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.