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Tech billionaire regrets buying beach, will fight for life to keep public off it

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Villainous story gets even grosser

Rock formations and surf at Martins Beach
Rock formations and surf at Martins Beach.
Photo by bteimages/Shutterstock.com

The saga of Vinod Khosla, billionaire founder of Sun Microsystems who’s fighting to cut off access to a popular California beach, is a pathetic, exhausting, and fury-inducing one.

In 2008 the venture capitalist paid $37.5 million for beachfront property just south of Half Moon Bay. In addition to acquiring 47 cottages and and a small retail store, Khosla also wound up owning the surrounding land, including the only path leading to Martin’s Beach, an idyllic stretch of California coast popular with surfers.

Khosla purchased the property on a whim, hasn’t “spent a single night there,” according to the New York Times, and has blocked access to said beach out of spite. He put up a gate and “no trespassing” signs and ordered local surfers arrested if they dared to access the water.

The brouhaha resulted in a ten-year legal battle, with no signs of Khosla slowing down. While the wealthy VC says that he regrets buying the property, he plans on fighting for life to keep people off the beach. And he’s taken his backward cause all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to the New York Times:

Mr. Khosla says he does not even want to triumph. “If I were to ever win in the Supreme Court, I’d be depressed about it,” he says. “I support the Coastal Act; I don’t want to weaken it by winning. But property rights are even more important.”

He does not want the beach at all, really. He does not swim. For fun, he hikes.

”I mean, look, to be honest, I do wish I’d never bought the property,” Mr. Khosla says. “In the end, I’m going to end up selling it.”

In August 2017, an appeals court ruled 3-0 that the beach was to remain open to the public, per Article 10, Section 4 of the California constitution, but Khosla has continued to fight, with his lawyers declaring beach rulings a “textbook physical invasion of private property.”

A seemingly backward sentiment for someone interested in the YIMBY movement.

“His life plan now is to “reinvent societal infrastructure.” He’s recently gotten interested in the Yimby movement, a pro-real estate development cause that stands for “yes in my backyard.” Mr. Khosla wants to 3D-print houses for the homeless to be installed above parking lots.

He’s also acted as mentor and advisor to Twitter and Square, with CEO Jack Dorsey calling the beach buyer “deeply principled” yet “sometimes difficult to work with.” No kidding.

Khosla, who’s so well-funded he can fight until death over this issue, could end up on the losing side. Sagas featuring well-to-do folks seeking to block coastal access rarely end well for the antagonists.

In December 2016, a $4.1 million fine was levied against Dr. Warren M. Lent and his wife, Henny, for preventing beach access at their oceanside rental on Las Flores Beach. And in 2005, producer David Geffen who, after years of fighting to get the beachgoers off the sands near his multimillion dollar home, finally relented to public access.

Correction appended: The article has been updated to reflect that Khosla isn’t “closely tied to the YIMBY movement,” but instead “interested in the YIMBY movement.”