Some call it the Witch’s Hat. Other northern Californians have taken to calling the rocky outcrop Shark Tooth, for its jagged point jutting out the water, as if loosened from a giant great white and upturned in the surf.
But whatever the locals have called the formation for a century, it has been a prominent backdrop for generations of families visiting Martins Beach, who used the idyllic waters to surf, fish and learn values of conservancy in a getaway near bustling Half Moon Bay.
Then Vinod Khosla, billionaire and a co-founder of Sun Microsystems enriched by investments in Silicon Valley venture capital, paid $32.5 million in 2008 for land adjacent to the coast, including the only road to Martins Beach — cutting off access to the beach with a closed gate and painted over access signs in 2009.
Private security guards roamed the public beach south of San Francisco, tossing out surfers and swimmers found there.
On Thursday, Khosla learned not to mess with surfers, when he lost an appeal to bar public access to the Martins Beach Road.
“This is not simply a win for surfers in San Mateo County,” Surfrider Foundation legal director Angela Howe told The Washington Post. “This is a win for all of the beachgoing public that wish to enjoy California’s beautiful 1,100-mile coastline.”
A three-judge panel of the California 1st District Court of Appeals rejected the appeal of Khosla’s management companies, Martins Beach 1 and Martins Beach 2, in a suit challenging the legality of his road blockage, filed in March 2013 by the Surfrider Foundation.
The group, which defends public use of coastal lands, argued in the suit that Khosla’s failure to obtain a permit modifying access to the beach was a violation of the Coastal Act of 1976, which regulates public use of beaches in the state.
The appeals court upheld the lower court’s…