Stab Magazine | Three Billion To Burn And No Signs Of Stopping

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Three Billion To Burn And No Signs Of Stopping

How a tech billionaire’s fight to keep surfers off his beach is heading to the Supreme Court. 

news // Sep 7, 2018
Words by Ashton Goggans
Reading Time: 2 minutes

For surfers, the New York Times‘s headline from the weekend’s edition rings true: “Every Generation Gets The Beach Villain They Deserve.”

As the piece, penned by Nellie Bowles, posits early on, “What could be more familiar than another case of rich Californian versus the oceangoing citizenry?”

In the 1960s, it was the Marine’s confiscating boards at Trestles, on the same stretch of coast where in the 1970s, Surfer founder John Severson and Dick Nixon butted heads, with Nixon insisting on total privacy at his La Casa Pacifica, the White House of the West.  

In the early-‘2000s, David Geffen put up a fairly valiant effort keeping people off his quiet, Malibu plot.

Eventually, Geffen gave in in to public shaming from the media, as well as from the community around his property. He only caved in, allowing public access to his beloved Carbon Beach from dusk to dawn, but also copped the California Coastal Commission’s $300,000 in legal fees, as well.

As Nellie Bowles notes, “if the producer David Geffen’s battle in Malibu at the turn of the century epitomized the last, Hollywood-based era of wealth creation — then Khosla is the sandy antagonist of the digital age…”

To be fair, Kholsla seems to have no problem playing the part. Some of the deadpan lines that come out of the guy’s mouth are, just… 

According to The Times, “Compelled by a judge to testify, Mr. Khosla said on the stand: ‘If you’re asking me why any gate is locked, it’s to restrict public access. That’s a general statement about gates.”

“I mean, look, to be honest, I do wish I’d never bought the property,” Mr. Khosla told The Times. “In the end, I’m going to end up selling it. If this hadn’t ever started, I’d be so happy. But once you’re there in principle, you can’t give up principle.”

As Bowle notes, the guy “seems immune to criticism. Almost since the day in 2008 that he bought the 53-acre hillside known as Martin’s Beach, he has been in court, enduring attacks from multiple parties and crashing through obstacles using every legal tool available.”

But the recurring theme of well-heeled industrialists hellbent on true, capital-“P”, Privacy seems to be besides the point here. The feeling that property ownership extends to the waterline seems a very American Upper-Class entitlement. 

But Khosla isn’t just trying to keep people out of his backyard. In fact, as Bowles points out, he didn’t even buy a “house.” 

“Just south of Half Moon Bay, Mr. Khosla bought an entire beach village — forming a limited liability company that owned the land beneath about 47 cottages, and a little shop that at one point sold ice cream, and the only viable path to the sand… he bought the place on what he says was a whim, has never spent a single night there, and regrets it enormously.

“And the last thing — given that the case has wound itself to the Supreme Court, and could upend one of California’s most sacred promises to its citizens — is that Mr. Khosla is willing to keep litigating this for the rest of his life and has about $3 billion to spend on it.”

An overview of Martin’s Beach

Of course, the $3 billion dollar question: why? Why not just walk away, pull up stakes, and head to some secluded coastline where one could be truly, uninterruptedly alone. 

According to Bowles, Khosla “is driven by an almost manic belief that things must be done right and must be done fair. And somewhere along the line, the State of California triggered him.”

You’re going to want to read the whole feature, here. 







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