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Eighties Movie Villain Vinod Khosla Loses Battle to Keep Public Beach All to Himself

Scott Lucas | September 25, 2014 | Story Politics

It took James Bond to foil Christopher Walken's complicated Silicon Valley land scheme, but a South Bay judge to put a damper in Vinod Khosla's. The tech billionaire is going to have to pull a Larry Ellison and buy a private island (or build his own) if he wants to keep the hoi polloi out, according to a San Mateo judge's ruling yesterday. The co-founder of Sun Microsystems will be required to keep access open to Martins Beach, a popular surf and party spot near Half Moon Bay under the terms of the ruling handed down by the court in the case which pitted Khosla against the non-profit Surfrider Foundation. (For more on the dispute, check out our backgrounder here.) After the ruling, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs was quoted as saying, "Mr. Khosla, in the words of President Reagan: Tear down that wall or, in this case, fence."

Khosla had bought the coastal property in 2008 for $32.5 million and closed public access to the beach in 2010, claiming that it cost him too much money in upkeep and insurance. But a series of California state laws passed in the 1970s prohibit private development from blocking access to beaches, which are considered public property up to the high tide line. The Khosla case is almost identical to one in 2005 in which David Geffen tried to block access to a beach in Malibu. He lost that fight as well, and, at least for the time being, Khosla has lost his battle.

That doesn't the mean its clear sailing for Gidget and all of her groovy pals, however. Khosla can apply for a coastal development permit in the future that could allow him to block road access to Martins Beach. And there's always the possibility of appeals, especially given a prior court ruling that indicated that Khosla's property was subject to the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, which—as you all remember from License to Kill—ended the war between Mexico and the United States and governed the transfer of private property, including what has become Khosla's demense.

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