For surfers in San Mateo County battling to maintain public access to the popular Martin’s Beach, a ruling handed down by a Superior Court judge this past October has dealt a serious blow to their cause. Judge Gerald Buchwald ruled in favor of venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, whose 200-acre coastal property has the only public access route to Martin’s Beach, signaling defeat in the lawsuit brought forth against Khosla by a group of beachgoers dubbed ‘Friends of Martin’s Beach.’
The legalities involved of coastal land ownership, private property rights, and public access to ‘navigable waters’ are confusing to say the least. But it’s the future implications of Judge Buchwald’s unique ruling that has surfers in California worried. Citing provisions outlined in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, as well as a land grant claim made by Jose Antonio Alviso and recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1859, Judge Buchwald concluded that the stipulations of these early coastal rancho property land grants supersede all tenants of public rights to property, including beach access, laid out by the California Constitution in 1879.