Wednesday’s court ruling that the Martins Beach access gate must be reopened until landowner Vinod Khosla gets a permit from the Coastal Commission is great news. The ruling reaffirms that California’s beaches belong to everyone and that even billionaire venture capitalists have to comply with the Coastal Act.
It’s important to remember that the San Mateo Superior Court ruling dealt only with the narrow issue of a Coastal Commission permit and did not address the larger issue of the public’s ability to access the beach on a long-term basis. My Senate Bill 968, which is awaiting the governor’s signature, attempts to bring the landowner and the state to the table to negotiate a permanent solution.
I was surprised to read that The Sacramento Bee editorial board has changed its mind about SB 968 – “Yes we have problems, but not that many,” (Sept. 10) – saying it prefers a legislative requirement that the state purchase the beach access road using eminent domain.
I commend The Bee for taking such a strong position in favor of public beach access. Unfortunately, the billionaire landowner who shut the public out in 2010 decided to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a lobbyist to try to kill the bill. I tried to keep the eminent domain requirement, but it was not politically possible since the bill did not have sufficient votes in the Legislature because of intense lobbying.
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The bipartisan compromise that emerged in SB 968 was a one-year, good-faith negotiation between the State Lands Commission and the landowner to try to resolve the private property rights vs. public access dilemma. The alternative is to wait up to 10 years as various lawsuits wind their way through the courts.
All levels of government have expressed a willingness to solve the problem. The County of San Mateo has publicly committed to paying for road maintenance. The State Lands Commission has indicated it can cover the cost of the one-year negotiation with existing resources. We’ve got nothing to lose by requiring all sides to sit down and try to work out a solution.
I would also disagree with Dan Walters’ assessment “Beach fight is a symbol of class war” (Capitol & California, Sept. 23). Voters made it clear that all beaches are public when they approved the Coastal Act initiatives in the 1970s. Enshrined in our state’s constitution is the notion that no individual or company can “exclude the right of way to such water.”
This is not class warfare; it is individuals using endless resources to test, abuse and defy California’s landmark Coastal Act. Let’s not reward bad behavior.