Updated Score: Beach Access Proponents 1, Selfish Billionaires 0   Leave a comment

The Subtle Attack on Californians

October 6, 2014

In late August I wrote about the actions of a billionaire who chose to summarily deny beach access to one of the many beautiful parts of California’s coastline. The piece was titled “Coastal California and The Dogs of War “. In part, I wanted to be one of the voices raising awareness about the obvious loss of access, and in a larger sense, to point to another person who, with very deep pockets, was using his wallet to make Californians or Americans in general conform to his singular self-indulgent vision. In part, I wrote,

Our local newspaper, the weekly Independent Coast Observer . . . carried an Associated Press story by Juliet Williams about (here’s a surprise) a dot-com billionaire blocking beach access to those not in his circle of friends, or without the requisite billions of dollars to buy their own piece of exclusive (and to hell with everyone else) coastal real estate. “The public had access to Martins Beach for decades through a private access road, but it was closed after Silicon Valley billionaire Vinod Khosla bought a 53-acre parcel next to the secluded cove in 2008 for $32.5 million.” I have nothing against the dot-com world (although people in Los Angeles and San Francisco may feel differently as neighborhoods gentrify and inevitably expel less-tony residents.) But the fight for access to Martins Beach is emblematic of the two Americas.

For the moment, there is good news. Samantha Weigel reports in the September 25, 2014 San Mateo Daily Journal:

“The environmental activist group Surfrider Foundation succeeded Wednesday in its hotly contested case to compel the billionaire owner of Martin’s Beach to reopen his property to the public until the California Coastal Commission permits otherwise.

San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach handed down her tentative ruling in the case siding with Surfrider’s assertions that closing the beach to the public altered the land’s use and violated the California Coastal Act by not garnering mandated permits. However, Mallach declined to issue penalties against the owner that could have amounted to millions.”

It should not be lost on anyone that one word in the story rises above all of the good news: tentative.

One court victory by the greedy, selfish, and self-indulgent will be the precedent heard along the entire length of the California coast. Let’s accept this preliminary victory and raise half a glass of Chardonnay. We’ll get the rest of it when the decision is confirmed, and greed—at least in this case—is recognized and overturned in perpetuity.

David Steffen

© David Steffen 2014

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