Martins Beach, near Half Moon Bay in the County of San Mateo, is the subject of protracted litigation on various fronts stemming from tech billionaire Vinod Khosla’s 2009, decision to change the public’s access to and use of Martins Beach by permanently closing and locking a gate to the public across Martins Beach Road, adding signs to the gate, changing the messages on a billboard on nearby Highway 1, and hiring security guards to deter the public from crossing or using the property to access the beach.  From the 1930s or earlier, Khosla’s predecessor encouraged the public to use the road to access Martin’s Beach.  They also erected the billboard, which invited the public to use the beach, and provided a general store, public toilets, and a parking area.  For some of that time they charged a $.25 entry fee.

We wrote about one strand of the litigation last year—Friends of Martin’s Beach v. Martin’s Beach 1 LLC, 246 Cal.App.4th 1312 (2016)—in which the California Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District addressed an unincorporated association’s lawsuit seeking access to the coast at Martins Beach based on claimed rights of access under various theories.  In Friends of Martins Beach, the Court of Appeal held that a plaintiff group had alleged facts sufficient to state a common law dedication claim and thus remanded that claim to the trial court.  Because the Friends of Martin’s Beach case is still pending there, the existence of public access rights to Martins Beach is presently undetermined.

Continue Reading California Court of Appeal Again Rules in Favor of Public Against Billionaire Owner of Martins Beach

California’s courts have frequently addressed a party’s due process rights to a fair and impartial decision maker in quasi-judicial proceedings, holding that during such proceedings there must be separation of prosecutorial functions from advisory functions. Those cases do not, however, address the litigation conduct of an administrative agency and its staff when (1) the agency is a party to litigation and, thus, not acting as a decision maker, and (2) staff’s participation cannot affect the fairness and impartiality of the decision maker, which is the court.

On October 28, 2016, in a case of first impression, the Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District ruled that the participation of California Coastal Commission staff members in litigation after they advocated for enforcement orders against Drakes Bay Oyster Company in Commission proceedings does not violate the company’s due process rights. Drakes Bay Oyster Company v. California Coastal Commission, __ Cal.App.5th __ (2016) (Case No. A142820).

Continue Reading Court Rules that California Coastal Commission Staff Members who Participate in Enforcement Proceedings Before the Agency May Also Participate in Related Litigation

On September 29, 2016, in a case of first impression, the Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District addressed the tensions between the requirements of the Housing Accountability Act, Density Bonus Law, and Mello Law (establishing minimum requirements for affordable housing within the coastal zone) with the California Coastal Act. Kalnel Gardens, LLC v. City of Los Angeles, __ Cal.App.5th __ (2016) (Case No. B264434).

Continue Reading Court Resolves Tensions Between Housing Laws and Coastal Act in Favor of Coastal Act