A San Francisco Billionaire Wants to Keep People Off the Beach Near His Home. A Judge Just Said No.

For 15 years, one billionaire in the San Francisco area has been battling to restrict access to a beach near his home—and his fight was just dealt another blow.

A California state judge has ruled against the venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, Bloomberg reported on Saturday. Superior Court Judge Raymond Swope denied Khosla’s bid to throw out a lawsuit against him that says he cannot limit access to Martins Beach, a popular surfing spot near S.F. Swope’s decision is just the latest setback in Khosla’s years-long saga.

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Back in 2008, the billionaire bought a home near the beach for an impressive $32.5 million, according to the publication. Shortly thereafter, he built a gate on the road that leads down to the cove, ensuring that the public couldn’t use that access point to get to the beach. Lawyers for Khosla say the gate is legal, given that he’s the property owner, but others disagree. The ensuing legal battle made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018, where the justices opted to not take up Khosla’s appeal, letting a lower ruling stand.

That ruling was in favor of the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit in California that advocates for the protection of oceans and beaches. And now the State Lands Commission, a California government agency, is similarly trying to bar Khosla from closing off the beach to the public. It contends that the public has “access rights” to the land given state law and historical use. Swope’s ruling said the agency had given enough support for its claims, Bloomberg noted, and that it could proceed with the case it filed in 2020.

At a hearing on Monday, Khosla could ask the judge to reconsider his decision. (His lawyer did not respond to Bloomberg’s request for comment.)

Beach access in California is a hot-button issue, and battles among homeowners and the public have been known to play out for decades. Last year, for example, the public finally gained access to Escondido Beach in Malibu after a 40-year fight. In that case, two homeowners agreed to restore an access point that had been blocked since the 1980s.

While the S.F. issue doesn’t have that sort of history behind it, it’s been dragging on for more than a decade at this point. And depending on what Khosla decides to do, the public could be waiting much longer to get to Martins Beach.

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