Is there a competition taking place to see who can become the most reviled one percenter? First there was Martin Shkreli, the drug company owner that massively jacked prices, then the “tech bro” who complained publicly about San Francisco’s homeless, and now there’s Vinod Khosla, the founder of Sun Microsystems, who for the last six years has illegally blocked access to Martins Beach just south of Half Moon Bay, despite a court ordering him to open it. Now Khosla is asking California to pay him $30 million to restore access-nearly as much as the $37.5 million he paid for the 53-acre parcel in 2008.
Martins Beach, seen above in an archival photo by Lars Rosengreen, has been a draw for generations of beach goers and surfers, but in 2010 Khosla, estimated to have a net worth of $1.5 billion, erected a gate blocking the road to Martins, painted over a welcome billboard on Pacific Coast Highway, and posted guards to chase away trespassers, saying the liability costs were too high, despite being warned by the county that the road should stay open.
Khosla was sued by Surfrider Foundation and in September 2014 Judge Barbara Mallach ruled that he must reopen the access road, though she rejected the damages sought by Surfrider, which sought $15,000 for each day the road was closed, or $20 million.
On February 3, Khosla’s lawyers appealed the ruling and, in negotiations with the State Lands Commission, asked for $30 million to open the road to Martins.
In a statement, Surfrider said, “Surfrider Foundation is committed to defending our lower court victory and continuing the fight to re-open access at Martin’s Beach.”
“Quite simply, Khosla has violated California law under the Coastal Act and must apply for a permit for any ‘change in the intensity of use of water, or access thereto’ for the coastal land. He has refused to apply for this permit despite being told to do so by the Superior Court twice.”
The billionaire claims that he wants to preserve the property, not develop it, and that demand for access is low-just 10 visitors in a 15-day period.