations Committee for fiscal impacts. Once it goes through each and every step, then the bill will go to the full Assembly for consideration.

“It’s ridiculous that we have had so much litigation and now legislation to gain back something that belongs to California anyways. I’m thankful Senator Hill is taking the proper actions,” said Jennifer Savage, California Policy Manager for the Surfrider Foundation.


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