HALF MOON BAY (CBS SF) --After nearly a decade, Bay Area surfers and beach enthusiasts have won an important battle in the fight for access to Martins Beach near Half Moon Bay in San Mateo County.
The tech billionaire who owns the surrounding land had been ordered to unlock the public access gate or face daily fines.
Tuesday, the gate on the access road to the beach was wide open, giving the public the kind of access that's been the subject of lengthy legal battle with the property owner, Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla.
However, the California Coastal Commission was not ready to declare total victory. A spokesperson for the commission said there are still lingering concerns about the hours during which the gate will remain open as well as the consistency of the schedule.
"You ask, why access to Martins Beach is important?" said Surfrider Foundation past president Robert Caughlan. "I say for the same reason access is important to Yosemite. It's a California treasure."
Khosla bought the property in 2008, and shortly after installed a gate and posted "Private Property" and "No Trepassing" signs.
After years of trying to negotiate a settlement, the coastal commission sent a letter ordering him to cease and desist any unauthorized interference with the public's use of the beach or face heavy fines - up to $11,250 per violation per day.
"As surfers and as wildlife enthusiasts, it's important for us to have access," said surfer Brett Hedleston. "To be able to get down to the beach, to check the coastline, check the waves, check the beauty of it."
We reached out to the law firm representing Mr. Khosla., but they had no comment.
"1,100 miles of coast in California belongs to the public," said Caughlan. "It's not good enough to be able to just walk along the sand at the tide line. You have to have access."
Khosla's right to bar the public from the beach is also being challenged politically. A bill passed by the legislature recently would allow the state to take a public easement over the road by eminent domain.
Gov. Jerry Brown has until Oct. 15 to act on SB 42.
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