Two California commissions sue to protect beach access at Martins Beach

The California Coastal Commission and California State Lands Commission have jointly sued the entities owning a stretch of land adjacent to Martins Beach near Half Moon Bay, on Jan. 6. The lawsuit, which was filed against Martins Beach I LLC and Martins Beach II LLC, seeks to secure public beach access at the local oceanfront.

An 89-acre land adjacent to Martins Beach was purchased by venture capitalist Vinod Khosla in 2008; a portion of the land was used to access the beach for more than 100 years. Khosla had attempted to block public access to the beach. His efforts to block public beach access eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court, but justices rejected his legal claim in October 2018.

“For as far back as can be historically documented, the public has used and treated the beach as a public beach, and the previous owners knew of that public use and did not interfere with such use,” the complaint stated. “In 2008, new owners … purchased the property and subsequently upended this long history of public use by blocking the beach access road and closing off all public access to Martin’s Beach. These new owners deny that the public has any right to set foot on the beach or the beach access road.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Coastal Commission and State Lands Commission. The lawsuit was filed in a California Superior Court (San Mateo County).

The Coastal Commission and State Lands Commission both seek the courts to preclude Khosla from imposing restrictions on public access to Martins Beach.

“The public’s extensive and continuous use of Martin’s Beach (via access road) as a public beach, without any interruption since at least the 1920s and for about a century, establishes that the public has rights to access and use Martin’s Beach under the doctrine of implied dedication,” the complaint stated. “In fact, a few beach users have even stated their family used the beach in the 1800s, which is reflected in a photograph obtained by the state.

“The commissions have filed this lawsuit to quiet title and enjoin defendants from imposing improper restrictions on use, so that the public may once again enjoy its right to use Martin’s Beach free from barrier or threat of expulsion.”

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