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Political, Legal Battles Brew Over Public Access To Martins Beach

SAN MATEO COUNTY (KPIX 5) -- Beautiful Martins Beach on the San Mateo County Coast is the scene of an ugly and ongoing battle over personal property and public access.

A billionaire bought the property near Half Moon Bay nearly ten years ago, but it's been off limits almost ever since.

Now, there is a new plan to unlock the gates, once and for all.

Surfer Lisa Tusber says, "The ocean -- I think should be open and free to everyone."

The beauty of Martins Beach Is beyond dispute.

But what is not beyond dispute, is how much, if any, access the public should have to this beloved stretch of California's coast.

Tusberg said, "I think everyone should have access to the beach in some sort of way. You shouldn't just be able to close it off."

Tusberg hikes in from Highway 1, crossing the gate and 'No Trespassing' signs on her way to surf at Martins Beach.

For nearly a decade, the beach has been at the center of a long-running legal battle pitting tech billionaire Vinod Khosla -- who bought the property in 2008 and promptly closed it to the public -- versus surfers, environmentalists and the California Coastal Commission who argue it is a gem that everyone should be able to enjoy.

Surfer Michelle Andrade said, "I think the beach is a free space and everyone is entitled to have access to that. I don't care how rich you are. You shouldn't be able to block the public's access to nature."

Khosla's right to bar the public from the beach is being challenged legally, and politically. There's currently a bill working through the legislature that would authorize the state to buy the property -- perhaps, even over his objection.

Khosla has vowed to fight any effort to force a sale, while surfers look forward to easier access to a beach they have enjoyed for decades.

Tusberg said, "If it continued to happen -- if people continued to buy up property and denied access to local surfers -- I would have a real problem with that."

The California Coastal Commission says Khosla should not have gated the road leading to the beach without a permit.

The lawsuit will be argued in court later this month.

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