Tech billionaire and venture capitalist Vinod Khosla has spent a decade fighting to keep a beach near his $37 million estate off-limits to the public. It’s an exhausting thing — the 63-year-old tech legend has become known as California’s “beach villain” — but he’s not giving up the battle.
In an interview with The New York Times, Khosla gave his side of a story that has the famed tech figure pitted against California surfers and policymakers since 2008, when he bought the 53-acre hillside known as Martin’s Beach and closed it to the public.
“I mean, look, to be honest, I do wish I’d never bought the property,” Khosla told The Times. “In the end, I’m going to end up selling it.”
He added, “If this hadn’t ever started, I’d be so happy. But once you’re there in principle, you can’t give up principle.”
In 2008, Khosla — who made his fortune as an investor at his own venture fund and as a cofounder of Sun Microsystems — paid a reported $37 million for a shorefront parcel near Half Moon Bay, about an hour south of San Francisco. For many decades, surfers and families had enjoyed the beach, which is known for its stunning geological formations, picnic areas, and ideal surfing waves.
When Khosla put a padlock on the gate providing access to Martin’s Beach, locals revolted. A California appeals court later ruled that Khosla violated state law when he blocked the public from reaching the beach without a permit, and forced him to reopen the gate.
Khosla aims to take his case to the nation’s highest court.
In February, Khosla filed an appeal with the US Supreme Court to overturn the ruling, on the grounds that he does not need a permit to maintain a gate on his own property. If the Supreme Court decides to hear his case, the results could have major consequences for programs that manage beach property rights across the nation.
“If I were to ever win in the Supreme Court, I’d be depressed about it,” Khosla told the Times. “I support the Coastal Act; I don’t want to weaken it by winning. But property rights are even more important.”
His tech pedigree and iconoclastic pronouncements about investing made Khosla Ventures one of the most closely-watched venture firms in Silicon Valley. But Khosla tells the Times he knows the controversy around his property is very much part of his legacy now.
“A billionaire is a bad word in this country now,” Khosla said. “And that pains me.”