Martin’s Beach Saga Continues With California’s New Lawsuit

Nossaman LLP

On November 25, 2019, the California Court of Appeal ruled that the public’s use of a road for more than half a century to access Martin’s Beach was permissive, and therefore “did not ripen into a public dedication that would give the public a permanent right to use the property.” (See our coverage of that decision here.) In so ruling, the Court handed a seemingly significant defeat to the plaintiff, a group entitled Friends of Martin’s Beach, and a significant victory to Vinod Khosla, the billionaire who purchased the 90 acres of beachfront property and the gated access road to Martin’s Beach. This victory, however, merely represented a short lull in the litigation, as the California State Lands Commission and California Coastal Commission jointly announced on January 6, 2020 that they had filed a new lawsuit alleging that because the beach and access road were used by the public “since at least the early 1900s, the public has acquired access rights under the legal doctrine of implied dedication.”

In case you were wondering, yes, this is the same legal premise that the Court of Appeal rejected less than two months ago. The announcement asserts that this new lawsuit is different from the Friends of Martin’s Beach lawsuit because it “asks the court to consider unexamined evidence” which the Coastal Commission spent several years collecting. Whether the evidence actually bears this out remains to be seen. Be sure to check back as we continue to follow this long-running saga.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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