Billionaire sues California, sheriff, others in beach fight
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A billionaire who has been fighting for more than a decade to keep a secluded beach to himself has filed a new complaint in his lawsuit against California and San Mateo County for allegedly harassing him and violating his property rights.
In his new complaint filed Friday in San Francisco, Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla accuses top officials with the California Coastal Commission and State Lands Commission of trying to force the billionaire to let the public onto his property to use Martins Beach, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The complaint also names San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos and Steve Monowitz, the director of the San Mateo County Planning and Building Department, alleging they all engaged in “a concerted effort ... to single out, coerce, and harass one coastal property owner for refusing to cede its private property rights.”
It claims the defendants tried to “strong arm” Khosla into allowing the public “unfettered access (to) private property, without government compensation.”
The legal battle dates to 2008, when Khosla — a venture capitalist who co-founded the Silicon Valley technology company Sun Microsystems — bought an 89-acre coastal property for $32.5 million in San Mateo County and closed a gate, put up a no-access sign and painted over a billboard at the entrance that had advertised access to the beach.
The previous owners had allowed public access to the beach for a fee. Khosla’s attorneys said the cost to maintain the beach and other facilities far exceeded the money the fees brought in.
The nonprofit Surfrider Foundation sued, and a state appeals court ruled that Khosla needed to apply for a coastal development permit before closing off the main road.
After the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear his appeal in 2018, Khosla continued to sue over what he considers to be interference with his property rights. In the meantime, his lawyer said he has kept the road open during daylight hours to paying visitors. State officials say the gate to the road has not been consistently open.