California sues tech investor Vinod Khosla over beach access, reviving bitter legal battle

Key Points
  • Vinod Khosla purchased property surrounding Martins Beach for $32 million in 2008, and has for years fought lawsuits from groups alleging that he has tried to limit public access to the beach.
  • The state of California sued Khosla on Monday, claiming he has "improperly and illegally" restricted entry to the beach.
Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures
Getty Images

The state of California on Monday reignited a prolonged legal fight with billionaire tech investor Vinod Khosla over access to a beach connected to his property in San Mateo County, south of San Francisco.

Khosla purchased land surrounding Martins Beach in 2008 for $32 million and has for years fought lawsuits from groups alleging that he's tried to limit public entry to the beach by locking gates and posting no trespassing signs. Beaches in California are public land under the California Coastal Act.

California is now suing on behalf of the California Coastal Commission and the States Lands Commission, claiming that Khosla has been "improperly and illegally" restricting access to the beach. The agencies are asking for a right to use Martins Beach Road, a pathway from Highway 1 that crosses over Khosla's land, as well as access to the beach.

Khosla, who made his fortune as a Sun Microsystems co-founder before going into venture capital at Kleiner Perkins and then starting his own firm, Khosla Ventures, has refused to back down over the past decade, claiming that he's defending property rights. He told The New York Times in a profile that he wished he'd never bought the property and that he continued the legal battle because of his principles. 

In 2018, the Supreme Court declined to review Khosla's case challenging the California Coastal Act, quieting the legal wrangling for a period. More recently, Khosla's team scored a victory in an appeals court in San Mateo County over how the former owners of the property charged for access to the beaches.

"The claims asserted in today's lawsuit have been extensively litigated and repeatedly rejected by the courts in a prior lawsuit," Dori Yob Kilmer, a lawyer for Khosla, said in a statement. "Since the property was purchased by our client, the state, and small activist groups, have endeavored to seize our client's private property without compensation. While such tactics are commonplace in communist systems, they have never been tolerated in the American system where the U.S. Constitution precludes the government from simply taking private property and giving it to the public."

Kholsa's net worth is over $2 billion, according to Forbes.

WATCH: Khosla discusses 'economic opportunity' in clean energy fund

Khosla: 'Great economic opportunity' in clean energy fund
Khosla: 'Great economic opportunity' in clean energy fund