Senator Jerry Hill, Other Elected Officials, Surfers and Environmental Groups Gather at Martins Beach Gate to Urge Governor to Sign Bill That Would Start Negotiations to Restore Public Access to the Beach Near Half Moon Bay
Governor has Until End of Month to Act on Hill’s Bill; Families Deprived of Beach Access Will Recount Fond Memories of Martins Beach That Span Generations
WHAT: State Senator Jerry Hill – joined by San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley and members of the Surfrider Foundation and Sierra Club – will hold a news conference outside the closed gate to Martins Beach to urge Governor Jerry Brown to sign Senate Bill 968. Hill’s bill would require the State Lands Commission to enter into negotiations with Silicon Valley billionaire and Martins Beach property owner Vinod Khosla for one year, in an effort to re-open the beach near Half Moon Bay to the public.
Bay Area residents will recount fond memories of family gatherings on the beach, which was closed four years ago this month after Khosla bought the property. The battle to restore public access to Martins Beach has become the focus of a nationally watched legal battle, pitting the rights of Californians to open beaches against the rights of property owners. The governor has until the end of the month to sign or veto SB 968.
WHEN: 10:30 a.m. Friday, September 12, 2014
WHERE: 25 Martin’s Beach Road, Half Moon Bay, CA
Outside the closed gate to Martin’s Beach, south of Half Moon Bay
At the intersection of Martin’s Beach Road and Highway 1/Cabrillo Highway
Note: Martin’s Beach Road intersects Highway 1 twice. The gate is at the southern intersection of Martin’s Beach Road and Highway 1. If you’re using a GPS, plug in the address: 25 Martin’s Beach Road, Half Moon Bay, CA
BACKGROUND: If signed by the governor, SB 968 by Hill, D-San Mateo/Santa Clara Counties, would require the State Lands Commission to enter into negotiations with Khosla for one year, in an effort to re-open the beach near Half Moon Bay to the public.
The property was previously owned for more than a century by the Denney family, which charged visitors a small fee for access and parking at the beach. Khosla bought the property in 2008. Two years later, his property manager closed the gate to the only road leading to Martins Beach and put up a sign reading, “Beach closed, keep out.” Since then, Californians have been unable to access a beach they’ve enjoyed for generations.
SB 968 does not call for seizing the road to the beach by eminent domain. Nor does it interfere with pending court battles to bring down the gate that could take years to resolve. Instead, the legislation was crafted to provide an avenue to end the stalemate and restore public access to the beach.
It wasn’t until September 12, 2011 that the attorneys for Martins Beach LLC revealed in a letter to the Surfrider Foundation that Khosla owned the land. Until then the public didn’t know who was to blame for the beach closure.
After the gate was closed, a group of protesters known as the Martins 5 was arrested for bypassing the gate after they walked down the road to the beach and went surfing. Charges were dropped by the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office.
Meanwhile, a lawsuit to restore public access was filed by a group called the Friends of Martin’s Beach. The plaintiffs based their claim on the public trust doctrine and Article 10, Section 4, of the state constitution, which prevents property owners from excluding access to public bodies of water.
Last October, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Gerald Buchwald ruled that the constitution’s provisions do not apply to the beach because ownership of the beach was decreed by a document that predated the California constitution. The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican War and guaranteed that the United States would uphold the property rights of Mexican citizens, had granted 200 acres to Santa Clara Valley settler Jose Antonio Alviso, including the Martins Beach parcels. Judge Buchwald ruled that the land grant took precedence over the public trust doctrine in the state constitution.
Buchwald’s decision – which is being appealed – didn’t outlaw public access to the beach, but because the only way for the public to get there now is from the ocean, it had the same practical effect.
Meanwhile, the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection of the world’s oceans and beaches, has been pressing its own lawsuit against Khosla based primarily on the California Coastal Act