back to article Nearly two billion in the bank and yet this VC is slowly losing his beach-blocking battle

The six-year effort by VC Vinod Khosla to prevent public access to a California beach may be going against the billionaire. In a 3-0 ruling, a San Francisco appeals court reinstated part of a lawsuit brought against the Sun Microsystems co-founder that will now allow lawyers to argue that the land's former owners had granted a …

  1. Roq D. Kasba

    Hope he loses

    It's underhanded, his approach, especially knowing full well the beach is public.

    1. Ian 55

      Re: Hope he loses

      It's going to disappear under the sea in few years anyway...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "I once bought a forest. The parasites claimed that the land belonged to God, and demanded that I establish a public park there.

    Why? So the rabble could stand slack-jawed under the canopy and pretend that it was paradise earned? When Congress moved to nationalize my forest, I burnt it to the ground. God did not plant the seeds of this Arcadia - I did."

    -- Vinod Khosla

    1. raving angry loony

      re: I once bought a forest

      Wasn't that Andrew Ryan from Bioshock? Although it does sound like Ryan was based on people like Khosla.

      1. VinceH

        Re: re: I once bought a forest

        A quick search reveals that, yes, it's Andrew Ryan from Bioshock, so:

        "it does sound like Ryan was based on people like Khosla."

        That's probably the point being made by attributing it to him.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    would it

    be so hard for him to just not be a dick about the whole thing? I mean, seriously. A truly philanthropic mind would find an amicable solution to this minor issue, not hire fuckin lawyers. There is so much good he could do, but I guess he doesn't see it because that is not the type of person he is. Apparently.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: would it

      Wait, so the beach is public, but (according to Vinod) the access to it isn't? Time to crowdfund a free boat service to access the beach, and totally stick it to this asshole.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: would it

        Rumor has it that a bunch of local surfers & the people that tend to hang out with them will be setting up a protest camp on the beach, complete with signs erected that tell this rich bastard exactly what they think of him blocking the public access.

        As in "We'll stay right here until you reopen that access, otherwise we've got no legal way to walk off this public beach."

        It promises to throw some serious sand (pun intended) into his face given that he'd have to open the access to let the cops in to arrest them, at which point they'll pull "Eco Terrorist Tree Hugger" style tactics to prevent him from shutting that gate again.

        If he had a billionth the IQ as he has in cash he'd be smart enough to realize this is a battle he can't win.

        Either the Legal courts will slap him or he'll be beaten by the Court of Public Opinion, perhaps both; the first will see him pay money to keep the access going & maintain the beach, the other will see him constantly having to defend/fix his property that does the blocking.

        Replacing that gate might only cost a couple of hundred dollars each time, an amount he could pull out of his ass without noticing, but having to buy the entire yearly output of a gate manufacturer to keep replacing what gets destroyed every time he blinks will eventually tax his sanity to the breaking point.

        He's a douchebag & deserves everything the public does to him for this crap.

      2. asdf

        Re: would it

        >Time to crowdfund a free boat service to access the beach

        Lets think bigger. Time to crowdfund expenses for Perry Farrell to give a free concert there. He is buddies with the Surf rider people (and a surfer himself) and would probably love giving this rich a hole the middle finger.

    2. Mark 85

      Re: would it

      would it be so hard for him to just not be a dick about the whole thing?

      Have you read anything he's said or wrote? Yes it would be hard for him as he's a natural born, greedy, ass. But then, that's my opinion.

    3. a_yank_lurker

      Re: would it

      If he is worried about liability why not donate the land to the county/city required for beach access?

  4. EveryTime

    In California, not only is the beach public, the public is entitled to a right-of-way to access it.

    An argument is that right "diminishes" the value of beach-front property. But the property owner never bought that right originally.

    Khosla was really trying to steal from the public, purchasing beach-front property and then grabbing far more than he paid for. He really does believe that with enough money and lawyers, he can do whatever he likes.

    1. dan1980

      The 'correct' solution here is for that thin slice of land to be leased to the council (for a nominal fee - to make a valid contract) and, under the terms of that contract, for all liabilities and responsibilities for maintenance to be transferred to the council. Additional clauses would be basic courtesy such as restricting opening hours of the access road.

      Khosla is just plain being a dick, but even though the issue of liability was raised really as a smokescreen, it is still a valid issue and really should be resolved.

  5. Kev99 Silver badge

    There is a federal law passed in the late 1800's that declared all land abutting navigable waterways is public land. I read about it in the Miami Herald Florida magazine around March, 1974. Unfortunately, trying to find now has been nigh impossible. Neither the Herald, the US Park Service, or the Bureau of Land Management care to respond to my inquiries. There is also case law in California that says the same thing.

    1. asdf

      Yeah that is fairly common knowledge but damn this line kills me.

      > I read about it in the Miami Herald Florida magazine around March, 1974.

      How in the fsck do you remember what you read 40+ years ago to the month?

      1. raving angry loony

        >> I read about it in the Miami Herald Florida magazine around March, 1974.

        > How in the fsck do you remember what you read 40+ years ago to the month?

        That's a very good question. I have trouble remembering what I read 40+ hours ago to the month.

        1. tony2heads

          @raving angry loony

          I am pretty sure it was April 2016

      2. Wensleydale Cheese

        "How in the fsck do you remember what you read 40+ years ago to the month?"

        I cannot answer for the OP but I can often associate events with places* and work back from there to an approximate date. Perhaps the OP read it while on holiday?

        * admittedly this works better for me with music than stuff I read.

    2. cray74

      There is a federal law passed in the late 1800's ... Neither the Herald, the US Park Service, or the Bureau of Land Management care to respond to my inquiries. There is also case law in California that says the same thing.

      Most, if not all, of the US federal code is available online. Google is your friend. ;)

      Speaking of Google, using the search: US federal law oceans public beaches

      I found the Surfrider's Foundation interpretations (admittedly biased) with handy summary of the laws by state. California's interpretation of the public trust doctrine means the public beach is the wet area below the average high water mark. Bring your wading boots, and note that unlike the beach, beach access may not be public.

      A little more searching finds that in 2007, prior California state laws requiring beach property owners to remove barriers to public access was overturned. Obviously, this current case touches on whether or not barriers may be retained. The California decision is: 19 T-WR, L.L.C. v. California Coastal Com., 152 Cal. App. 4th 770 (2007), as referenced by a wordy summary of Florida's position on beach ownership

      Oregon has another definition. This differs from the California situation, but that's my point: the underlying federal Public Trust Doctrine gives navigable waters to the public and non-navigable areas to private control (if someone buys them), but states are allowed to define navigable waters in their jurisdictions. So any blanket federal laws from the 1800s are applied differently by state.

      (A side note: navigable waters may not be the relevant term. Navigable waters tend to refer to riparian legal situations, while beach public/private situations are simply under "public trust." But I'm just nosing into this for the first time.)

      Beach ownership law has moved on since the 1800s with two Supreme Court cases, numerous state laws, and plenty of lawsuits. See paragraph 7 in that reference. A decision that would probably weigh in favor of rich douchebags is that there's a legal precedent (Nollan v. California Coastal Commission) for requiring reimbursement of property owners when forcing public access...but not always. Decades of court fights since Nollan v. CCC have examined ways of getting public access without triggering reimbursement, usually based on "legitimately advancing the state's interest without reducing property values."

      Short version is:

      1) There's not a monolithic federal law defining public beaches, but rather a vague legal principle implemented somewhat differently between states. It tends to be "below the high water mark."

      2) Rich douchebags have precedent for getting reimbursed if they have to give public access to their beach, though it is far from guaranteed.

  6. tom dial Silver badge

    Eminent domain

    While eminent domain has been extensively abused in this country, the case at hand is an excellent example in which such a taking appears fully justified. The beach, up to some point, already is public. Taking a strip for an access path and a reasonable sized block for public parking clearly would serve a public purpose that justifies use of eminent domain far better than the common use of taking land and buildings and turning them over to private developers "for economic benefits to the community."

    A Kickstarter campaign might well be able to raise the necessary funds, and not only from surfers. I live nearly 800 miles away on the other side of the Salt Lake valley, but probably would throw in a few dollars for a just cause.

    1. asdf

      Re: Eminent domain

      >While eminent domain has been extensively abused in this country

      Which is actually one of the rare benefits to living in red state (certain not for the education funding) where this is far less common (in fact they are usually busy passing laws to get public land privatized). Tends to be in blue states like New Jersey where you see Walmart buy off some local corrupt politicians to get houses bulldozed for their new supercenter.

  7. Gene Cash Silver badge

    And people wonder why Sun went to crap, with people like this running it...

    1. asdf

      Sadly all Sun showed is there are far bigger even greedier assholes out there to gobble it all up.

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Beach kit

    Surf board - check

    Towel - check

    Sunblock - check

    Budgie smugglers - check

    Wet suit - check (oh sorry: CA not Cornwall) no need

    Hacksaw - check

    Lawyer - check

    Off we go to the beach.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Beach kit

      ... hatchet, Gladys, and my mitts.

      Ok I'm ready.

    2. cray74

      Re: Beach kit

      Wet suit - check (oh sorry: CA not Cornwall) no need

      There's not as much difference as you might think. Cornwall gets some Gulf Stream warmth for a average high water temperature of 18C, while California has a cool ocean current off the coast. The average annual high water temperature in southern California is about 19C but drops to 11C near the north end of the state. Pardon the mixed units.

      Basically, don't skip the wetsuit when surfing in California. You might leave it in your hotel room on a warm day, but it wouldn't hurt to keep it nearby.

  10. johnwerneken

    so what who cares

    People have a right to control their property. If you want to use mine, you will have to pay whatever I say. That's the way it is supposed to be.

    1. Geoffrey W

      Re: so what who cares

      So who did you buy it from?

      And who did they buy it from?

      And just a few generations further back you can ask, who did they steal it from? Someone who thought the land belonged to everyone, until someone armed with ultra violence came out of the blue

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ...I will withhold judgement on the fellow as we actually know very little about the situation. All very well to be public spirited and provide free access across your land but I can easily imagine (from personal experience) Joe Public behaving in ways that would quickly make you rue your generosity. Given the size of some of the dwellings down at the beach I do wonder how they got planning permission with out a public right of way tot he area.

    1. Roq D. Kasba

      Re: Personally...

      Being a dick to people tends to make people more dickish in response. Whether or not it was included on his deeds, a de facto access had emerged and been commonly used for decades. This could have been a story about how he carried on, formalised it, maybe cut a whole 1 yard strip off the property's edge to create access with all the brambles and razor wire and whatever he wanted and if liability was an issue, give it to the state. Instead, he really does come across as a greedy, vindictive arsehole making a land-grab.

      So, surfers, families, protestors, everyone - charter some fishing boats from the next bay (or whatever the Californian equivalent of fishing boats are) and use the beach for a spontaneous (famous band of the day) concert. The arrival of 20000 teenage fans will soon enough overwhelm the armed guards 'should we shoot into a crowd of children, sir?', and then normal occupation protest can begin.

    2. Chemical Bob

      Re: Personally...

      The boundaries of his property were set when Mexico owned Upper California and he is relying on article X of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which guaranteed the protection of Mexican land grants. Unfortunately for him, the US Senate deleted article X before ratifying the treaty. This along with later legislation guarantying right of way to public beaches means, yeah, he's being a dick.

    3. EveryTime

      Re: Personally...

      ".I will withhold judgement on the fellow as we actually know very little about the situation. "

      This story has repeatedly in the news, and 'we' (excluding you) know much about the situation.

      It is very clear that he is an ass. He knew the situation when he bought the property, and was repeatedly informed about the law. He blocked off access anyway, and continued blocking access even when a judge ruled against him. He just threw more lawyers and filings at the situation. Through his lawyers, he has repeatedly made false claims about the historic situation (which didn't work very well since the locals actually have memory).

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is he German by any chance?

    Does he put out a beach-sized towel early each morning?

    Verfressen swine.

    1. Wensleydale Cheese

      Re: Is he German by any chance?


      "Vinod Khosla (Gurmukhi: ਵਿਨੋਦ ਖੋਸਲਾ; born 28 January 1955) is an Indian/American businessman..."

  13. Wolfclaw

    Except for a small few, the more money you have, the less human you become and the more of an a$$hole you are !

  14. Fatman

    RE: A--hole cuts off beach access.

    This issue isn't limited to just California, it is also a serious problem here in Flori-duh also.

    Developers who buy beachfront property to put up condos by the thousands think little of the rights of the public to access that part of the beach below the high tide line. To thwart this greediness, many cities have 'extended street right-of-ways' that would normally "dead end" at the beach road, out toward the water and thus making them "public access points"; much to the chagrin of the developers.

    Once declared to be a 'right-of-way' there is nothing a developer can do to stop the public from accessing the beach.

    Perhaps what the local government need do is to use its power of eminent domain and take a strip of land along the property line running at a 'right angle'1 to the ocean. That will fuck him.

    1It may not necessarily be exactly 90 degrees, but it would involve the property lines that intersect the ocean (if extended out into the ocean); as opposed to those that run nearly parallel to the ocean.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sun Microsystems

    Can't we do what we've always done when Sun/Oracle buys something open only to close / shit on it?

    Lets fork it, build a better one and render his beach useless.

    1. Roq D. Kasba

      Re: Sun Microsystems

      I've seen something like that in action - up the coast, some kind of harbour was extended for the airport, it turned a beachfront restaurant into a swampfront restaurant - with extra mosquitoes toboot.

      So, just up the coast, add a bit of a harbour...

  16. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    Khosla's an ass

    He's the sort who thinks that having made some winning bets makes him an expert on everything. I really hope he loses this.

  17. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    citing the cost of maintenance and liability. He also added armed guards

    I wonder how much it costs to hire armed guards compared to a little maintenance?

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