Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla really wants to keep the public off of his stretch of the coastline—so much so, that he petitioned to have his case heard by the nation’s highest court. On Monday, however, the Supreme Court decided that it won’t hear the Silicon Valley billionaire’s appeal.
Khosla’s San Mateo County property sits on Martins Beach and is the only access point to the public beach. A county judge ruled in 2014 that the venture capitalist needed to obtain a permit before padlocking the gated entrance to the property. Khosla’s petition with the Supreme Court argued that he shouldn’t have to do that. He claimed that the California Coastal Act—a law enacted in 1976 to protect the public’s access to the state’s coastline—violated his constitutional rights.
“If I were to ever win in the Supreme Court, I’d be depressed about it,” Khosla told the New York Times in August. “I support the Coastal Act; I don’t want to weaken it by winning. But property rights are even more important.”
Khosla’s case threatened the very nature of this law, altering the freedom Californians now have to access the beach and its resources. “The only way they can find for Vinod is to throw out the entire California coastal program,” Mark Massara, an attorney who has represented a foundation opposing Khosla’s efforts to padlock the beach, told the Guardian. “It’s hard to fathom what would happen to California’s beaches and all beach access in the United States.”
Fortunately for millions of Californians and unfortunately for one petty, entitled billionaire, the Supreme Court’s decision means that for now, the unfathomable will remain a hypothetical.
“This win helps to secure beach access for all people, as is enshrined in our laws,” Angela Howe, legal director of the Surfrider Foundation, told ABC News. “The Surfrider Foundation will always fight to preserve the rights of the many from becoming the assets of the few.”
An attorney for Khosla reportedly said that the billionaire will comply with the ruling and apply for a permit from the California Coastal Commission. That permit could enable Khosla to limit the hours during which the public is allowed to access the beach.