HALF MOON BAY, Calif. (AP) — A bill seeking to re-establish public access to a popular Northern California beach that was closed off after a Silicon Valley billionaire bought the adjacent land was introduced Monday.
Democratic state Sen. Jerry Hill of San Mateo said his bill would require the State Lands Commission to negotiate with Sun Microsystems Inc. co-founder Vinod Khosla to purchase some or all of his land at Martin's Beach.
If no deal is reached within a year, the bill instructs the commission to use its power of eminent domain to seize all or part of the land.
"The courts have been slow, the issue been dragging out for at least five years ... and during that time the public hasn't been able to access to Martin's Beach," Hill said.
There are currently 15 homes at the site that are leased for another nine years, Hill said, adding that Khosla had indicated his interest in building six large new homes after the current residents are moved out.
"That would turn it into a private beach," Hill said.
The bill comes after a judge last year ruled that Khosla could legally block the road that was used previously for public access. That ruling came after a lawsuit was filed by surfers and other residents.
The judge cited the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which settled the Mexican-American War and required that the U.S. recognize Mexican land grants in cases where a claim had been filed.
The original owner of the land fronting Martin's Beach had indeed filed a claim, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1859, 14 years before California drafted its first constitution.
If Hill's bill passes and is signed by the governor, it would take effect. Jan. 1, 2015.