During last summer’s holidays, First Round found itself driving along a breathtaking stretch of California, known as the Slow Coast, between San Francisco and Santa Cruz. A map pointed to Martin’s Beach – what looked to be an off-the-beaten-path mile or so of sand just south of Half Moon Bay and west of Silicon Valley.
First Round quickly realised Martin’s wasn’t a beach like others along the cliff-lined stretch of the Golden State. For one thing, a shady looking man in a truck demanded a $10 fee from First Round to walk along it. Turns out access to Martin’s Beach is at the centre of a legal battle giving a bad rep to VC folks and could cost the state of California a small fortune.
Martin’s Beach is part of an 89-acre property that Indian billionaire and Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla purchased in 2008 for more than $30 million. Although the access road is part of Khosla’s private property, the beach itself has always been accessible to the public for a daily fee.
But, in 2010, Khosla decided to close the access route. That started a complicated battle over the public’s right to cross private property to reach tidal land, which typically belongs to the state of California, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
So you’re probably wondering how First Round was able to get to the beach. Well, Khosla was kind enough to open the route during summer for a fee collected by his own employee (the man in the truck), but that ended as summer faded and the legal battle resumed. (The venture capitalist is fighting California and has two lawsuits pending against him in state court, which he hopes will go all the way to the Supreme Court.)
According to the New York Times, Khosla has now offered to restore public access in exchange for $30 million. Needless to say the state does not agree and the two parties are trying to reach a resolution.