– Silicon Valley Billionaire Buys Popular Beach and Then Blocks Public Access (Liberty Blitzkrieg, May 13, 2014):
Vinod Kholsa, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and well known Silicon Valley venture capitalist, is at the center of a lawsuit revolving around the popular Northern California destination Martins Beach, located six miles south of Half Moon Bay. The beach has always been popular with families and surfers alike, and the prior owners had always provided access for a $5 fee. Mr. Kholsa has taken a different approach, which has consisted of putting up a locked gate to block the beach’s only road access point and painting over a billboard welcoming people to the beach.
Mr. Kholsa sees himself as an “eco warrior” and is a darling of the Democratic party (he held a private dinner with Barack Obama and U.S. Senators after the Snowden revelations first hit), yet his behavior in this affair portrays him as the typical elitist oligarch limousine liberal. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised by the behavior of a man who’s firm hired British war criminal Tony Blair back in 2010 (was this before or after Blair took on his role at JP Morgan).
From SFGate we learn that:
SAN FRANCISCO – The billionaire landowner who bought a popular beach in San Mateo County and then locked out the public was evasive and uncooperative when questioned Monday about his decision, stating repeatedly he “did not recollect” conversations, letters or legal documents.
Vinod Khosla testified during the civil trial in San Mateo County Superior Court that he did not remember why he set up two limited liability companies to buy Martins Beach, what amount he paid for the property, when he bought it or why the decision was made to keep the public out.
For such a brilliant guy, he certainly seems to have a selective memory when it comes to peasant access to his beach.
The Silicon Valley venture capitalist remained calm but gave no ground during the intense questioning – sometimes tinged with disbelief and sarcasm – by the lead attorney for the Surfrider Foundation, which sued Khosla for blocking the only access road to the beach. Khosla explained that he never had a conversation about the property without his lawyers present, a strategy that allowed him to invoke attorney-client privilege for virtually every question whose answer he could recollect.
“I think this man does not go to the potty without his attorney being there,” a frustrated Joe Cotchett, who is representing the surfer group, said after the hearing. “There was an arrogance there that defies common sense. … He couldn’t remember a thing. I would never say he was lying. I would only say that his recollection is not good.”
The Surfrider Foundation has accused Khosla of flouting the California Coastal Act when he blocked the only road into Martins Beach, a sandy, 53-acre haven along the coastal cliffs about 6 miles south of Half Moon Bay.
Khosla’s lawyers say the co-founder of Sun Microsystems has a right to keep trespassers off his property. The case, which is being heard by Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach, is seen by the plaintiffs as a challenge to the 1972 California Coastal Zone Conservation Initiative, which made the entire coast public property, including beaches below the mean high tide.
The lawsuit, filed in March 2013, accused the then-unidentified owner of the limited liability company of painting over a billboard welcoming people to the beach, putting up a locked gate in front of Martins Beach Road and hiring armed guards to keep people out – actions that Cotchett said constitute development and require permits from the California Coastal Commission.
Khosla, who is known for his backing of bold, eco-friendly projects and is a darling of some Democratic politicians, purchased the property for $37.5 million in 2008 under two LLCs. He kept his name out of the public eye while access was blocked and local politicians and surfers raised their objections.
So liberal of him.
The public is still allowed to use Martins Beach, but, because of the closed gate, the only way people can get there is from the ocean, which the surfing group claims is a violation of public access provisions in the coastal act.
Khosla was featured in a Vanity Fair article in 2007 that depicted him as a “Golden State Eco-Warrior” with two of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. When questioned Monday he said he did not remember any conversations before purchasing Martins Beach in which he promised not to cut off public access.
There goes that memory again…
He also said he did not remember e-mails and letters from the county, the court or politicians telling him that public access must be preserved.
“If I were to receive a letter like this, I probably wouldn’t read it,” Khosla testified, adding that he probably receives 1,000 letters like that a week. “I would forward it to be taken care of.”
When questioned about what Cotchett claimed was Khosla’s purpose for buying the beach – allegedly to build a private residence – Khosla said he never discussed any such plan “because I didn’t have a purpose.”
Martins Beach was popular among smelt fishermen and a destination for family outings for the better part of a century. Before the sale, the crescent-shaped beach, which features a pyramid-shaped outcropping known as Shark Fin Rock, had been owned by the Deeney family, which set up the first cabin in 1918 and continued building through the 1950s. It once had a store and paid visitor parking. Many of the cabins are under long-term leases that expire in 2021, according to the lawsuit. The fee to visit the beach was $5 at the time of the sale.
Surfrider claims these uses established a pattern of public access that the new owner did away with when he closed the gate and put up a sign reading, “Beach closed, keep out.”
If you’re not a billionaire in America, you are out of luck. Just ask Sam Zell what to do about it.
Full article here.