Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
California Sues Vinod Khosla over Martins Beach Public Access (latimes.com)
209 points by ilamont 16 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 244 comments

I don't live near here, can someone explain this? ( The link should open in Google maps with satellite view.)


What I see is a bunch of houses on the beach.

How is this in issue with one person and not all those home owners?

Edit: Even the reviews talk about how you can just walk to the beach without paying for parking. I don't get the problem? Is this a California beach-perspective thing? As far as I know all water front property in the US is public up to a certain distance from the water already.

There is a gate you can see in Street View. The contention started when Khosla started locking the gate and had security arrest surfers who jumped it.

Edit: here's a timeline: https://www.surfrider.org/pages/timeline-open-martins-beach

If this is a public right of way, then doesn't it take just a single surfer to come along and improve the right of way by clearing obstructions? A cordless sawzall is like $100, and bolt cutters are much less.

They'd likely end up receiving a SLAPP by Khosla, but surely there would be some judgement-proof surfer willing to shoulder the long tail risk, and plenty of people willing to pay for the legal defense.

All of what you're suggesting already happened. The surfers brought a lawsuit to establish there is a public right of way. They lost (on two different theories of why there is a public right of way): https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-11-26/billionai... https://scholarship.law.berkeley.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?art... ("Therefore, the court of appeal in Friends I found that, because the Martin’s Beach property had been certified under the 1851 law without any mention of a public interest and never passed into state ownership, there could be no common law public trust easement over the land to the water."). California is now trying to establish there is a public right of way on a third theory.

In the meantime, California has been end-running around the whole right-of-way issue. It's been saying "whether or not there is a public right of way, you need a permit to put up obstructions."

This has worked insofar as Khosla has not actually applied for a permit yet. But at some point the State will have to justify denying Khosla a permit, and asserting "we're going to do through our fence-permitting powers what we cannot do as a matter of property law" is not a great look.

Some surfers did that and then were arrested and put in jail by Khosla.

Those people willing to pay legal defense are called the Surfrider Foundation and they're the people that keep suing Khosla to open up the beach.

It's been quite an ordeal.

Khosla put them in jail?

I assume you mean the police did?

The police, who I am sure this Vinod guy donates to/has in their pocket.

Don't trust anyone when it comes to people with "fuck you" money.

While I would say you shouldn't fully trust some people, coming up with wild conspiracy theories don't help.

Not trusting people with money (regardless if it's a lot) says something about society in general. People should understand that even amongst the rich, people are very different and diverse despite being in the same socioeconomic class.

> If this is a public right of way, then doesn't it take just a single surfer to come along and improve the right of way by clearing obstructions? A cordless sawzall is like $100, and bolt cutters are much less.

No, for the same reasons you can't demolish your neighbor's house the instant you found out the surveying was done wrong and it's on your property. There's a lengthy legal process involved before you get to do that.

Cutting the lock would be destruction of someone else's property. Their actions are a separate legal issue.

There is a huge difference between mistakenly building over a property line and intentionally obstructing a shared in-use right of way. Parties to a right of way generally have the right to improve and maintain it for their use. Removing a lock would be a reasonable action to maintain access of a shared right of way, similar to cutting up a downed tree, towing a parked car, etc.

There's no right of way here though, as the California courts have repeatedly ruled.

There are no home owners. Vinod owns literally all of those houses and their land.

Really? Can you back that up?

You can make a long walk to the beach from Rt1 if you park roadside at the top. If you don't want to do that, you can pay $10-20 for private parking in a small lot about halfway down to the beach. The parking lot only holds perhaps 15-20 vehicles, so capacity at the beach is already tightly constrained.

I read some articles on this, but something still isn't clear. Is he being sued to keep a parking lot open?

I can understand blocking access to the beach being illegal, but being forced to run a private enterprise seems odd...

He locked the gate at the entrance. He doesn't have to allow parking, but he has to allow people to get to the beach somehow.

His argument seems to be that he HAS to maintain the beach and parking lot, which he doesn't want to do because it loses money.. but I am not sure where that idea comes from. He could just close the parking lot and leave the road open. I am not sure about the liability concerns.

I think his current argument is that he doesn't have to give access (maintain easement) because his property is part of an 1851 sale of Mexican property which has a treaty that supercedes Californian state law. Essentially a federal treaty supercedes state law through judicial review.

> I am not sure about the liability concerns.

There shouldn't be any liability concerns related to the use of a public easement.

He's rich. Someone will find an excuse to sue him, public easement or not. (Not saying they'll win, but they will sue.)

I actually not on Khosla's side of this issue, but in the current lawsuit-as-lottery-ticket climate, liability concerns are in fact a reasonable issue.

I mean, he is already being sued right now.... and these lawsuits seem to have a better chance of winning than some other random liability lawsuit.

Is it really better to be sued by a bunch of people plus the state of California like he currently is than to potentially at some point in the future be sued by some idiot with a very weak case?

I also do not think that it is a good thing to make an enemy of the state government if he wins the current set of lawsuits.

To preserve public access to the coast.

Based on CA’s constitution beaches (low to high tides) are public property.

If you land lock a beach, in practice (like in the example above) there is an access route used by public which you are NOT entitled to close.

But this is where I am confused, if you read a bunch of the Google Map reviews on this beach you can just walk to it from the road. What was blocked?

Street-view and Google maps shows a road, but it goes to a bunch of houses. Did the rich guy buy all those houses?

The parking and road existed as public access before Vinod bought the house. The argument is where something that was public before can be made private without prior approval.

Public != Free

The previous owner of the property erected a gate along their private road, posted "no tresspassing signs", charged for access, and opened/closed the gate at their discretion (leaving it closed for months during winter). I don't have a horse in this race, but that doesn't sound like public access any more than an amusement park is public access.

Yes, it's my understanding that Khosla owns the entire compound and all of the houses. It's one property and was operated as a business by the former owners, the Deeney family.

The previous court case that (SCOTUS declined to hear) was really about whether Khosla needs to apply for a permit for his development work that changes public access to his property. SCOTUS declining to hear the case essentially means that Khosla needs to apply for the permit for these changes -- the implication is that until this happens, the case is not actually ripe for review. If he's unable to obtain the permit, then Khosla may be able to pursue his argument that the state's mandated public access is an unconstitutional "taking" of private property. (IANAL)

Thanks for clarifying this. I've read a few articles and for some reason much of these details seem to be spread out in small bits.

It seems if he had been more careful with his approach he could have kept the beach clear during winter just like the previous owner did without any legal hassles.

So in theory, he could make another access road further down and leave that one open?

Still doesn't explain all the houses and cars directly on the beach. Does he own all those houses too?

> So in theory, he could make another access road further down and leave that one open?

I'm not sure about the law in the US and California, but in some jurisdictions you can't just move an easement. There was an easement running through his property from the road to a specific point on the beach. He can't just move the ending point of the easement to a different spot on the beach.

he placed the gates and guards. The state has fined him for doing so and ordered to restore access. But since he is rich and the fine is small - he did not comply and was just paying the fine and keeps fighting in courts

Looking at the map, I see what looks like one decent road to the beach.

Couldn't the state just come in and make their own road? Where I live access roads are common on private property, but the are on the borders of the property between private owners.

Is he just that petty that he truly doesn't want others to have access to the beach? Or is it more complicated than that?

I don't have a horse in this race either (from Toronto, couldn't care less), but I am a map nerd. I had the same confusion as RobertRoberts when looking at the street view too.

Either I'm vastly underestimating how much property on Martins Beach Rd that Khosla owns, or it's poor journalism with a half explanation of the issue.

The 3D map view shows it better. https://www.google.com/maps/place/Martin's+Beach/@37.3749952...

From what I can see, it's either: 1. The stretch of Martins Beach Rd that runs along the beach, or 2. The tiny road above the row of houses that runs parallel to the stretch of Martins Beach Rd that runs along the beach.

I don't know how it would be 1, as Martins Beach Rd would be a government funded and managed road. According to the map though, both roads are named the same. Somehow I doubt this though, and one of these roads is private, the other is the real Martins Beach Rd.

However, it still doesn't answer why Khosla would be able to close a whole private road when there's what looks like 22 properties on the upper Martins Beach Rd, and 13 properties on the lower Martins Beach Rd - does he own all of them? Really confusing!

You're thinking much too small. Zoom out. Then zoom out again.


From the LA Times, the "Gate in dispute" is right off highway 1: https://ca-times.brightspotcdn.com/dims4/default/1d63e71/214...


It looks like this person is an asshole.

This is pretty interesting: https://documents.coastal.ca.gov/assets/access/pr-access-fac...

The public can do whatever it wants on the beach itself. The argument is about whether the road to the beach is implicitly public property because of prior use.

That PDF provides some tests, and is useful to review prior to reading the judge's decision.

> The public can do whatever it wants on the beach itself.

The public can do what it wants on the part of the beach up to the high tide line. It doesn't extend to the whole of what you'd think of as the "beach."

Khosla seems to say the issue is maintaining the access path.. parking, bathrooms, etc. Is that correct? If so, would it make sense for California to seize that part the access path via eminent domain and provide those services?

Khosla is wrong, he doesn't have to provide anything except access to a path to the beach that already exists.

And California basically already seized an easement on his land years ago when they passed the law requiring beach access (although I'm not 100% sure how that's structured legally).

He might have a point about needing to maintain a relatively safe path, but so does every property owner in Malibu and they all seem to have it figured out.

So does anyone that lives in a city with sidewalks. They are called easements, and if you don't maintain them, you are liable.

I think his current argument is that he doesn't have to give access (maintain easement) because his property is part of an 1851 sale of Mexican property which has a treaty that supercedes Californian state law. Essentially a federal treaty supercedes state law through judicial review. So unfortunately the current interpretation based on the courts is that since his property is part of the 1851 sale which is governed by a federal treaty (which is always above the rules of state law), he doesn't have to provide easement at all.

I wonder if this means that any of the property owners involved in land as part of the 1851 sale can now block their existing easements for beach access.

> I think his current argument is that he doesn't have to give access (maintain easement) because his property is part of an 1851 sale of Mexican property which has a treaty that supercedes Californian state law.

That seems like a pretty radical interpretation. Wouldn't that totally undermine all state law, exempting him from stuff like building codes, state environmental laws, etc.?

Well take this with a grain of salt since this is from my high school government class, but it would only apply when the treaty conflicts with state law. So I assume in this case the treaty apparently gives him the right to not provide easements which is in direct conflict with the California state law. Since the treaty is federal law, it supercedes over state law where there is a conflict. I believe this is based on the Constitution: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supremacy_Clause

That doesn't mean Khosla is exempted from building codes, unless that 1851 treaty says something like "The US government shall be able to regulations the manner in which buildings can be constructed on this land."

Again this is just from what I've gathered from other posters. I'm curious what clause they took from the 1851 treaty that made it clear that he doesn't need to provide easements. Maybe there was a clause that the property could never be seized for public good which the Mexican government put in to prevent the government from evicting Mexicans who wanted to stay on their land post sale.

So does the federal treaty state specifically that land sold does not have to provide easement? If not, it seems like a weak argument. By that same logic, he could also put a casino on it and say that since the land was part of the federal treaty, he no longer has to abide by any state law at all while on the property.

I assume if the treaty says that he can open a casino then he can open a casino. Again, federal law supercedes state law. It's written into our constitution: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supremacy_Clause

I have no idea what clause they took from that treaty to show he has the right not to provide easements.

It does sound like a strange argument, but he already won in court precisely on it: https://scholarship.law.berkeley.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?art...

It would be right for California to purchase the property via eminent domain. There is an existing mechanism, and I don't see why California doesn't do this rather than demanding a private citizen open his private property at a loss. This is like that bookstore in NYC, only Khosla is a Big Bad Billionaire so I see very different attitudes of "Oh, he can afford it." I'm not saying Khosla should keep the beach, but right is right; if California wants a public beach, she should re-purchase and pay for it.

Sure, if that was the law. But I don't think California law requires ca to purchase the land via eminent domain. The law is especially for this case where an easement is a defacto requirement when dealing with beach access. The legal process of emminent domain would be far too cumbersome for the many hundreds of miles of California beach line.

He didn't purchase the beach. It was already California's beach.

This is 100% false. The California court has explicitly ruled that the beach was never owned by the state.


Does anyone have any way to illustrate to me the physics of how he is actually blocking access? Like how does this road run through this property, where is the beach in relation, etc.

EDIT: I suppose this helps: https://www.google.com/search?q=vinod+khosla+road

Obviously looking at the bigger picture he's in the wrong. I do wonder what his motivations are to own that section of the beach though.

Maybe it's the only bit of his property that's vulnerable from a security perspective and he simply wants tighter control of it.

I hope the public win and he doesn't get his way.

I don't think it is obvious that he is wrong. Previously the property had a parking lot, where people could pay to park and then go to the beach. This parking lot was not profitable, so he decided to close it down. There is still public beach access, just not through that parking lot.

I think there is a reasonable argument to be made that he should provide access through the road to the parking lot, and just disallow parking, but it doesn't seem obvious to me. The previous owner did not allow free access (there was a gate), so I think it is OK for the new owner to forbid access entirely.

IIRC, his argument is that the path that leads to the beach is actually his property, and he is effectively being required to pay to upkeep/monitor/secure this area on his property on his own dime.

What a terrible shock that must have been for him, to realize this fact only after having purchased the property.

Feels like an edge case to me. Not exactly something someone who buys a private property would think would be possible e.g. to have to pay for upkeep for public property.

Seems like the gov’t should figure out some sort of reimbursement program in situations like this.

Amazing that his lawyers are more versed with the concept of land deeds dating back to pre-California Mexico, than they are of easements.

And the government has never demanded he maintain, at his own expense (mind you, he spent months paying $10k/day fines over this). Just that the access is there.

This isn't an edge case, but rather the standard experience of living somewhere that gets snow and has sidewalks.

But really Khosla isn't being told that he has to maintain improvements to the right of way, but rather to simply stop obstructing it.

You are responsible for making yourself aware of any public easements or responsibilities within the property before you purchase it.

I'm sure a surveyor would have informed him of California law.

it's not really my point. the law is deficient in the sense that it doesn't cover this edge case. so why not address the edge case?

IMO Khosla should present some numbers on how much it would reasonably cost to maintain whatever land he owns that would be used by the public to get to the beach and the gov't should agree to reimburse some reasonable expense on a quarterly basis.

That would make sense if the government had installed the beach after Khosla's purchase.

There are some interesting questions to be answered here about the value of the view included in the pricing of beachfront property that need to be addressed (agreements to limit development including height restriction - agreements not to sell property closer to the water line to other private parties) that will get super complex as climate change continues - including the fact that erosion may shrink the size of the private rights portion of the lot on beachside property, or potentially expand it.

Additionally this gets super muddled when it comes to coastal constructions, even simple jetties docks may have public safety concerns, protection of private property (if expensive boat maintenance tools or machinery are located on the jetty) - and that will evolve into questions about using coastal constructions to restrict access.

Lastly, the costs - as Khosla mentioned the beach is unprofitable to run, should CA be footing that bill? Could they sublease the property to an entrepreneur that thinks they could make the beachside facilities profitable? It is entirely unreasonable (even given the excessive wealth of Khosla) for him to be forced to maintain an unprofitable entity like that and all the facility liability that goes along with it.

This is a gigantic can of worms.

I look forward to how this might be resolved, but it sure ain't going to be simple.

This "gigantic can of worms" is 40-year old settled law. All the appeals and considerations that can be thought of were worked out over 20 years ago. All your "could they" and "can they" questions have already been asked and answered.

> as Khosla mentioned the beach is unprofitable to run, should CA be footing that bill? Could they sublease the property to an entrepreneur that thinks they could make the beachside facilities profitable? It is entirely unreasonable (even given the excessive wealth of Khosla) for him to be forced to maintain an unprofitable entity like that and all the facility liability that goes along with it.

Does he need to maintain those facilities? Could he just unblock access and move on? This feels like a cheap excuse.

Seemingly (IANAL) he could, in fact, do that. I think his concern would be if he's not properly maintaining it, now the beach near his house is going to fill up with trash, maybe overnight campers, etc. So he's either got to foot the bill to keep it looking nice, or end up with a garbage beach.

So it's definitely a sticky situation. Personally, I'd just open it up, I think people generally treat beaches OK in Cali, but I can imagine his concern.

As another commenter mentions, it seems like a very reasonable expectation that the state would maintain it.

So he's either got to foot the bill to keep it looking nice, or end up with a garbage beach.

AFAICT, nothing about this has changed since his purchase of the property, and therefore should have been a consideration before purchase. Arguments to the contrary, such as the owner is currently making, reminds me of people who move next to an existing motorsports raceway and complain about the noise (which has been documented to have actually happened in several locations).

> it seems like a very reasonable expectation that the state would maintain it

As a matter of principle I'm inclined to agree. However many (possibly most?) US cities require the property owner to maintain the sidewalk fronting their property; this situation might be similar.

> So he's either got to foot the bill to keep it looking nice, or end up with a garbage beach.

Seems like a perfectly fine tradeoff to me. The beach belongs to the public, and not all beaches are well-maintained. If he wants to keep the views on this beach (that he does not own) nice, he can pay to maintain them. Pretty sure running the beach for the next 100 years would be a drop in the bucket for him anyway.

If I were him, I would be very thankful for what I have (as I am am anyway) and would share my success with others. In this case it would mean opening it up and footing the bill for the maintenance of the beach. Why not? Does he really need more money pragmatically? It seems like the good will, feeling of joy coming from helping your local community in which you live, and leaving the world better than you found it would be more than enough return for the investment. I'm a "working stiff" and happily contribute to the upkeep, cleanliness and worthy volunteer organizations in the community I live and get far more from such than it takes from me.

Edited- spelling error.

Charity is commendable. But if you are being forced by law to do something, it is not charity.

One might agree with you if one hadn't actually been to Martin's Beach [recently]. There are no facilities. There used to be a beachfront snack shack but it's been closed since the property traded hands. There is no public restroom, and there is only private parking. There are no piers, jetties or other beach/ocean construction at the beach. Moreover, the road leading to the beach is lined with a dozen or so private residences. Khosla is not bearing any significant burden in allowing beachgoers to continue to access the beach.

TBH, the beach is small enough and there is so little capacity for traffic to it that I don't see how it could ever be "profitable" as a cash generator for anyone.

I don't see how it could ever be "profitable" as a cash generator for anyone.

Nor should it be. It's a public benefit.

As such, it should be revenue-neutral.

> Lastly, the costs - as Khosla mentioned the beach is unprofitable to run

It's a beach. Why does it have to be profitable?

> should CA be footing that bill?

You mean for cleanup and maintenance?

Sure, why not? If Californians what their beaches, then their tax dollars should be taking care of them.

I appreciate your comment. I want to push back on

> Could they sublease the property to an entrepreneur that thinks they could make the beachside facilities profitable?



The beaches should be accessible by public. Nothing controversial about that.

His realtors knew 100% about the passage used by public which ran through the property.

Curious signaling as a VC to be involved in something so negatively publicly. The best companies/ entrepreneurs are super picky on who to raise money from and I have already heard a couple companies mention this as a reason they didn't talk to Khosla.

Indeed. Perhaps no one has said that to his face till now?

Public reputation is a funny thing its not binary and its lagging. By the time people tell you stuff to your face usually its way too late for they have been building their beliefs around who you are way before.

I wonder what are the downsides of this. The Supreme Court refused to take a previous case, but I think the composition of the court was a little different then. Given that this court is even more in favor of stronger private property protections, does this lawsuit make it possible that it could eventually make it to the Supreme Court, and that the Supreme Court could strike down the entire California coastal access law as unconstitutional.

>Supreme Court could strike down the entire California coastal access law as unconstitutional

That would require a very creative reading of the constitution. Congress could pass a law overriding it, and SCOTUS could could uphold that law under the commerce clause (land value in California affects land value in Oregon etc...).

John Locke would like a word with you.

Did John Locke come back from the grave to include a relevant clause in the Constitution?

Did California?

If you want to explain how any of what you're talking about makes any sense, I'm all ears.

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

California is one of those states, so unless you can show where the coastal access law is prohibited elsewhere in the constitution (and that prohibition has been incorporated), California has done nothing unconstitutional.

From the last section of the Fifth Amendment:

nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

But, it was not taken. Khosla came to acquire the property well after the 1970s, which is when California law allowed the public to use all beaches.

Under the terms of the agreement Vinod “gatekeeper” Khosla, will maintain ownership of the newly established Martins Beach Surfing Club House and will be allowed to leave his board and wetsuit on the floor without penalty. The Friends of Martins Beach agree to release Khosla from all gatekeeping shifts, provided that he learns to surf and chill. Free surf lessons for life will be provided to Vinod “dude” Khosla as compensation for Club House use by the public. Drinks will be available, for a fee, to guests over the legal drinking age. Other fees may also apply.


Its even worse in the north east. In Mass. and Maine property owners can (due to an old colonial era law) own property to the low tide line and deny access not only to the access, but to the beach itself.

Are you sure it's colonial era law? Elsewhere in the world colonial era law ensured public access up to the high tide line.

Exactly, in fact in the British Isles even the land above the high tide line (I forget the exact extent) is public. In New England they wanted to encourage the development of docks (to promote more commerce) and extended ownership to include the land on which docks would be built.

Its discussed in this article. http://www.islandinstitute.org/working-waterfront/%E2%80%8Bp...

"1647 Colonial Ordinance enacted by the Massachusetts Bay Colony ceded title to all intertidal land in what would become the state of Massachusetts to upland owners to encourage “wharfing out” (marine commerce)."

This is a pretty good roundup of the topic. http://stage.mvmagazine.com/news/2007/07/01/private-beaches

What I'd really like to see in cases like this is the state playing hardball with entitled billionaires.

Why not use eminent domain to build a state road to the beach? I mean this will face a court battle too I'm sure but for a slice of land for a road you're not talking that much money (the property owner needs to be compensated by the Fifth Amendment) and building a few miles of road (I honestly don't know how much) also isn't that expensive.

I mean we're talking lawyer fees kind of money here right? Having a state road once and for all solve this issue, no?

I'm generally against governments simply placing the burden for public services onto private individuals. This is the real problem with things like rent control. If the government feels lower rents for certain individuals is a public good then why does the burden for this fall on the property owner instead of the state?

So one could argue the state should provide public access to something that is currently only accessible over private land, right?

California, build a road.

While we're at it, I've read about this story before but had missed the detail that there was a parking lot, a store and toilets at the site built and maintained by the prior owner.

How exactly is this not dedicating the road to public access? What tortured legal argument swindled the court here?

The state doesn't even need to invoke eminent domain to build such a road as Khosla has offered several times to sell them the necessary land. The issue is that the state doesn't want to pay.

He's offered at greatly inflated cost. $30M for a small strip of land when the entire property was purchased for $32M.


I'm sympathetic to your side of the argument but at best aren't you really just arguing that Khosla got a very good deal for this particular piece of land?

What is the value of a giant private beach? What is the value of that same beach with public access?

It seems to me that the difference between those two numbers could easily be $30M.

The beach isn't owned by Khosla and is not private so I don't understand this argument. The value of the strip of land should be assessed at the market value of having a land route to an already public beach that previously didn't have land access (the beach has always been public, the argument is whether Khosla needs to provide access to it). Given its a tiny beach with moderate attendance, I'd argue the NPV is way less than $30m.

A person has something worth X. The government wants to take a piece of that thing that reduces its value to Y. Therefore the government has to give the person (X-Y) dollars.

That seems like a perfectly reasonable way to value what the government is taking away via eminent domain.

So if he paid $32M for the land and is arguing the government is destroying $30M of value by making a public beach (by law), well, public then he's arguing the property after the fact is worth $2M.

So he should take $2M for it right? Or he'd have no object to the State giving him $32M and simply taking the whole thing, right?

I'd be somewhat OK with these inflated property values estimates with eminent domain if the owner was forced to take $X-$Y for the remainder from any buyer.

That's not even how eminent domain works. You get the market value for the asset seized, not the delta in the market value for the asset remaining post seizure.

To the degree that this is true, that seems awfully unfair to people forced to give their property to the government without their consent. The government can just make you poorer overnight? That sounds bad.

If it was reversed and the landowner was buying the road to join two large lots together, you could easily see the road costing a huge premium on the open market.

But I agree the state didn’t write the law that way because it would be too costly.

he's arguing the property after the fact is worth $2M.

No, he's not. What he paid 10 years ago is not a relevant data point in the calculation. What matters is the current market value.

Yea except your math is wrong. You include the value of the beach in X which represents what Khosla owns even though he doesn't own the beach. Even Khosla wasn't arguing he owned the beach. So you magically inflated the X by a huge amount which makes the valuation off (even though this isn't even a real valuation).

Eminent domain would compensate Khosla on the market value of the road land value. It has nothing to do with the beach. The beach is owned by the public. No legal team on either side is arguing that. The legal case is about easements (i.e. access).

Why don't you share your comparable analysis or discount cash flow model to see what that road easement actually is worth since you seem believe pretty strongly in the valuation. I'm really curious to how you think a narrow strip of land that is for the easement is worth $30 million given recent land sales in similar areas.

> While we're at it, I've read about this story before but had missed the detail that there was a parking lot, a store and toilets at the site built and maintained by the prior owner. How exactly is this not dedicating the road to public access? What tortured legal argument swindled the court here?

The reasoning is that it wasn't public access, but rather a private business operating on the land. A restaurant, while "Open to the public" is not the same as a truly "public" space (like a state-owned road, or a national park).

Is the Zonker Harris beach accessway (yes, a real thing) in Malibu open yet?[1] It was "closed for repairs" in 2016. The battles over that were huge years ago.

[1] https://beaches.lacounty.gov/zonker-harris-accessway-closed-...

Isn't this not about the beach but about his private property that leads to the beach? The courts previously ruled in favor of Khosla - see https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/nonpub/A154022.PDF. The conclusion is on pages 35 and 36, which notes that this particular piece of land was NOT dedicated to public access and does not fit the common law parameters for implied public access.

I feel like this contentious issue has had a net negative effect on his life and that he should just sell the damn place and move on.

It's been years and there's so much else to do!

I regularly donate money to Surfrider foundation so that they continue fight for our beaches in California

What’s weird is how Khosla doesn’t yet have the “upper class” mentality. The true upper class is obsessed with legacy and reputation and would ever allow their name to become synonymous with “asshole.” And the best he is going to get is a few bucks when the state eminent domains an easement.

Context for those who are unfamiliar with the situation: https://hn.algolia.com/?q=khosla

If you search HN for "Khosla", you will see approximately half of the first page of results are regarding this issue.

I found this provided an interesting window into Vinod Khosla's style. He didn't exactly answer the question asked https://youtu.be/HZcXup7p5-8?t=2618

Sounds great.

Now let's get some real gems like Hollister Ranch and Vickers Hot Springs opened up again.

It is infuriating that one individual

A) has the audacity to believe they are entitled to such a rare publically beneficial property and

B) has the power (both politically and financially) to see this battle through.

> has the power (both politically and financially) to see this battle through

It is absolutely infuriating that a rich individual can get the type of "justice" that the rest of us can never hope to achieve, in the legal system. Or as Peter Thiel put it when he bankrupted Gawker: "If you're a single-digit millionaire like Hulk Hogan, you have no effective access to our legal system."

Unfortunately, this suit is unlikely to make any difference in the above, and it doesn't seem like anyone cares about fixing the above problem. Maybe I'm just being a fundamentalist who's blowing it out of proportion. But my sense of fairness is constantly outraged by how ridiculously hard it is for any layperson to get justice in today's legal system.

> Or as Peter Thiel put it when he bankrupted Gawker: "If you're a single-digit millionaire like Hulk Hogan, you have no effective access to our legal system."

Which is amusing since the lawyer that Thiel used is constantly suing on behalf of single-digit millionaires to stifle free speech all over the country (including threatening to sue the NYT for reporting on Harvey Weinstein's crimes). Not a whole lot of principles in that group.

> Which is amusing as the lawyer Thiel used is constantly suing on behalf of single-digit millionaires to stifle free speech all over the country (including threatening to sue the NYT for reporting on Harvey Weinstein's crimes)

Harvey Weinstein isn't a single-digit millionaire but a triple-digit one, his net worth is estimated at $240-300 million. This (and the lawyers work for Thiel) is consistent with, though does not imply, Thiel’s contention that the wealth at which one has effective access to the legally system is much greater than that of a single-digit millionaire. Not sure what other “single-digit” millionaires you think he is working on behalf of, but your one concrete example certainly isn't one.

How about Shiva Ayyadurai's suit to try and kill TechDirt when TechDirt wrote that he didn't invent email?


Or Barry Honig's penny stock charades where Harder represented the fraudster in suing people who wrote about his fraud and then represented another alleged penny-stock fraudster John Hurry in his suits against journalists who wrote about his fraud:


Harder is a bad dude who sues journalists for seriously troubling reasons. That many people agreed with his takedown of Gawker is unfortunate when the rest of his 'portfolio' is so poisonous to the first amendment.

Honig seems to probably be at least a double-digit millionaire (at least, prior to the sanctions for the fraud).

Ayyadurai, however, does seem to be a single-digit millionaire or less.

> Harder is a bad dude who sues journalists for seriously troubling reasons.

Sure, I just don't see evidence that it's primarily or even regularly on behalf of people who aren't significantly wealthier (or sponsored by someone wealthier) than single-digit millionaires, such that it is somehow a contradiction to Thiel’s claim about the limited effective legal power of people at merely that level of wealth when they lack a wealthier benefactor.

Which is partially my point -- Thiel's "principle" was that less wealthy people don't have the same access, so he ponied up some of his billions of dollars to hire a lawyer that famously sues independent journalists and other non-wealthy people. Even in the Gawker case, he didn't limit his suit to Gawker, but he also sued the $60k/yr journalists writing for the site.

I guess one way to prove your point about lack of access to the legal system for average people is to be an astounding hypocrite and sue some of those people, but I don't feel like that's the common legacy of that whole episode.

You can read Mike Masnick's opinions here: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20161103/11502935958/heres...

Yeah, my disagreement was fairly narrow; I'm not endorsing the morality of Thiel’s or Harder’s behavior, only saying that it doesn't seem to obviously conflict with Thiel’s description of the legal representation of mere millionaires.

> Harvey Weinstein isn't a single-digit millionaire

Note that Hulk Hogan isn't (and wasn't) a single-digit millionaire either.

I think that's a bit harsh. Even people who confess and for whom the prosecution has good evidence, can and will get lawyers or public defenders.

How would you feel if a public defender took the position of "nah, this gal is clearly a criminal, we have seen the footage --its a pass, let her represent herself".

These are civil suits voluntarily launched by 'aggrieved' parties. I don't think there's any reasonable comparison to public defenders.

Ok, what if lawyers were biased and "simply" declined to represent one class of people because I dunno, they are "debtors" and don't deserve representation against an authoshop which ripped them off.

They do, all the time. You have no expectation of legal council outside of criminal law. Debt collectors are running roughshod on the poor and vulnerable.

Doesn't "small claims" court ameliorate this somewhat? Genuinely curious

Only for the initiating party, and only up to a certain monetary threshold. If you're being sued, or someone's screwed you out of $50k, not so much.

Getting a public defender is not the same as getting a dedicated legal team- not even close. Some public defenders have over a hundred active cases, so they clearly aren't focusing on each individual, and when working those cases they have an incredibly small budget. Getting a lawyer and getting an actual defense are different things.

I'm not sure they even have a budget all. I mean, there is presumably a budget for copying files and making phone calls maybe but not for hiring independent experts etc.

Weinstein isn't remotely a single digit millionaire.

Hogan had plenty of access to the legal system. He'd even settled with Gawker before Thiel's interference.

Gawker was a muckraking institution with little of worth. But Hogan had settled for 0.005% of what he asked of Gawker with the other involved party, and was amenable to taking an ownership share of the Gawker empire.

Don't paint Thiel in some white knight suit just helping embattled people "fight the power".

Were it just one individual. Unfortunately there's a whole lot of people who adhere to the general mindset from which Khosla derives his sense of entitlement:


Incredibly far stretch to turn one guy illegally blocking a road into a straw man against an imagined political grouping from the 90’s

There was a profile in Forbes on Khosla or something like that, and one of his employees said something along the lines of 'Khosla is pursuing this beach matter so that anyone that deals with him knows how tough and tenacious he is.' It wasn't entirely clear if this was that employee rationalising the fact his boss is a bastard, or actually the truth.

As twisted as this logic may be, I guess it is plausible some egotistical old guy would think this way.

Edit: This is the quote:

"The “beach issue,” as it is called internally at Khosla Ventures, has surprisingly not been a problem in the office. “It’s an incredible negotiating tool for me,” said Samir Kaul, another partner at Khosla Ventures.

When a company was trying to “screw” the firm, Mr. Kaul brought up news articles about the beach at a meeting. “I said: ‘My boss is going to the Supreme Court for a beach he’s never gone to. We’re not posturing here. This guy’s not going to settle,’” Mr. Kaul said. “And then I just sat there."


When I read this article, it looks a lot more complicated than that.

> Khosla, in legal filings, said he “was willing to give the business a go, and continued to allow members of the public to access the property upon payment of a fee. But [he] soon faced the same problem the Deeneys had faced: The business was operating at a considerable loss, as the costs of keeping the beach, the parking lot and other facilities in operable and safe condition significantly exceeded the fees the business generated.”

To the best of my knowledge (and a reading of the actual law text), the 1976 Coastal Access Act doesn't require private owners to provide and maintain facilities for public beaches -- it simply doesn't prevent them from doing so. The Deeneys chose to make Martins Beach a business, and more than likely started doing so before the Coastal Access Act passed. Khosla is absolutely within his rights to stop maintaining "the parking lot and other facilities in operable and safe condition"; the battle is over whether he's within his rights to block access to the beach entirely just because he can't find a way to turn a profit from it -- and whether the limited access he's currently granting is enough to meet the law's requirements.

Yes this is my understanding as well. He just needs to give access. He doesn't need to provide any infrastructure (which would be unfair to any homeowner).

> Yes this is my understanding as well. He just needs to give access. He doesn't need to provide any infrastructure (which would be unfair to any homeowner)

Which makes me inherently distrustful of how the media portrays this article. What does "give access" mean?

I've encountered a narrow footpath path along a property line in Hawaii to "give access" that was mainly used by people in the neighborhood. If I remember correctly, both beachfront properties on either side had fences.

In San Diego, I encountered a narrow stairway between two condo buildings; but there were so many public parks and streets that came up to the beach that I didn't understand the point.

I'm not a lawyer, but could Vinod satisfy the law by having a narrow footpath along his property line?

Look around the world is overflowing with individuals engaged in A and B

All of those individuals are infuriating - they can be examined in isolation as grouping them together will lead to fatigue by volume.

> If only one man dies of hunger, that is a tragedy. If millions die, that’s only statistics.

Let's just focus on the one for now.

In fact, the opposite is true, and the reporting around this issue is a great example of how the media doesn't care about facts but instead cares only about narratives.

It's important to understand that this dispute involves two separate tracks of issues, one where Khosla has been winning, and one where he has been losing.

The first issue is the property right. An ancient doctrine called the "public trust" doctrine holds that the waters and beaches up to the high tide line belongs to the public. Moreover, it holds that, generally, there is an easement across private land to access that area.

However, California is a johnny-come-lately state. As a result, under Supreme Court precedent (Summa Corp. v. California), the state doesn't have easements over certain private property that dates to Mexican land grants: https://scholarship.law.berkeley.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?art... (p. 429-430). Based on that precedent, the California Court of Appeals has held that there is no easement (as a matter of public trust doctrine) over Khosla's property:

> While the public trust doctrine can protect access rights over private land, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to extend that protection to private land certified under the 1851 federal law implementing the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, where the federal or state government had not asserted an interest in title proceeding. Therefore, the court of appeal in Friends I found that, because the Martin’s Beach property had been certified under the 1851 law without any mention of a public interest and never passed into state ownership, there could be no common law public trust easement over the land to the water.

There was a subsequent suit based on an alternate theory: that although there was no common law easement, an easement arose because the previous property owner "dedicated" the road to public use. The California Court of Appeals rejected that t heory too. https://www.jurist.org/news/2019/11/ca-appellate-court-rules....

> As such, according to the common law of public dedication, the court determined that Martin’s Beach is not dedicated to public access.

Opinion here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/nonpub/A154022.PDF

So now we are on the third string legal theory (from the article):

> State officials have been following these cases closely and are now taking a swing at the fight. The new lawsuit asks the court to consider unexamined evidence that shows that the beach, as well as the gated road, have been historically used by the public — citing a common law doctrine known as “implied dedication.”

We've gone from an easement under property law, to a "public dedication," to "implied public dedication."

That brings us to the second legal issue, which is whether Khosla needs a permit to build a structure to close the road to the beach. Even though courts have repeatedly held that there is no public right to use the road, the California Coastal Commission has found that it can use its powers to control development on the coast to keep Khosla from actually vindicating his private property right. So far, the State has been successful on that front. But after last year's loss on the underlying property rights issue, that position gets harder to justify. The State can only go so long using its authority over the building of fences to keep open a public easement that courts have repeatedly held does not exist. Hence this lawsuit.

As to your point (B)--it's a wonderful thing that private citizens have the financial resources to fight the State and vindicate their legitimate property rights. The opposite of that is tyranny.

Come on.

The previous owners had been allowing public access, as is the (not) "ancient" standard and law.

And Khosla's best argument is the property deed is based on Mexican land grants prior to California being ratified as a state?!? I'm sure he had precisely zero idea of that, and the fact that his lawyers are using that as an argument shows just how grasping it is.

The cases lost by the governments were also very careful in not trying to make some of the claims you say they do. They were very narrow in focus. Which is why California is still able to pursue this.

> The previous owners had been allowing public access, as is the (not) "ancient" standard and law.

In 2019, the California Court of Appeals rejected the notion that just because the previous owner allowed access, Khosla was required to allow access: https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Court-ruling-on-.... The State this time is trying only a variation on that same argument.

> And Khosla's best argument is the property deed is based on Mexican land grants prior to California being ratified as a state?!? I'm sure he had precisely zero idea of that, and the fact that his lawyers are using that as an argument shows just how grasping it is.

Not only is it not grasping, the California Court of Appeals decided that issue in Khosla's favor years ago: https://www.mercurynews.com/2013/10/24/vinod-khosla-wins-key... (describing trial court decision, which was later affirmed).

> The cases lost by the governments were also very careful in not trying to make some of the claims you say they do. They were very narrow in focus. Which is why California is still able to pursue this.

No. The previous cases, brought by Friends of Martins Beach, addressed the broad rule: is there a public trust easement over Khosla's property? The courts answered "no." Then they rejected the argument that there was a "public dedication" of the property. The State is now suing on the third-string argument: "implied public dedication."

> Not only is it not grasping

Absolutely it is. I guarantee that was not on Khosla's radar as a defense against public access when he acquired the property. And given that almost all of his other arguments were swept away, it's only in that his law firm went for an outlier. "Oh hey, there is a land deed that predates California as a state. We can use that to argue that we're exempt".

Because by no means was this his first rebuttal. It only came out after many other attempts. I'm sure the paralegal who thought of it got a bonus that year.

It can't be "grasping" to make a winning argument about the actual legal issue in the case. What the government is asking for here is for Khosla to keep open an easement to the beach. The most important question is whether, as a matter of property law, any such easement exists.

You have know idea what Khosla was thinking at the time he bought the property. His Guadalupe Hidalgo argument is actually based on 1984 Supreme Court precedent. He could easily have been fully aware of that when he bought the property, hoping to use it privately.

The reason that it wasn't "his first rebuttal" is because of the tactics the State took. The State didn't argue that there wasn't a public easement across the property. It took the abusive view that it could effectively create such an easement by prohibiting Khosla from building a barrier to keep people from crossing the property. That's why the first issue that came up was whether he needed a permit to do that. But attacking the permit requirement first isn't some sort of admission that you don't have a private property right.

Until today, Khosla wasn't fighting the State.

You're correct that Friends of Martins Beach is technically the plaintiff in the two earlier Court of Appeals cases, but the issue in those cases is the State of California's property rights in Khosla's property. The Coastal Commission continued to press ahead with its regulatory efforts despite two appeals court rulings saying it didn't have a public easement as to Khosla's property.

Not the State of California's property rights, the public rights.


No, it's California's rights: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_trust_doctrine

> The public trust doctrine is the principle that the sovereign holds in trust for public use some resources such as shoreline between the high and low tide lines, regardless of private property ownership

California - the sovereign - holds the property rights. It must use the property rights for the benefit of the public, but like any other trustee it is the legal owner of the property and what is to the public "benefit" is substantially within its discretion.

I was quoting public rights from the opinion I cited. The property rights that decision mentioned were private. The court didn’t contrast private vs state but rather private vs public.

I think this is about the easement, not the beach.

Your application of the term tyranny here is an insult to those that have actually lived under it.

A deontological (or partially deontological) system like ours fails its people when it fails to ensure outcomes for the common good. Otherwise you get a system where the powerful can hide in the shadow of legal complexity that exactly overlaps their own personal interest.

The state trying to force a billionaire to open up a beach is not tyranny. It is undoubtedly not in the billionaire's interest but there is no world where it is tyrannical.

> Your application of the term tyranny here is an insult to those that have actually lived under it.

Tyrannical governments like the Soviet Union were premised on disregarding private property rights. In the name of "the common good" they confiscated private farms and ended up starving tens of millions of people. Obviously the effects of that are much worse, but the mindset -- that private property rights and the rule of law must yield to bureaucrats' view of the "common good" was the same.

Private property is sacrosanct. In the Constitution, "property" comes right after "life" and "liberty." That rule dates back to the Magna Carta, written 805 years ago. Using regulatory powers to end-run around property rights is one of the most tyrannical things a government can do.

> The state trying to force a billionaire to open up a beach is not tyranny.

That's not what I said. I said OP's hypothetical world, where private citizens don't have the "financial" "power" to "see [a] battle through" with the State over property rights would be tyrannical.

To date, Khosla has won on the key legal issue: the public has no easement to access the beach over Khosla's property. Khosla is entirely justified in fighting the State's efforts to do through its fence-permitting powers what it cannot do as a matter of property law. Saying that Khosla shouldn't even be able to engage in that "battle" is espousing tyranny.

well A makes sense if you believe in private property at all. I can see not being on his side but its true if it was not public but private property before the only way the government should legally allowed to appropriate it is via eminate domain and the compensation to the property owner.

I really wonder why he's choosing this hill (err I mean beach!) to die on and how he doesn't see what damage this is doing to his public image. Even if he does have a point this makes him look absolutely horrible and it's not like letting a few people on the beach is going to impact his lifestyle in anything beyond the most trivial way.

I just don't quibble over minutia like that. I don't get people who do. This seems like a gigantic waste of time and resources where even if you win you lose.

You have to realize that Vinod Khosla is one of those people who is used to people just following his orders. He was successful, he owns Khosla Ventures (KV) and probably never gets called on his shit. Suddenly locals, surfers, and The Surfrider Foundation starts to push back and he thinks he can just squash them, because /s obviously he's better than them.

Let's be real, he was never in that house. I'd venture to say he spent maybe 30 days per year in that house? Like any other rich asshole with a vacation house in prime territory he bought it and wanted to keep any riffraff away. He thinks he deserves it and not for one second did he think about his public image.

> and wanted to keep any riffraff away

Right. It's just like David Geffen's fake driveway to stop people parking near his house on the street. That he had painted with yellow and red lines too, to "imply" (mislead) into thinking other areas were Fire Lanes.

People would park there because they knew that it was a sham. They would get towed by police / security because "how did they 'know' it was a scam".

To the point where people would park there posting articles in their windshield saying that they know it's not actually a driveway, not actually a fire lane, etc., etc.

They still get towed. And even if you get your money back, there's the repeated issue of coming back from the beach to find your car gone. Because a rich asshole doesn't want the riff raff to use the public street he built a house on.

Denoting inaccurate street markings is a prosecutable offense in most jurisdictions.

I'm sure it is in Malibu, too. Unless you're a billionaire...

That's why you buy (sorry, "donate heavily to the campaign of") the local prosecutor.

Just to be clear, this is not Vinod's mindset.

It's more like Vinod is extremely stubborn, especially when he believes something is a matter of principle.

From his POV, the principle here is around free enterprise. He believes the state is requiring him to pay to maintain an unprofitable business (a private road and parking lot), which he doesn't believe they have the right to do.

As far as I know, he doesn't care much about restricting beach access.

Parent comment could be his mindset. You’re just stating his mindset is what he has claimed his mindset is. I see no reason to take his word for it.

I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt about their own state of mind when they declare it. Sure, he could absolutely be lying, but I don't see any reason not to take his word for it. The issue is just whether his interpretation of the law is correct. (My reading of it is that the law does not require him to maintain a parking lot and other facilities, it just requires him not to block access to the beach.)

I tend not to give strangers with significant financial incentives the benefit of the doubt.

Well, I, for one, have tried to avoid companies funded by Khosla Ventures since this story initially broke. I doubt a lot of people feel strongly enough to do that, but there are some.

Given that I had never heard of the company until this post, I was surprised by how many companies I've heard of that they funded. From their portfolio page[1]:

Academia.edu, AppNexus, Arista Networks, DoorDash, GitLab, HackerRank, Impossible Foods, Instacart, "Just, Inc.", Scribd, Square, Stripe, Teespring, Vox Media


Indeed. Square and Stripe are tough to avoid if you want to do payments, and I'm not terribly happy that my current company pays money to HackerRank (also GitLab, I think). Other than that, I've done a pretty good job avoiding KV.

Haha, no. Vinod has never, ever visited this property and even brags about that fact quite often.

It's obviously impossible to know his mind but it is worth pointing out that beachfront property with, effectively, a private beach is probably worth a lot more money that beachfront property on a public beach. Ignoring for a moment any ethical or PR concerns, that's a pretty big incentive for him to continue his fight.

So do we - or do we not - have decent property rights? It sounds like the land never should have been private in the first place, given how special it is.

Otherwise, if I own it, I should be able to keep others off of it. You don't actually own something that you cannot control access to.

If you disagree, then keep your front door unlocked, because I'm moving in with some friends later this week.

Land ownership is a social construct. It's not like ownership over something you make with your hands or your mind, and in the US, all of the land is stolen property anyways so there's no rational claim to any of it.

So land ownership is a right afforded by society to society, like any other kind of legal framework, and part of that is limitations. In earlier parts of human history, if you tried to cut off a population's access to a valuable resource like water by claiming land ownership, they'd just come with sharp implements, impale you on them, and take the land back from you. In modern times, we need to accomplish the same end, but with hopefully no bloodshed.

Yes, land ownership is a social construct, but that's not the issue here. The issue here is that, once the ink has dried on the "social contract," the State cannot change the bargain just because it doesn't like the deal it made.

In this case, there is a public trust doctrine, which says that public beaches (up to the high tide line) are dedicated to the use of the public. But the California Court of Appeals has held that this doctrine doesn't apply here, due to an oddity in the history of Khosla's land. It dates from a Mexican land grant: vhttps://www.eastbaytimes.com/2016/04/27/martins-beach-appeal....

> In a 52-page opinion, the 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco upheld the main element of San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Gerald Buchwald’s 2014 decision in Khosla’s favor. The court found the public does not have the right under the California constitution to cross Khosla’s property to reach the shoreline.

The California court reached a decision about what the property rights are. The State didn't like the result, so now it's been looking for other ways to do the same thing. Even if you don't like Khosla, you shouldn't be happy about that.

The state can simply modify the rules to require access, which seems like one possible outcome of this case.

Both the U.S. Constitution and the California Constitution contain special protections for private property rights. What you're describing--"requir[ing] access"--is a property right called an "easement." The State cannot "simply modify the rules" to give itself a property right that didn't exist before.

There is a constitutional way for the state to acquire a property right against a property owner's will: eminent domain. But that requires "just compensation" (i.e. California will have to pay Khosla for the easement). California is hesitant to do that because it would rather try to bully Khosla into giving up the property for free.

They should eminent domain a teeny narrow strip right across the center of the property, and try to get it assessed as pro rata on acreage. Maybe two very narrow strips in different places for one way traffic in each direction.

That would be a perfectly reasonable and legal thing to do. But California doesn’t want to set the precedent of having to actually pay for property rights. Ever since Penn Central gutted the Fifth Amendment, states prefer to use regulation to take private property for public use.

> They should eminent domain a teeny narrow strip right across the center of the property

I'm envisioning them doing this while simultaneously denying Khosla's application to subdivide the property along that strip.

If the state wants to modify the rules after the fact, they typically have to provide consideration for that. This plays out all the time with imminent domain. Otherwise this is a plain and simple taking.

The very nature of The State is that it can do whatever it wants. The only issue here is that there are incompatible sets of rules that the State is going by, and has to resolve these to proceed.

Yes and laws are social constructs too, and we’ve all agreed that disagreements get settled in a court of law (like this issue), not with sharp instruments.

> Land ownership is a social construct

It's a legal construct. Just like the country is.

Property ownership comes with easements and other legal restrictions all the time. I have to give the power company access to the power pole on my property, and I knew that when I bought it.

Public easements to public beaches are quite normal.

> Public easements to public beaches are quite normal.

Except this particular beach happens to be a very abnormal one. This issue was resolved years ago, and Khosla won: https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2016/04/27/martins-beach-appeal.... In 2016, the California Court of Appeals held that, because Khosla's property dates from a Mexican land grant, and the state never reserved an easement, there is no public easement on Khosla's property. In 2019, the same court rejected the alternate theory that an easement had been created by the property owner "dedicating the easement to public use." See: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-11-26/billionai...

As you recognize, the "public easement" theory is what applies here. But California lost on that theory. There is no easement here. California has been attempting to keep the beach open using unrelated regulatory powers. (Basically, there is no public easement, but through our powers to regulate what can be built on the beach, we can keep you from building anything to keep the public out.)

If it wasn't for the wildly misleading reporting, everyone would recognize this as overreach and abuse by the State.

Generally speaking, people want public access to the whole of the California coastline.

Any legal findings impeding access are a failing of law.

What you're describing is not "law." Law is defining rights based on rules everyone agrees to ahead of time. Changing the rules after the fact based on what "people want" isn't law, it's tyranny. California litigated this issue--what rights it has in land subject to the treaty with Mexico--in front of the United States Supreme Court in 1984, and lost. That is "the law."

I don't follow. Are you suggesting laws or treaties are immutable?

They're not immutable, but they're subject to legal constraints, and those constraints may have nothing to do with "what the public wants." Two rules apply here:

1) Supremacy Clause. Federal treaties take priority over state law. When California was ceded to the United States, the Mexican government demanded that existing property rights would be preserved. Congress created a Commission to resolve all existing Mexican property claims in 1851, and the results became binding. In the 1984 case, the Supreme Court held that this federal commitment took precedence over California's public access law. The treaty could theoretically be renegotiated, but California cannot do so unilaterally.

2) Law is subject to individual rights ("life, liberty, and property"). California cannot just pass a law giving everyone beach access. It is constrained by pre-existing rules and property rights. In the case of beach access, pre-existing rules usually gives you an avenue. Under English law, the Crown owned the beaches (up to the high tide line). When the United States became independent, the states inherited that property right. (And johnny-come-lately states like California were created under Congress's power under the Constitution to create new states, and since 1796 Congress has done so providing that the new state enters the union on "equal footing" with existing states. That has been interpreted to mean that such states similarly own their beaches to the high tide line.)

But in this specific case the rules say that California doesn't have a property right to allow people to cross Khosla's property. It cannot just make a law giving people that right, because that would infringe Khosla's property right. The only thing it can do is buy Khosla's property if it wants to dedicate it to public use.

More simply, "what the public wants" is irrelevant to the law? Am I understanding your position correctly?

"What the public wants" is relevant insofar as it allows the legislature to craft law within the space of what is otherwise legal. (Here, for example, if the "public wants" beach access, California may pass a law raising money to buy an easement over Khosla's land.) But public whim, or even public whim translated into state law, cannot overcome property rights and federal treaty obligations.

So I understand the lawyerly arguments here. You've done a great job explaining them.

Here in California we do hold what citizens want to a great degree of value. We've worked for a more direct democracy with citizen initiated constitutional amendments and more recently, citizen initiated redistricting.

With this in mind, you have to concede that at some point you're going to have a harder time arguing lawyerly points to an ever-growing statewide coalition.

That's very reasonable. Sounds like it's time to pass a law in CA that requires property owners to have an easement offered to the public for beach access.

Have such an easement recorded for all real estate parcels touching the coast. Done.

I know they have that 1976 law mentioned in the article, but clearly that was not strongly written so as to force this.

It was, but the owner is a billionaire who thinks he is above the law.

Oh. Well in that case I'm sure this will be quickly resolved in the public's favor.

I hope it's not one of those 'feel-good' laws written like "All Californians should be able to access the beaches" (without specifying actionable frameworks like easements and such).

No this is a very specific law requiring easements exactly as you said. It is not getting resolved quickly because every time Vinod loses (and that's been every time so far) he just baselessly appeals the ruling again and again.

You are exactly backwards in this statement. Vinod keeps winning and then he keeps getting sued again (by a different party or under a different theory).

That doesn't appear to be true.


> The squabble has spurred a spate of lawsuits that now focus on whether Khosla needs state permission to gate off the road — and a string of California courts has said he does.


> In a significant victory for coastal access rights in California, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a Silicon Valley billionaire’s appeal to keep a beach to himself.

Wiki indicates the same; some early wins, all overturned on appeal: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vinod_Khosla#Martins_Beach_dis...

The reporting on this topic (especially headlines) has been generally quite poor. You really have to dig in to understand what is going on. See this cousin comment for details on how he has won on most of the merits:


Winning on most of the merits doesn't really matter if you still lose on one of them.

That's only true if you're talking about different arguments for the same issue. Here, there are multiple issues: (1) does Khosla need a permit; and (2) does the public have an easement across his land?

It's worth reading Surfrider Foundation's opposition to Khosla's Supreme Court certiorari petition: https://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/17/17-1198/50086/2018.... Their #1 argument was that the Supreme Court shouldn't take this case now because Khosla hasn't even applied for a permit. (He was just fighting an injunction that keeps him from closing the road until he gets a permit.)

But eventually, the State will have to deny Khosla the permit, and justify doing so. It will be very hard for the State to say "we are going to keep you from building a fence to close this road," while simultaneously acknowledging "the public doesn't actually have a right to use this road." If the State uses its permitting power to effectively give itself an easement that doesn't otherwise exist, that will tee up the takings argument that was only theoretical in the Supreme Court petition. And I like Khosla's odds on prevailing on that argument.

Courts have so far ruled that, for various reasons, the 1976 California Coastal Act doesn't apply at all to this piece of land. They have also ruled that the previous use of the land didn't create any sort of government easement over the property.

I'm not sure what else really matters here?

That is the precise opposite of what is happening. Vinod bought a property with certain rights attached. Although the previous owners had allowed some access they had also denied access under some circumstances as well. What Vinod is doing is getting the law to resolve who exactly owns what and has what rights and obligations. If someone had the guts to demand that level of clarification in the past then we would not have this mess now.

They could do that, but not without just compensation for the easement.

And for that I’m thankful. The last thing you want is the govt to be able to take property by declaration.

He doesn't own the beach, and an easement to access public land is a normal, non-controversial thing.

Not in this case. The land came from a Mexican land grant and pre-dates the State of California.

As a part of the settlement of the Mexican-American war, the US has to respect existing land ownership in perpetuity.

Reviewing this history of the legal case, this does seem to be exactly where this case is stuck. The treaty doesn't apply to the beach below mean high tide, but the road does.

I would agree that it is uncomfortable to watch but what the law "wants" is pretty clear, and Khosla has lost at pretty much every turn. Now the state is suing to create sanctions on him if he fails to abide by previous decisions to make the beach accessible.

Rather than be infuriated, be comforted in the fact that in spite of all his money he has been unable to overturn this law. He has made a lot of lawyers rich doing it, and will have paid a chunk of San Mateo's superior court's budget this year in fees. And he still lost.

Now the state and coastal commission are getting a court order so that they can start fining him without the need to go to court. Think of it as a really really regressive tax on a rich land owner. Let's say he writes it off as the cost of doing business and just keeps paying fines. Well I could single handedly double the budget that the coastal commission has available for keeping beach access open. That's a lot of resources.

> Khosla has lost at pretty much every turn.

What do you mean? He won at every turn. The courts have ruled that there's no easement, and that the public have no access to the water through his property.


This article in the times (https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-martins-beach-supr...) which discusses that the Supreme Court left the previous ruling of access intact sounded like a win for the Costal commission.

I guess you could call it a win: it required Khosla to keep the road open until he gets a fencing permit. Khosla took it to court on principle, since he believed that such injunction is already takings: indeed, since the courts affirmed that public does not have access to his property through the road, stopping him from blocking such access issues illegal.

Since he has every right to get such a fencing permit (as there is no easement, right of way or any other public access through his property where he wants to fence it), in a perfect world he’d simply apply for such permit and promptly get it. In reality though, it is highly likely that the state of California will try to use the fence permitting rights it has to stop him from exercising his property rights, which is exactly what Khosla tried to ensure cannot happen in his Supreme Court petition.

Can somebody tell me where the guy gets so much of his temerity?

Sun Microsystems co-founder, worth $2.1B.

That seems like a heavy interpretation of the situation. This guy bought a property that included these features and had always been treated as private with discretion for access and services provided. When told he does not actually own what he thought he bought it makes sense to have the courts make a final decision. It is a weird fluke that the extremely strong protection of coastal access in California has taken this long to resolve.

It is kind of odd that people continually frame this as a problem with an individual instead of a legal clarification of land use rights. The conflicts over access and who pays for services and liabilities such as trash accumulating have always been there but were allowed to fester as long as people sort of worked things out. Realistically that situation was never stable and was always heading for some kind of forced legal resolution no matter who was owning and who was surfing. Was public access allowed or not? In the past mostly locals would have known about the spot in the first place and anyone having problems with access would have walked away and maybe tried again later. The longstanding tension does not represent full fair access.

The wealthier you get, the less used to "no" you get.

got lucky in the right time in Silicon Valley. Nothing super smart or visionary.

Once he got money - he revealed his true self

Are you so sure you wouldn't act the same in his shoes? We're all human.

Restrict public access to a beach on a property I never visit (and continue to fight about it). I'm not OP but I can assure you I wouldn't do that.

Good. He has no right to public beach access.

Back when I lived in Pescadero years ago I'd drive past this place very often, most of the time the gate was locked shut. It seemed completely random when it'd be open.

My understanding is that his guy is a Grade A douche bag.

The property rights are what they are. Who the owner is should not cloud the argument. If you are a middle class person and have a lawn in front of your house, would you allow the random people to use the lawn for chilling/sleeping/picnic or whatever? Well a rich person happens to own a much bigger and luxurious version of the same front lawn. If the state or whoever owned the thing once upon time sold it, then it is his. The fact that he is stinking rich and we the normal populace would love to have access to the same property is no argument. On the other hand if his purchase did not include exclusivity to the beach then by all means go there and piss around. But just being rich and owning something that most of us can not afford is no justification to snatch it from them. It is just using the justice system/democracy as a mob intent on plunder.

P.S. 1. I don't care who khosla is. But looking at the whole debate it seems the whole opposition is based on the fact that he is a billionaire. I refuse to buy that line of argument. Tell me it is illegal for so an so reason and I will buy. But he is an asshole or he is a billionaire is just emotions doing the talking :-)

P.S. 2. Going by the comments below, I feel compelled to clarify that my comment is not informed by the local laws. I am just a little bit puzzled by the words billionaire and asshole being used synonymously. The law should be same for everyone. A billionaire can hire more lawyers is no reason to call him an asshole in this context even if he has earned the title elsewhere unequivocally.

Update: typo and added a p.s.

By California law, there is no such thing as ownership of a beach. All beach sands are public, by statute. You are asking who the owner is, but there is no owner of the rights of access or exclusivity, by law.

Of course, Khosla should have access to the lands he owns. Under California law, land is something that private citizens can own. A beach is not one of those things.

EDIT: that being said, private property rights do not always or even typically grant you exclusivity. Many jurisdictions have various requirements on what private landowners must allow the public to do on their land. For example, many jurisdictions have freedom to roam provisions, which ensure that the public has access to wilderness, even if privately owned. The United States does not have this in general, but it is certainly within the purview of the states to legislate such things. In many US cities, homeowners own the sidewalk and must maintain it, but allow the public access. This is written in the deed, or mandated by statue.

The case is not about the beach itself. It's about land near the beach through which one can travel to visit it. Is Khosla obligated to provide the public with access to the beach by crossing his land? Ordinarily this kind of right is represented as an easement on the property, or as a roadway separate from the property, neither of which exist here.

The previous owner built a gate on the property, which was open and closed at their whim, posted "no trespassing" signs, and charged for access to the road and beach.

Yes, you're right. I'm responding to the comment above which states that the case here is akin to forcing homeowners to allow people to picnic on their front lawn. The difference is that homeowners own their lawn, while Khosla does not own the beach. Many homeowners have easements requiring them to maintain sidewalks and allow the public to pass through (I know I certainly do). In this case, I suppose the question is if California's 1979 law implied this easement or not. Either way, it is hardly unprecedented.

Right, which is why the Supreme Count rightly refused the case. The issue isn't the general principle of beach access easements. The issue is the specifics of whether there actually is an effective easement on this particular property. Frankly, I can't tell from the article or the discussion if there actually is an easement. That fact that irrevocable easements can be created by long-term public use (called adverse possession?) makes this more complicated than it appears.

Regardless, the right thing for Kholsa to do is provide access. And further the bad press probably is causing more issues than the few folks that would be accessing it ever would.

> That fact that irrevocable easements can be created by long-term public use (called adverse possession?) makes this more complicated than it appears.

“Easement by prescription”.

This isn't like owning a front lawn, this is like owning the pavement, but not the front lawn- but insisting no one else can use the front lawn because (whilst you don't own it) you can stop them accessing it. In fact in your metaphor not only does he not own the lawn, he lives in a state where it's not even possible to own the lawn, he bought the pavement knowing he could never own the lawn and has been illegally obstructing access to the lawn for decades.

And now somehow he has people on the internet arguing that a billionaire should be allowed exclusive benefit to public land- as if of all people, the billionaire is the one that needs the public handout.

>And now somehow he has people on the internet arguing that a billionaire should be allowed exclusive benefit to public land- as if of all people, the billionaire is the one that needs the public handout.

No I didn't say that. If the exclusivity is not part of the sale then it should be trivial to kick his butt. The fact it isn't is confounding to me. Perhaps because I am not an American.

What? California beaches have been public property since 1976. He bought the house knowing he doesn't own the beach, and that the public has a right to that beach.

No one is allowed to own a beach in California. This isn't about mob rule, this is about a choice Californians made many years ago that says beaches are public.

The beach is not his.

Then he should be kicked out of the court in a less than 5 minutes. Why is it being discussed?

Because he’s not blocking access to the beach, technically. Just blocking that pathway. But it’s surrounded by cliffs, so the only way to access it is through the path he’s blocking.

Are these questions based on reading the article or not? A lot of the things are discussed in the article... the question is not whether the beach is public, it is about what access requirements he has to meet. Does he have to provide a road? Parking?

No he doesn’t have to provide parking. But he does have to allow access.

> California beaches have been public property since 1976.

Wow, how did it take the public so long to wake up? I thought the default was that it was public property in most places on earth.

This has nothing to do with him being rich. This has everything to do with the fact that he is an asshole. He has no property rights to the beach but is spending his money trying to change that.

He has no right to do what he is doing but the only reason we are talking about it at all is because he is rich.

> Who the owner is should not cloud the argument.

Fair point, but...

> On the other hand if his purchase did not include exclusivity to the beach then by all means go there and piss around.

This, by law, does not exist in any form in California (unless the beach is on a lake rather than the ocean).

This is simply a case of someone flaunting the law.

> (unless the beach is on a lake rather than the ocean).

And there I see why he has hopes. If it is legal on a lake then someone would wonder why not on ocean. Rather than asking the nice people on internet one might as well go to a court of law.

Why are people angry that he went to court. Where I come from people settle these kind of questions in less civilised ways. Court is better i think.

Some argue, Nial Ferguson comes to mind, that private property rights and rule of law are what has brought success to civilization. It is funny reading this thread. Your post pointedly reminds us that we could live under regimes that have no qualms in seizing our property. I’m reminded that in the US our founders wrote of life, liberty, and happiness. There was an earlier version, life, liberty, and property.

As a tech billionaire, he should know how to do a simple internet search.


#1. Internet is no longer the source of truth. I can buy it by CPC or CPM.

#2. Within the first paragraph of the first hit on search results, a policeman is enforcing the restriction. I would be encouraged to dig in if I were in a similar situation instead of being intimidated.

#3. I am not on either side. Just watching and weighing in from far away as an indifferent observer.

His monopoly on land is granted at the discretion of and subject to regulation by the state, just as many other actions are.

My front lawn can be eminent domained to build new power lines, so clearly the state has greater authority over property than your argument represents.

Then the state should use eminent domain to take his road, then upkeep the beach, the parking lot, and the bathrooms themselves. Instead, the state is trying to force him to run a business that loses money.

> If you are a middle class person and have a lawn in front of your house, would you allow the random people to use the lawn for chilling/sleeping/picnic or whatever?

That's not the issue. If you own property that's completely encircled by other properties, you're entitled to an easement through a neighboring property. Conversely, if you own a parcel of land that participates in the blockade of another parcel, you very well might be required to let the owners of that other parcel to walk on your lawn to get to their property. You'll probably want to maintain a walkway, because if their daily use turns your lawn to mud, you'll probably be liable for any injuries they sustain.


Water rights aren't your average yard. If water rights aren't protected, the rich could buy up the entire coastline and you'd have no where to access the beach.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact