Billionaire Democrat Petitions Supreme Court to Keep Surfers Off His Beach

Vinod Khosla / Getty
February 26, 2018

A Silicon Valley billionaire and Democratic mega-donor is petitioning the Supreme Court to take up his four-year battle to keep surfers off of his private beach.

Vinod Khosla struck it rich as the co-founder of Sun Microsystems in the 1980s. Since making his fortune, he has made headlines for donating more than $1 million to Democratic politicians and organizations, as well as for his legal crusade to keep his private Martins Beach beachfront inaccessible to the public.

Under state law, the California Coastal Commission must approve any new coastline development or any changes to the amount of access the public has to a beach. When Khosla purchased 53 acres of land in 2008, he blocked off beaches that had previously been open to the public, without seeking a permit from the commission.

Khosla argues that it is an infringement of his property rights to force him to allow surfers and other beachgoers onto his private property.

"When California demands a permit before a private property owner may exercise the fundamental rights to close or alter the terms of a business and exclude the public from private property, it crosses a constitutional line," reads his petition to the Supreme Court.

But Mark Massara, the attorney for a group of surfers who wish to use the beach, disagrees, saying that the implications of Khosla's argument would be "frankly catastrophic" for Californian beachgoers. So far, the surfers have won both rounds, with both a lower court and the California 1st District Court of Appeals ruling in their favor.

Among those who have visited Khosla's much-vaunted property is former President Barack Obama, who hosted a $32,400-a-head fundraising dinner in 2013. Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet (D., Colo.), Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.), and Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) also attended.