Thursday, December 18, 2014

Khosla to Judge: I Was Given an Unfair Trial

In the latest turn of events, on Dec. 16 attorneys for Vinod Khosla filed a notice of intent to move for a new trial.  Their reason?  Well, there were several, including "irregularity in the proceedings," "improper orders of the court," "abuse of discretion by the court," and "accident or surprise."

It would be nice if it could be said that this filing was an accident or surprise, but unfortunately Khosla's efforts to skirt the rules seem to be par for the course.

Khosla's attorneys also sent a letter this week, addressed to the California Coastal Commission, in response to the Dec. 8 letter sent by Commission staff to Steven Baugher, manager of Martins Beach I and II, LLCs.  In the letter, they cop to the apparent reason that the gate is still closed to the public, despite Judge Mallach's Final Order that ordered the gate to be opened: bad weather.

In the Judge's order, she stated that the gate was to be opened to the same extent that it was at the time of purchase.  In Richard Deeney's testimony in the case, he stated that he would close the gate when there was bad weather, when there wasn't someone to take money at the gate, or when he felt like it.  So Khosla's attorneys are attempting to justify continued, uninterrupted closure of the gate based on those specific words in Mr. Deeney's testimony, despite the reality that the gate was not permanently closed for "bad weather" or any other reason when the property was owned by the Deeney family. 

A response from the court is awaited. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Judge to Khosla: "The Gate Across Martins Beach Rd Must Be Unlocked and Open" NOW

As reported on the Surfrider Foundation Coastal Blog, on Friday, December 5, San Mateo County Superior Court judge Barbara J Mallach provided clarity to her final ruling issued November 12, in which she ruled that Khosla's changes to the property--including permanently locking the gate across Martins Beach Rd--constituted development and therefore require a permit from the California Coastal Commission.  Clarification came in the form of a Final Order from the court, which amongst other things orders Khosla to open the gate and restore access to what it was when he bought the property

For those who have been wondering when the gate would be required to be reopened, the time has come.  We have arrived.  Open, Sesame!

                                                                     Photo credit: Anneliese Agren

But Khosla has yet to comply.

Following on the heels of this order, the California Coastal Commission sent its own clarifying message to Khosla, via the property manager Steven Baugher.  In case the threat of law is not motivation enough to comply, the Commission sent a seven page letter stating that the property owner is in violation of the Coastal Act for unpermitted development including but not limited to the locking of the gate to bar public access, use of security guards, pursuit of trespassing enforcement against visitors, and placement of signs to deter access, AND that these violations are subject to various fines, including a fine of up to $11,250 per day per violation and $15,000 per day per violation, respectively.  AND the Commission notes that the fines are cumulative from the notice of violation, which was sent in 2011.  Although Khosla is a billionaire, fines racking up to potentially tens of millions of dollars would probably not go unnoticed. 

In the Commission letter, the Commission gave Baugher until Dec. 22 to respond and work to resolve this violation amicably. 

Stay tuned!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Two Years Ago, Five Intrepid Surfers...

...took a ride south of town to Martin's Beach to go surfing. Not an extraordinary thing, except for the fact that the road to Martin's Beach had been closed off to the public and it was unclear whether or not they would be welcomed in their attempt to access and recreate at this local beach.

Not to be deterred, they read up on their rights to access the beach and decided to exercise them.

At 10am on Sunday, October 21, Jonathan Bremer, Kyle Foley, Austin Murison, David Pringle, and Tyler Schmid were ticketed for trespassing at Martin's Beach. This set off an effort to defend their actions and seek a determination from a county judge that these gents were, in fact, not trespassing.

On February 7, 2013, the county judge dismissed the charges based on insufficient evidence to support the allegations of trespassing. (original story here) From that date forward to present time, this decision has allowed the public to visit Martin's Beach without being charged with trespassing.

Thank you, Jonathan, Kyle, Austin, David, and Tyler for blazing the trail down to the beach for the rest of us while we await for a permanent access solution! 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Taking a Moment

WOW!  What an amazing past week this has been for the campaign to Open Martin's Beach, with a victory in the courts and a victory at the state capitol.  Although the campaign is far from over, it's important to take a moment to reflect on how far this effort has come, how many people have contributed their time, stories, energy, and/or funds to support open access, and the movement that has been energized.

Here are a few videos and photos to enjoy of folks taking this moment to enjoy how far we've come.

John Green/Bay Area News Group - CLICK FOR GALLERY

Photoshopped courtesy of Wallace J Nichols

Video: Cycling Brothers a Little Too Stoked that Judge Opened Local Beach

NBC Video Clip - Return to Martins Beach

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

SB 968 - SIGNED!

Tuesday afternoon, on the last day for the Governor to take action on bills, Governor Jerry Brown put pen to paper and inked him name on SB 968, a bill authored by Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), which outlined a timeline and process for the State Lands Commission to acquire public access to Martin's Beach.  The bill directs the Commission to enter into negotiations for a period of one year, and if at the end of that year negotiations have not been fruitful, State Lands may opt to use other mechanisms to acquire and facilitate access. 

The bill was fortunate to enjoy bipartisan support in the Senate and Assembly, but even into the final hours its was unclear whether the Governor would sign the bill or not.

Needless to day, we at the Surfrider Foundation are elated that the Governor chose to sign SB 968, and we greatly appreciate that the bill has been given the opportunity to go into effect.  We could not have achieved this action without the leadership of Senator Jerry Hill, co-authors Asm. Mark Stone and Asm. Kevin Mullin, and Speaker Toni Atkins, nor could this have been accomplished without the support of many, including Platinum Advisors; supporting organizations Environment California, California Coastal Protection Network, Sierra Club, Ocean Conservancy, WILDCOAST, Black Surfers Collective, The City Project, Committee for Green Foothills, Save the Waves, Azul, West Marin Environmental Action Committee; outstanding individuals such as former U.S. Rep Pete McCloskey, Rob Caughlan, Warner Chabot, Mark Massara, Christine Craft; our Surfrider Foundation team; and all of you who took the time to write and call your legislators and the Governor to ask for their support.  THANK YOU!!!

We will look forward to engaging with the State Lands Commission in a public process to permanently restore public access to Martin’s Beach.

Supporters can act now by signing the petition to the State Lands Commission supporting this process.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Victory for Beach Goers!

Today, the San Mateo County Superior Court issued its ruling on Surfrider Foundation v. Martins Beach I and II, LLCs.  Honorable Judge Barbara J. Mallach ruled that the permanent closure of the gate across Martins Beach Rd. does, indeed, constitute development, and that Mr. Khosla will need to seek a permit for this development.  Although this ruling does not immediately restore access, it would allow the California Coastal Commission to rightfully pursue enforcement action against Mr. Khosla if he does not apply for a permit for the access closure.  If Mr. Khosla does apply for a permit, the public will have the opportunity to participate in the permitting processes of the County and Coastal Commission and ask that these entities require that a permit to close off access be denied. 

In short, wooooooohoooooooo!!!!!!!!!  We are one very large step closer to restoring public access to Martins Beach, which is great news for the people who cherish it and for future visitors. 

A press release on the win can be found here and our latest entry on the Coastal Blog discusses the bigger picture of this victory.

The full court decision can be found here

This victory is credited to our amazing legal team, led by top trial attorney Joe Cotchett of Cotchett, Pitre and McCarthy, LLP, Eric Buescher, Pete McCloskey, and Mark Massara, in consultation with Angela Howe, Legal Director of Surfrider Foundation.  Of course our case could not have been established without testimony from our witnesses, Lennie Roberts, Bernie Leal, Rob Caughlan, Terry Louwerens, and Surfrider Foundation representatives. 

In another prong of the Open Martin's Beach campaign, Surfrider Foundation is advocating for the State Lands Commission to negotiate a right of way easement to the beach. Add your voice to the fight and ask the state agency to open access here.

If you are inclined to join us and support this effort for the long haul, please visit our donation page.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Show Your Support

Our friends at put together this limited edition tee to support the cause.  Get yours today and show your support for beach access and for restored access to Martin's Beach.  100% of proceeds benefit the campaign.  Limited time offer...expires at 1pm on Friday, Sept. 5th!!

On to the Governor!

Senate Bill 968, which outlines a process and timeframe for the State Lands Commission to lead efforts to restore access to Martin's Beach, has made its way through the state legislature and is headed for its (hopefully) last stop before being signed into law: the Governor's desk.  (More on that here.)  The majority of state legislators agrees with the importance of protecting coastal access to the public an has seen fit to help restore access to this special beach, which we very much appreciate.

The Governor has until September 20th to sign the bill, and we need to make sure he hears from YOU!  Please take a quick minute to click and send a letter to Governor Brown.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Restore Access by Taking This Survey

Photo courtesy of Judy Allen
The California Coastal Commission has made available a public access survey to gather data on when and how the public accessed Martin's Beach over past decades.  This survey is part of an investigation to determine whether any public rights of access to and/or use of the area exist by reason of past public use.  The data collected could be used to support restoration of public access to the beach in the future.  If you ever visited Martin's Beach before it was owned by Mr. Khosla, please take this survey!

Direct link to PDF file of survey:
Do you lack a printer or tech capabilities?  Contact us and we'll send you a printed survey in the mail.

Please be sure to:
  • print out the blank survey and complete it - document your visits to the best of your ability,
  • SIGN and DATE the document on pages 4 AND 15,
  • provide any supplementary documentation (i.e. copies of old photos, videos), 
  • make a copy of everything (for your records), and 
  • send the original signed document to the Coastal Commission 
  • **ask everyone you know that used to visit Martin's Beach to please take the survey!** Send them the link above.

Surveys can be sent to the Coastal Commission the following ways:
  • California Coastal Commission
    ATTN: Peter Allen
    45 Fremont Street, Suite 2000
    San Francisco, CA 94105-2219
  • Fax signed copy to (415) 904-5400

You can read more about the survey and the Commission's action here.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Setting the Record Straight

In recent media interviews, Vinod Khosla has alleged, amongst other things, that Surfrider Foundation has not been willing to negotiate.  This same allegation has been leveled in court and in the state legislature.  Like the other allegations, this allegation is not only untrue but unwise, as we have documented our every step in the effort to restore access to Martin's Beach.

For a timeline of events associated with the campaign to Open Martin's Beach, please see here.

The timeline also includes links to correspondence that show Surfrider's, the County's, and the beach-going community's efforts to communicate with Mr. Khosla to preserve and restore access by means other than litigation.  Ironically, a letter from Khosla's attorney in 2011 makes clear that it is Mr. Khosla who has been unwilling to negotiate and who has sought litigation from the outset. 

Surfrider Foundation is disheartened that Mr. Khosla is using his energy and resources in such a negative way to broadcast false accusations, instead of taking the very easy and positive step of reaching out to begin a community dialogue about restoring public access to Martin's Beach.  Again, we beseech him to consider this opportunity to move forward in a positive and mutually beneficial way.

An Op Ed from Surfrider Foundation CEO Jim Moriarty on this subject ran here last Friday.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Closing Arguments Made in the Surfrider Foundation Lawsuit to Open Martin’s Beach

Video from outside the court, after the trial

Attorneys for the Surfrider Foundation made final remarks during closing arguments of the Martin’s Beach trial today before San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Mallach.  It is now up to Judge Mallach to consider the evidence presented and render her decision. The Foundation expects a ruling from the court by mid-September.

“We delivered a very strong closing argument today,” says Angela Howe, Legal Director for the Surfrider Foundation.  “Surfrider brought this litigation to protect the public’s right of beach access, which is of the utmost importance for this precious spot on the San Mateo County coast and for all of California’s 1,100-mile coastline."

Mark Massara, longtime surfer and counsel for the Surfrider Foundation in this matter, was present today for the closing remarks with Eric Buescher and Joseph Cotchett of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, who also represented Surfrider in the case before Judge Mallach.

“Let’s be crystal clear: even if one were to believe the tall tales that Vinod Khosla’s lawyers told today, and assume that everything they said about how the U.S. Government and Coastal Commission cannot be trusted, it would not change the fact that Khosla still has to apply for a permit,” declares Massara.

The Surfrider Foundation, the largest non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans, waves and beaches, challenged that the property owner, billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, violated the California Coastal Act when he closed the only public access road to Martin's Beach by putting up a gate and posted signage to deter visitors. (Complete timeline here)

Although an affirmative decision by the court would not restore public access directly, it would require the property owner to seek a permit for the development that has occurred and begin a public process to consider the changes to the property and beach access.  A decision in favor of Surfrider might also require the property owner to pay hefty fines of up to $15,000 per day into the state Coastal Conservancy coffers,. 

“We believe the judge will make a very informed, reasonable judgment.  It is clear that Mr. Khosla refused to go to the Coastal Commission and we are asking the court to order him to do so,” added Joseph Cotchett, counsel for the Surfrider Foundation.

Meanwhile, in the state legislature, a bill is still in play that also seeks to restore public access to Martins Beach.  SB 968 (Hill – San Mateo) would direct the State Lands Commission to work to negotiate purchase of an easement or right-of-way to facilitate public access to the beach.  If no such purchase is negotiated by 2016, the Commission could opt to exercise eminent domain to acquire the easement.  The bill will be considered by the Assembly Appropriations Committee when the legislature reconvenes in August.

Post-trial press coverage can be found on our Press page here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mark Massara on Martin's Beach, Beach Access

Watch an interview with Surfrider Foundation co-counsel Mark Massara from last night on KSCO's Off The Lip Radio Show streamed on and learn more about the battle of private property rights vs. public beach access at Martin’s Beach. 


Monday, July 14, 2014

Trial Information - UPDATED

UPDATED AS OF 7/14/14:
Hall of Justice & Records


Surfrider Foundation v. Martins Beach I, LLC and Martins Beach II, LLC


*Closing Arguments* - 9:30am on Wednesday, July 16

San Mateo County Superior Court, 400 County Center, Redwood City
Department 22, Courtroom 8A
Photo credit Rob Caughlan

Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Mallach presiding

If you attend, please show your support by wearing blue!  

If you opt to quietly tweet from the trial, please use #martinsbeach and feel free to mention @Surfrider and @vkhosla.  


Thursday, May 29, 2014

SB 968 Lives to See Another Day, Heads to Assembly

Despite efforts by Khosla's lobbying team to kill SB 968 in Appropriations last week, a majority of Senators voted to pass the bill out of committee and on to the Senate floor.  Just before 5pm yesterday, the Senate passed SB 968 with a vote of 22 to 11.  The bill will move on to the Assembly for consideration.

Needless to say, we are STOKED!  Our full press release on the matter can be viewed here.

Now, to gear up for the Assembly...

Citizens can take action to support the bill in the Assembly by writing a letter to their Assemblymember here:

Citizens are also encouraged to write their Senator in response to the Senator's vote for or against SB 968 and public beach access.  You can find your State Senator here:, and can find your Senator's vote on this bill here:

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Khosla Hires Lobbyists to Kill SB 968

As earlier reported, State Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) introduced an important bill earlier this year to provide permanent access to Martin's Beach.  SB 968 has passed through two Senate committees thus far, and awaits a hearing in the Appropriations Committee this Friday.

Yesterday, it was learned that Khosla, or rather Steven Baugher of Martin's Beach I and II, LLCs, hired lobbying firm California Strategies & Advocacy, LLC to try and kill this bill.  It is curious why Khosla waited this long, but in any case, this move comes just days before this key committee hearing.  If the bill does not pass out of Appropriations, it will be laid to rest until it is possibly taken back up next year.

The selection of California Strategies to lobby against the bill is intriguing.  Back in February of this year, Capitol Weekly reported on the Fair Political Practices Commission Enforcement Division's annual violations report.  2013 was characterized as one of the worst years ever in terms of the number of violations and prosecutions related to lobbying and campaign practices.  In this report and article, California Strategies and three of its partners--Jason Kinney, Rusty Areias, and Winston Hickox--are specifically called out for their violation of the Political Reform Act due to their failure to register as lobbyists.

You might think that someone with billions of dollars could hire a more reputable firm, but perhaps this was done intentionally.

The method of lobbying that this firm is (or at least was) purported to use is referred to as "shadow lobbying," which is characterized as former politicians and high-level staff members who serve as "consultants" and provide advice to decision-makers without being clear that they are actually paid lobbyists. 

We are hopeful that legislators and staff at the capitol will see through this guise and base their decisions on what's best for the public and not what's best for one wealthy individual. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Khosla to Testify

San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach has ruled that Vinod Khosla, the billionaire behind the holding companies which are designated the owners of the property adjacent to Martin's Beach, will have to testify in court for the Surfrider Foundation lawsuit. 

It is unfortunate that it took a judge compelling him to appear to finally bring him out from behind the corporate veil to talk about his actions to close off access to the beach.  However, his required appearance and answers to questioning will bring some degree of satisfaction to many who have hoped for and sought after simple dialogue with the man behind the closure.

Latest indications are that Khosla will be called to appear somewhere between 3pm and 5pm on Monday, May 12.  (See "Trial Information" below)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Coastal Act Suit Goes to Trial

Who to himself is law, no law doth need,
Offends no law, and is a king indeed
- excerpt, The Tragedy of Bussy D'Ambois

The California Coastal Act is a law that was put in place to regulate development in a manner which protects and conserves California's epic natural and scenic resources on the coast. The law addresses a broad swath of issues from protection of habitat, water quality, coastal dependent uses, and visual resources, to maximizing public access to beaches. Arguably, without this very important law on the books, California's remarkable coastline would have long ago succumbed to unbridled economic exploitation and mass privatization.

Indeed, the Coastal Act has been challenged by formidable opponents with deep pockets and weighty influence, who have sought to do these very things. One memorable tiff involved media mogul David Geffen and his Malibu home on Carbon Beach. Although Mr. Geffen had agreed to an access easement along his property as a condition of a development permit, he later sought to close off public access to the easement. In the end, Mr. Geffen lost the battle in court and opened the gate to the accessway.

The latest battle involves another mogul--this time of the tech sector--who has closed off and deterred access to Martin's Beach.  Vinod Khosla, under the guise of two holding companies, bought the land adjacent to Martin's Beach in 2008 and closed off access to the public soon after.  The billboard advertising access was painted over, beach closure signs erected, and a gate that once opened for the public was kept locked except to residents possessing keycards.

As offensive as these actions are, they are made all the worse with the realization that they were done with full knowledge that they were illegal.  The representative of the holding companies was made aware of the existing public access associated with the property prior to purchase of the property, and was also informed that closing or deterring access would be an activity that required a development permit from the County and Coastal Commission.  (We learned this through discovery on our lawsuit...see video) 

But, as powerful people are sometimes wont to do, the law was ignored and access was closed without benefit of a permit.  Doubtlessly he reckoned that the only way that he would have to answer to these actions and forced to address this closure was through an enforcement action or a lawsuit brought against him.

Mr. Khosla was approached early on by Surfrider Foundation in hopes that the closure could be discussed and an amicable resolution to restore access could be reached, but alas Mr. Khosla was not responsive to this approach.  Instead, he relied on his lawyers to respond, and the response more or less said that the court would need to decide.  So Surfrider took him to task and sued for violation of the Coastal Act.

We are now days away from trial of the suit, which will take place at the San Mateo County Superior Court, this coming week of May 5.  We firmly believe that the actions taken constitute development, which require a permit, and are hopeful that the court will agree. If so, the Coastal Commission will finally have the opportunity to properly consider and address the access closure. Of equal importance, a message to future potential violators will be sent: California's beaches are not to be closed to the public. [Even if you have lots of money.]

We encourage members of the public to come out to the trial and support our suit (- wear blue!).  Check back here on Monday for the trial schedule and room assignment.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

State Legislature Steps Up to Bat

As most followers are aware, earlier in February, Senator Jerry Hill (D- San Mateo), introduced a bill to establish permanent access to Martin's Beach.  Senate Bill 968 requires that the State Lands Commission consult and enter negotiations with the property owner adjacent to the beach (Vinod Khosla) to purchase land required to provide permanent public access to the public beach.  The bill further states that if purchase cannot be negotiated by 2016, the State Lands Commission shall acquire an access easement via eminent domain. 

Surfrider Foundation is grateful for the introduction of this bill and grateful that the legislature is considering a means for addressing this very important loss of access to Martin's Beach. 

The bill has passed through the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water with a 7-2 vote. Senators Evans, Hueso, Jackson, Lara, Monning, Pavley, and Wolk voting to pass the bill, and Senators Cannella and Fuller voting against it.  If you are a constituent, please consider hand-writing a note to any of these Senators to either thank them for their vote, or to urge them to reconsider their vote when the bill comes before them again.  (Contact info can be found here.  If you're not sure who your Senator is, you can find out here.)

SB 968 is to be heard today, on Earth Day, by the Senate Committee on Judiciary.   

Monday, February 3, 2014

An Open Letter to Vinod Khosla

February 3, 2014

To: Vinod Khosla

As of writing this letter, it has been 2.5 years since we first wrote to you to ask that you engage in a dialogue about your closure of Martin’s Beach to the public.   At that time, we could only guess that you were the owner, as there was no public documentation of the name of the new owner of the property adjacent to the beach, other than “Martin’s Beach I, LLC” and Martin’s Beach II, LLC”.  You opted to hide your name from the public for reasons we can only assume, like avoiding public scrutiny and outreach efforts in response to closure of the only road leading to this well-loved beach.

Now that you have been “outed,” your name and face have been associated with this issue, yet you still hide behind proxies who act and speak on your behalf.  This runs contrary to your very public persona that is constantly in the limelight, advocating for cleantech solutions or advising others on achieving success in the tech sector. 

Such behavior also runs contrary to statements made on your behalf, such as “the property owner strives to be a constructive member of the community”, despite being “very aware of the community concern about the situation.” [i]  Certainly it does not reflect that you “feel badly about the controversy surrounding Martin’s Beach.”[ii]  Shirking attempts to engage you in a dialogue reveals you to be rather disinterested in a “community conversation” or an outcome that would be “constructive.”

It almost seems like you think by ignoring the community we will go away.  Like we will forget about this beach that families have enjoyed and built lives around, or forget about the bigger picture of public access to beaches in California. 

We won’t.

Surfrider Foundation continues to hope for a constructive conversation that will result in both public access to Martin’s Beach and respect for the local private property.

We call upon you, Mr. Khosla, to step into the light and demonstrate that you are a constructive member of the community by engaging in a conversation with the community.  Dialogue could eliminate the need for litigation and lead to an amicable solution to give the public access to the beach they cherish.

Citizens wishing to join this call to action to Mr. Khosla may do so here: