Billionaire tech VC Vinod Khosla owns the very tides, sea, sands (or so he claims)


Silicon Valley billionaire venture capitalist and Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla wants everyone to stay off Martins Beach, a lovely stretch of oceanfront south of Half Moon Bay. To that end, he is invoking The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War in 1848 and transformed California from being a chunk of Mexico to becoming part of the USA. Okay, Vinod. Whatever.

"Khosla purchased the land containing the only public access road to the beach – and then closed the road," writes San Francisco Chronicle reporter Melody Gutierrez. He "has been locked in a court case with the Surfrider Foundation over access."

From a related blog post at

The lobbyists for Khosla are using as justification for their position a decision last October by Superior Court Judge Gerald Buchwald that said Martins Beach was still subject to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War in 1848. The treaty essentially required the United States to recognize Mexican land grants as long as the owner filed a claim. Jose Antonio Alviso, who owned the land grant at the time, filed such a claim, and a patent for the beachfront property was issued in 1865.

Judge Buchwald ruled that Alviso's patent, handed down over the generations, extinguished all public rights to the property, including beach access rights established under the public trust doctrine in the California Constitution, which was first drafted in 1879.

The letter opposing SB968 claimed that Buchwald's order means Khosla does not have to provide access to either the beach or off-shore submerged tidelands, which his lawyers point out were specifically mentioned in Buchwald's ruling.

Lawyers fighting for public access to the beach were apoplectic.

"It's preposterous," said Joe Cotchett, the lead attorney for Surfrider, which is awaiting a decision on a lawsuit claiming that Khosla needed a California Coastal Commission permit before he could close the road or make other improvements.