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California Coastal Commission seeks public comments on use of beach at center of legal battle

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HALF MOON BAY, California — California's Coastal Commission is seeking public comment on the use of a popular San Francisco Bay Area beach at the center of a lawsuit over public access.

The commission announced Thursday that it has opened its website to ask people how they have used Martin's Beach in San Mateo County, the San Jose Mercury News reported (http://bit.ly/1lBnMe6 ).

A judge is deciding whether Silicon Valley billionaire Vinod Khosla, who bought a secluded cove south of Half Moon Bay for $32.5 million in 2008, is allowed to close an access road and keep the beach off-limits.

Earlier this month, lawyers on both sides presented final arguments in the case filed by the Surfrider Foundation coastal protection group opposing Khosla's action.

Khosla has said he doesn't need a permit from the commission. He said the public didn't have free access to the area as it does to other beaches down the coast.

"If the story was right and people thought I was doing something wrong, I'd live with that — it wouldn't bother me," Khosla told the newspaper last week. "But there are massive lies and misinterpretation on the issues here."

Under state law, the entire coast is public property, and critics claim the closure of Martin's Beach violates the coastal act.

PHOTO: File - In this Feb. 10, 2014, file photo, Julie Graves, left, of Albany, Calif., and Chris Adams, second from left, of Berkeley, Calif., hold up signs in support of a beach access bill that Democratic state Sen. Jerry Hill introduced near Martin's Beach in Half Moon Bay, Calif. California's Coastal Commission is asking the public to document its use of Martin's Beach after billionaire landowner Vinod Khosla closed the only access road to it. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
File - In this Feb. 10, 2014, file photo, Julie Graves, left, of Albany, Calif., and Chris Adams, second from left, of Berkeley, Calif., hold up signs in support of a beach access bill that Democratic state Sen. Jerry Hill introduced near Martin's Beach in Half Moon Bay, Calif. California's Coastal Commission is asking the public to document its use of Martin's Beach after billionaire landowner Vinod Khosla closed the only access road to it. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

Khosla's attorneys have said the public was previously allowed to access the beach for a fee, so there was never a right of public access.

Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that gave the commission the authority to fine property owners who illegally block beach access to the public up to $11,500 a day.

The commission's new powers came amid the legal tussle between environmentalists and Khosla, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems Inc.

The commission could use the public's information to strengthen its hand in a possible settlement with Khosla.


Online:

California Coastal Commission: http://www.coastal.ca.gov


Information from: San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, http://www.mercurynews.com

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