Monday, December 2, 2013


Under the authority of the "emergency" project permitted by San Mateo County and the California Coastal Commission, construction of the 963 foot rock revetment has commenced at Martin's Beach. 

The construction company hired by permit holders Martin's Beach, I LLC (the front for billionaire Vinod Khosla) and the Allen Cunha Family Trust began laying the rock a couple weeks ago.  Construction continues today despite permit conditions requiring the construction to be complete by October 3, 2013. 

Observers say that the current view of the revetment from the cabin side is a few feet above grade, but that the view from the beach back toward land is, well, a big, long pile of rocks.  Far from the scenic beachscape that visitors once flocked to.

Giant rock pile, as far as the eye can see
An application for regular Coastal Development Permit, which would seek to make this revetment permanent, is now on file with both the County and Coastal Commission.  Once the application has been deemed complete, both the County Planning Commission and the Coastal Commission will consider whether or not to grant a permit to the project. 

In addition to the obvious visual impacts the rocks have on beach vistas, the rocks may have an even more serious impact to the beach itself.  Hardened structures on the shoreline prevent beaches from naturally retreating, so as the sea advances, the beach between the sea and the revetment will diminish. 

What a shame it would be to gain access to the beach, only to have the beach disappear.

If you are horrified by the rock pile and want to protect Martin's Beach for future generations, CLICK HERE to send a letter to decision-makers.

"What about the cabins?", you might ask.  The unfortunate reality is that:
a) with the encroachment of the sea, the only way to protect the cabins and the beach over the mid- and long-term is to move the cabins, and
b) Khosla is highly unlikely to keep the cabins. Can you see a billionaire living in a rustic 1000 square foot cabin?  It's not out of the question, I suppose, but chances are good that Khosla has other plans in mind for his property fronting the public beach.  This revetment, although permitted to protect the existing road, is more than likely a foot in the door for Khosla to protect whatever development he intends to construct.

So, unless you just so happen to love large mounds of arranged boulders, destruction of beautiful beaches, obstructed views, and/or giving a billionaire an extra boost toward achieving his vision of a plebeian-free seascape, please consider sending a letter.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Constitutional Right to Access - litigation update

An early message from a mystery writer, on the billboard fronting Martin's Beach Rd.
A ruling of sorts has been delivered on one of two lawsuits aimed at the access issue at Martin's Beach. 

The suit brought forth seeking to uphold California Constitution Article X Section 4, by Santa Cruz-based firm Redenbacher and Brown, LLP on behalf of the public a.k.a. "Friends of Martin's Beach", was dealt a preliminary blow in an oral ruling by Judge Gerald Buchwald of San Mateo County Superior Court on Oct. 28, 2013.  (Read more here)  In sum, the judge skirted addressing the merits of the constitutional provision and, instead, redirected the focus of his ruling on an 1852 federal land patent which, he found, prevents the California Constitution from applying to this and any other California lands formerly held by Mexico. 

Surfrider Foundation's Coastal Act suit remains to be heard.

What does this ruling mean for Martin's Beach, and for other beaches and lands across the state? 

Not much--yet.  The judge must still deliver a written ruling on the case, and the case is expected to be appealed. 

In the meantime, the District Attorney for San Mateo County has reconfirmed the County's position that there is insufficient evidence that visitors accessing Martin's Beach from Highway 1 via Martin's Beach Rd. are trespassing; therefore, the County will still not issue tickets to visitors. 

On a tangential note, one good thing that came out of this proceeding is that the true owner of the property adjacent to Martin's Beach, who has been hiding behind the names of Martin's Beach I and II, LLCs, is indeed billionaire Vinod Khosla

Friday, November 8, 2013

CNN Covers Martin's Beach Access Battle

Holy news coverage, Batman!  In the wake of the oral decision on the California Constitutional right to access case, involving Santa Cruz-based firm Redenbacher & Brown representing the "Friends of Martin's Beach" against the property owners of the land adjacent to Martin's Beach, there has been a notable spurt of news coverage about the access issue.  The issue has gone global! From the L.A. Times and SF Chronicle domestically, to The Register in the UK, to the Business Insider in Australia, to India West, and now to CNN. 

Check out the latest TV news coverage by CNN on our YouTube video channel, where you can also watch other videos about Martin's Beach.

Perhaps even more notable is some of the commentary following the coverage.  Certainly U.S. followers have had plenty to say about the ruling and the issue in general, but international readers are aghast that something like this--a billionaire landowner blocking public access to land and waters of the state--could be allowed to happen.  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Martin's Beach 5: Battle for the Beach

We've heard it before: a picture's worth 1000 words. 

Inline image 2

By that logic, a film's worth would be exponentially greater.   

The rock stars over at The Inertia have been working for months on a documentary film about the battle to open Martin's Beach, and have sought to capture and convey the history of the beach, the beach's natural majesty, and the recent stories of those working to make the beach publicly accessible once again, all within the course of about seven minutes.  I'd say they did a pretty epic job.  The value of this film to tell the story of Martin's Beach, and of other beaches that have been suddenly closed to the public, is immense.

The value of an open beach to current and future generations of beach goers?  The ability to enjoy sun (or fog), sand, waves, fresh air, fishing, reliving old memories or making new ones?  Arguably, it's priceless.

What's the value of an open beach to you?
Click here to donate your money. 
Click here to lend your voice or donate your time.  

Check out the film here. 

Special thanks to Jonathan Bremer, Kyle Foley, Austin Murison,  Tyler Schmid, and David Pringle for putting it on the line for the rest of us, and to The Inertia for sharing their story.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Seawall Construction on Borrowed Time

The "emergency" revetment that is slated to be built along Martin's Beach was reprieved recently, with the California Coastal Commission and County of San Mateo granting the applicants/owners an extension on the construction deadline.

Although the permit for construction of the "emergency" revetment was issued by the County and Coastal Commission, both agencies required that:
1. the construction of the emergency revetment be completed by July 20, 2013
2. an application for a regular Coastal Development Permit for the revetment be filed by July 28, 2013
3. the emergency revetment would be removed on or before July 28, 2014 if a regular Coastal Development Permit was not issued by that time.

The property owner's attorney wrote both agencies to obtain an extension on these deadlines, arguing that the agencies' actions and conditions caused delay.  Hence, the County and Commission have changed the deadlines to:
1. the construction of the emergency revetment be completed by October 3, 2013
2. an application for a regular Coastal Development Permit for the revetment be filed by September 30, 2013
3. the removal date (July 28, 2014) remains unchanged

Thus, construction of the emergency revetment will be starting any day now.

Here's to hoping the revetment doesn't cause beach loss or serve as a foot in the door for a permanent wall to protect some future unknown development.

What can you do?
  • Join our Action Alert system so we can alert you of future opportunities to take action (such as when the Coastal Development Permits are considered by the County and Coastal Commission).

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Martin's Beach to be Armored

It's official: the California Coastal Commission has granted an emergency permit to construct a 963 ft rock revetment seaward of the oceanfront road along Martin's Beach.  The County of San Mateo already issued an emergency permit for the portion of the project within their jurisdiction at the end of January 2013.

In addition to the revetment, which is to be "temporarily" erected for the protection of the road and infrastructure, the road is to be widened and the existing restrooms demolished for the creation of a fire turnaround.  There is no condition of approval requiring the removal of existing unpermitted development, such as the keycard gate or the block wall at the south end of the beach.

Surfrider sent both an after-the-fact letter to the County (upon having learned that the County had already permitted the project) and a letter to the Coastal Commission highlighting various concerns with the project, including 1) that erosion here cannot be characterized as an emergency (--it has been happening for a long time!); 2) the emergency permit allows for development beyond what is needed to respond to "emergency" erosion; 3) existing unpermitted development needs addressed before permitting additional development; 4) the terms of the permit could result in serious unmitigated impacts that haven't been studied, such as loss of sandy beach due to erosion caused by the wall, and 5) the project is not consistent with LCP and Coastal Act policies.  The other concern is that the new property owner is pursuing armoring here and now in hopes of getting his foot in the door to armor for whatever development is planned in the future.

Unfortunately, emergency permitting authority is rather sweeping and tends to err heavily on the side of allowing an existing structure to be protected rather than protection of access and preservation of the beach.  So despite all these compelling issues, we have an impending revetment that is slated to be built within the next 30 days and could stand for up to 1 year before needing any additional approvals, according to the permit conditions.  Despite the permit terms, it is quite possible that the revetment could remain standing and continue to impact the beach past its permitted life.  Just look at Ocean Beach in SF or any number of other places along the California coast.  Once armoring goes in--temporary or not--it tends to remain, sometimes even after its useful life is past.

Why all the hate on seawalls and rock revetments?  Well, while they may be handy at delaying the inevitable overtake of structures by the advancing mighty ocean, shoreline armoring fixes the back of the beach and prevents it from retreating naturally, robbing the beach of sand to replenish it as it erodes, as well as exacerbating erosion of the beach seaward of the wall due to wave reflection off the hardened structure.  Seawalls are beach killers.

The elephant in the room, of course, is that the existing structures the revetment is being permitted to protect--the cabins and infrastructure serving them--are not likely to stand long after the current land leases are up.  What good will the revetment be then?  It might be good for Mr. Khosla, who will benefit from the serendipitous existence of a revetment that could protect his future development endeavors, but certainly will not be good for anyone looking to visit the beach, which in the future may ironically include current cabin owners. 

So, what's to be done now that the revetment has been permitted?

First, the revetment has been conditionally permitted.  If the conditions of the permit issued by the Coastal Commission are not complied with, such as completing construction within 30 days or avoiding grading of intertidal areas, the permit holder is in violation of the Coastal Act.  Any violations should be reported to the California Coastal Commission.  Similarly, the County has imposed conditions in their permit and any violations of those should be reported to the County.

Secondly, the property owner must file for a regular Coastal Development Permit (CDP) from the County and the Coastal Commission by July 28, 2013 for whatever long-term armoring is intended to be in place.  If the permit isn't filed, the revetment must be removed by July 28, 2014.  Surfrider will be keeping an eye on this. 

Thirdly, in their consideration of the CDP application, the County and the Commission will also consider the full range of impacts.  It will be really important to photograph the emergency revetment's impacts on the beach while it's in place so these decision makers can inform their deliberations.   Help contribute to this effort by taking photos of the beach profile when you go to visit. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Recent Attempt to Block Access Foiled!

Under the name Friends of Martin's Beach, the firm Redenbacher & Brown LLP brought a suit against Martin's Beach I and II, LLCs seeking to affirm a provision in the California Constitution which provides for public access to the coast.  That case is underway at the San Mateo County Superior Court. 

As reported yesterday by the Half Moon Bay Review, on May 14, well over a month ago, the Superior Court denied Martin's Beach I and II's request for a temporary restraining order (TRO).  The TRO sought would have temporarily prohibited public access to the beach.

So...access is still attainable at the moment, although the gate remains.  If you visit, please enjoy the quiet natural beauty, be kind to the locals, and pack your trash.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Martin's Beach Art by Carol Rosemond

 by Carol Rosemond -
Although I haven’t visited Martin’s Beach for years due to the closure, images from Martin’s Beach remain fresh in my mind.  The waterfalls and cliffs on the southern end and the signature shark fin rock formation along the beach are particularly conducive to dramatic photographs and paintings.  I have many fond memories of pursuing my art there in the company of my photographer daughter.  I hope there will be future opportunities to explore those distinctive views for new paintings.  I greatly appreciate the work being done to preserve the rights of the public to enjoy this most beautiful coastal scenery.
- Carol Rosemond  

by Carol Rosemond -

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Beach Cleanup 4/6/2013

On Saturday, April 6, several people came out to join the San Mateo County Chapter and lend a helping hand to cleanup debris at Martin's Beach.  Check out additional photos here.

Want to help with additional cleanups?  Contact us.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Seawall Update - Coastal Jurisdiction Challenged

(see first post in this series at
South end seawall.  Photo Credit David Strohm

The latest communication from the Coastal Commission staff conveyed that an application for a Coastal Development Permit is expected, but that nothing has come in yet.  What has come in, however, is a letter from the law firm Briscoe Ivester & Bazel LLP, on behalf of the applicant, challenging the Coastal Commission's boundary determination.  The boundary determination is the basis for the Commission's assertion of jurisdiction in this matter, so basically the applicant is fighting the Commission's oversight of the project. 

The Coastal Commission will likely respond, but it's hard to say how the Commission will respond.  If the Commission concedes that the determination was incorrect, and if a new determination shows that the project is not on tidelands or other lands of the state, then the Commission will no longer have jurisdiction over the project and the permit already issued by the County will suffice.  This would mean that the applicant would have the ability to move forward with building the rock revetment, at the unfortunate detriment to the beach.  

Monday, March 25, 2013

Martin's Summer - 1997

Martin's Summer 1997 from konrad Wallace on Vimeo.

Pure. Unaldulterated. Fun.
Open Martin's Beach!

Archive footage of a fun day at the beach. Footage courtesy of Bruce Jenkins.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

THE SEA by Ron Croci

Credit Ron Croci
           Shortly after we arrived in California, around the same time I discovered the salt flats, my Father took me to the Pacific Ocean, which was a short car ride from our house. I would have found my own way there but I was only 12 and I need a ride. My Dad was a fisherman and a sailor so he was used to seeing the Ocean, but me, I had never seen anything like it. We went there to go surf fishing; or rather my Dad did as I didn’t know how. I remember it was very cold and overcast with stormy clouds rolling overhead. The Sea was Grey, and the surf was big and churning. Sea birds and Seals were everywhere. We walked down a steep trail to a small sheltered cove, to a place called MARTINS BEACH. Behind us were tall coastal cliffs that reminded me of a giants fantasy castle. The beach sloped steeply and the shore break rumbled furiously. The salt spray mixed with the scent of the animals had a rich sharp smell that could have been called stinky, but actually fresh and alive. I was mesmerized. Sitting there on the edge of the sand, staring at the thundering surf gave me the same feeling of vertigo that a person gets when they look over a cliff and feel like jumping. It was as though I were a zombie that could walk with out blinking into the jaws of the Ocean never to be seen again. Of course I did not. I just sat and stared. After watching my Dad for a while I wondered down to a flat rocky ledge. There was a tall cliff with a sharp corner. And when I walked around this corner what I saw surprised me.
           Here was a large sea cave, about 30 feet high and a hundred feet deep. The bottom was an enormous tide pool with clear calm water gently washing back and forth.  This was Magic. The walls were dripping wet, and shimmering with silver light from the reflections of the tide pool. All over the walls crabs, snails and many large bug like sea creatures were running in all directions then stopping to stare at me with their eyes on the ends of long stalks. The sound of the waves in the distance echoed off the walls. The real treasure though lay at my feet. The water in the tide pool floor was about twelve inches deep and completely covered with Sea life. It was as though I stood on top of an enormous piece of jewelry totally encrusted with every kind of jewel imaginable. I got down on all fours and stared. Sea Urchins, tiny Eels, Star Fish, lime green Sea Grass, Snails, Crabs, little fish, and most things I didn’t even know of blanked the bottom. I waded into the icy water and was beside myself with delight. I grabbed in every direction. It was as though I wanted to embrace the whole pool. My Dad was a ways off but keeping an eye on me. It was safe in there and he knew it, so he let me play around and amuse myself. Well, amuse myself I did. Sticking my fingers in Sea Anemones and watching them close. I tried to catch little silver fish that were like swimming shards of glass. Then to my amazement I saw a little Octopus. It was only six inches wide as it sat on a seaweed covered rock changing colors.
            I spent the afternoon there among the sparkles and reflections, absorbed in all the colors of red, green, purple and black, turning over rocks to see entire colonies of living wiggling creatures. It seemed there was no end to it. Then I looked up to see my Dad peeling blue and black shelled mussels from the rocks.  We went home after that and cleaned the four inch mussels and put them into boiling water. After several minuets they opened up and I could see their orange flesh. We dropped the muscles in hot butter and lemon juice. Their salty marine flavor took me right back to that cave of jewels.
             I have returned there many times and have always delighted in observing the life in this shimmering grotto. This story has no moral or dark tale of redemption. Nothing weird really, just a wonderful experience a twelve year old boy had as he realized for the first time the power and beauty of the Pacific Ocean.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Surfrider Foundation Sues to Open Martin’s Beach to the Public

(entire original story linked here)

In the Surfrider Foundation Complaint filed yesterday, Surfrider Foundation cites the violations of the beach access protections of the California Coastal Act.  Specifically, the property owner cannot add new development or change the intensity of use of coastal land without a Coastal Development Permit.  The development here comes in the form of new gates, new signage and even the use of armed guards to deter public access.  

Throughout this enduring and multi-faceted campaign, and now with the new litigation filing, our organization is merely asking for the long-cherished right to access the beach, as is protected by the laws of the state of California. 

Photo credit: Ed Grant 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Seawall Threatens Martin's Beach

Seawalls are beach killers.  Placing a hardened structure on the beach in an area of wave runup causes the wave energy to reflect off the structure and back at the beach, resulting in further erosion of the beach seaward of the wall.  So imagine our surprise and distress when we learned that San Mateo County had approved a 963 foot long seawall--stretching the beachfront road at Martin's--in an attempt to protect the road from the encroaching ocean. 

The property owner applied for an emergency permit through the County to protect the road from erosion.  What's most interesting about this is that the intent of an emergency permit is to fast track a project through the permitting process when the project purpose is to respond to an emergency event, such as episodic loss of beach in a winter storm.  Anyone who's been to Martin's probably has seen clues that the beach has been experiencing erosion for a long time, such as the narrowing of the sandy beach over time, or the block wall at the south end of the beach.  So, it's hard to see how this qualifies as an emergency event.  

Another interesting and arguably non-emergency component of the project is the proposed demolishment of the old restrooms to construct a fire turnaround.  The need for a fire turnaround seems negligible at best, especially given that there has never been one in the history of the property.  The conspiracy theorist's take on this is that the turnaround would facilitate the destruction of another visitor-serving facet of the property and further obfuscate the property's historic use by the public.  

In any case, the County saw fit to issue an emergency permit and did so on January 28.  However, because it was an emergency permit, there was no public process around it, nor was there in-depth consideration of project alternatives.  There wasn't even public notification of the permit issuance until after the fact!  Surfrider didn't learn about the permit until February 11.  

After unsuccessfully working to convince the Planning Commission that the project was unlawful and should be halted, and attempting to appeal the project to the Coastal Commission (which apparently isn't possible with emergency permits), all we could hope for was that the Coastal Commission would step in and assert jurisdiction, since most of the project area lies within lands of the state.  With lines drawn and stakes in the ground, the Coastal Commission swooped in just in time with their boundary determination on March 8, asserting their jurisdiction and requiring the applicant to obtain a permit from them.  

So now, we wait to see if an application is filed.  Stay tuned! 


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Martin's Beach 5

Four of five.  Photo Credit Rob "Birdlegs" Caughlan

Five intrepid local surfers decided to brave the "closed" beach at Martin's, with the intent of catching some waves.  They also happened to catch some flack from the cops, who issued tickets to them for trespassing on the beach.  Luckily for the surfers, and the rest of us who have sought to reestablish access to Martin's, they weren't just ordinary fence jumpers--their stated premise for crossing the property was that they were exercising their constitutional right to access the beach.  Their actions elevated what would have otherwise been a standard trespassing case to a case of significant public interest and stake.

At 9am on February 7, 2013, the defendants were arraigned on their charges at the San Mateo County courthouse.  The District Attorney asked to have their case dismissed based on "insufficient evidence".  The charges were dropped.  Spirits were raised!  All involved saw this as a major victory, at least for the time being, in that visitors seeking to exercise their constitutional right to access the beach would not be prosecuted.   

One small step for the Martin's Beach five.  One giant leap for those who've sought to regain access.