By Sasha Lekach | Bay City News Service
Legislation introduced Monday would help restore public access to a popular surfing beach near Half Moon Bay that has been blocked off since 2010 by the property owner, Portola Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla.
State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, introduced a bill that would reopen the road to Martin's Beach, located just off state Highway 1 a few miles south of Half Moon Bay.
A gate was put up along the road in 2010 and there are signs deterring beachgoers from going through the property to get to the shore.
Surfers and other protesters have gone past the gate to get to the beach and in 2012 a group of five surfers was arrested for trespassing on the property.
The San Mateo County District Attorney's Office dropped charges in that case.
Two lawsuits have been filed against the landowner, Mr. Khosla, who purchased the property in 2008 for $37.5 million, according to Sen. Hill's office. Both suits have attempted to regain public access to the waves.
Last October, a San Mateo County Superior Court judge ruled in one of the suits filed by an attorney on behalf of the group "Friends of Martin's Beach" that the property belonged to Mr. Khosla and leaves its usage up to him. That decision effectively makes the only way to access the secluded shoreline by water and the ruling is being appealed.
A separate lawsuit filed last March by the Burlingame-based Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy law firm on behalf of the Surfrider Foundation is scheduled to go to court in May. In that case, the Surfrider Foundation is arguing that Mr. Khosla failed to obtain a proper permit for the gate and restrictive signs and is violating the California Coastal Act.
Sen. Hill has proposed requiring the State Lands Commission to enter into negotiations with the property owner to make a portion of the property a public access road.
If Mr. Khosla cannot negotiate a deal within a year, a portion of the property would be acquired by the commission through eminent domain and a public road would be created, according to Sen. Hill's proposed legislation.
If the bill passes and is signed by the governor, it would go into effect as soon as January 2015.
Following enactment, there is a one-year time period until January 2016 allotted for negotiations before the road could be opened to the public, Sen. Hill's spokeswoman Leslie Guevarra said.