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.