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Billionaire's bid to block access to Northern California beach goes to judge

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REDWOOD CITY, California — Lawyers for a billionaire landowner made a final plea Wednesday to a judge to allow a locked gate to block a popular beach in the San Francisco Bay Area — a case seen as a test of a state law mandating that beaches in California be open to all.

The case involves businessman Vinod Khosla, who closed off an existing beach-access road after buying 53 acres at Martins Beach south of San Francisco in 2008.

Lawyers on both sides presented final arguments in the lawsuit filed by the Surfrider Foundation coastal-protection group opposing the action.

Eric Buescher, an attorney for the nonprofit group, argued that thousands of beachgoers continued to use Martins Beach for more than a year after the businessman bought the property, until a locked gate and guards appeared to block access by land.

Jeffrey Essner, a lawyer for Khosla, countered by telling San Mateo County Judge Barbara Mallach, "My client's property is not a state park."

The San Francisco Chronicle reports (http://bit.ly/1oJAwQy ) that a ruling is expected within 90 days on the lawsuit, which the coastal-protection group brought under a 1976 California act guaranteeing public access to state beaches.

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