The long, long legal battle over Martins Beach might finally be over, and the state of California is looking to make sure it doesn't come up ever again.
Signs and gates barring entrance to Martins Beach in Half Moon Bay have finally come down, and now there's nothing stopping surfers, hikers, and the general public from enjoying the coastline. CBS reports that this follows an order from the California Coastal Commission, who threatened to fine the tech billionaire who purchased the property and tried to restrict access years ago. According to the report, the fine was something in the ballpark of "$11,250 per violation per day" — no tiny amount of money given how many people attempt to access the beach every day.
We've covered this story before, but just in case you weren't aware: Previously, the beach was at the center of a protracted legal battle after tech billionaire Vinod Khosla bought the beach and the surrounding areas for $32.5 million. For as long as most locals could remember, a publicly accessible path, via an easement, had allowed access to the beach, which is popular with surfers. After the purchase, Khosla put up signs declaring the beach and the lands private property, and threatened to charge people with trespassing if they disobeyed the signs telling people to keep out. Residents who already lived in beach houses nearby were allowed access to the beach, but the general public was not.
When the news first broke of the signs going up, the story was held up as an example of tech industry privilege and exclusivity, and Khosla became somewhat notorious for his attempts to try to restrict access to a public resource.
Earlier, in August, a panel of three judges ordered Khosla to immediately open up access to the beach or face punishment. Their 50-page ruling read, in part: "One of the basic goals of the state for the coastal zone is to maximize public access to and along the coast and maximize public recreational opportunities in the coastal zone. Maximizing access is the goal."
The state of California is also moving to take action on future attempts to privatize the beach. Legislation just passed through the California Senate earlier in September authorizing the state of California to place a right-of-way easement, allowing for public access to the shoreline. The bill, SB 42, also specifically includes the beach as part of that access. It only just needs a signature from Governor Jerry Brown before it can become full law, and he has until October 15th to take care of doing just that.