Issues

Billionaire Asks for $30 Million to Let Public Access Beach

Dem donor Vinod Khosla has posted armed guards to stop beach-goers

Vinod Khosla
Vinod Khosla / AP

Billionaire Vinod Khosla has had 53 acres of beach property near San Francisco roped-off for his private use since 2010 and is finally willing to open it back up to the public—if California pays him $30 million, the New York Times reports.

The offer by lawyers for the billionaire, Vinod Khosla, was the latest salvo in a case that has touched a nerve in California as resentment grows over issues of wealth, privilege, and public land use. The case has generated years of protests as it wound its way through state courts, where two lawsuits aim to force Mr. Khosla, who does not live on the property, to let the public back in.

About eight years ago, Mr. Khosla, a founder of Sun Microsystems, snapped up a prime 53-acre parcel of Martins Beach for $37.5 million. The parcel, about four miles south of Half Moon Bay on the San Francisco Peninsula, includes the beach and the road. And for a century, California’s State Lands Commission said, the land had been a haven for the beachgoing public.

Khosla, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist who has been a major political donor to President Barack Obama and has also contributed to Hillary Clinton, has locked the gates and posted armed guards to keep people off Martin's Beach. Some trespassers have been arrested.

The passage of a bill that would allow California to use eminent domain to seize enough land to restore access of the beach to the public brought Khosla to the negotiating table with the State Lands Commission, but his request of $30 million failed to bring the sides any closer to an agreement.

"We do not agree with that value, and we believe the value is significantly less than that," the head of the commission told the New York Times. "We have not seen any backup documentation to support the $30 million value."

The Times describes the land as "a revered hideaway for surfers, fishers and beachgoers drawn by its isolation, dramatic cliffs and sweep of soft sand."