Since 2008, Sun Microsystems co-founder and mega-VC Vinod Khosla has been blocking surfers, swimmers, and the generally fun-seeking California public from getting to the beach. Now it looks like he's going to have his way, the LA Times reports, thanks to a 19th century treaty.

Khosla bought a large stretch of beachfront property at Half Moon Bay—which includes the only public access road to the entire beach—for $38 million. Since then, he's gated it off and declared it closed for business to anyone but himself and his friends or tenants. This should be a violation of California's constitution, but Khosla doesn't think the constitution should apply to him at all.

In a strange confluence of new money power and the oldest kind of old power you can find on the west coast, a Superior Court judge invoked the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to give Khosla the permission he seeks. Yes, the treaty that ended the Mexican-American War, and also gives land parcels granted centuries ago by the Mexican government immunity from little things like state law. Khosla is free to run his private rancho like so many members of the western landed gentry before him, and tell anyone who wants to get to the beach to fuck off. Or they can swim to the beach directly from the ocean.

The implications of someone with enough money to buy large chunks of land and fight both the public and the constitution are clear:

“Every single landowner on the coast is going to rush to see if they’re part of an ancient land grant so they can try to get a get-out-of-jail-free card,” said Mark Massara, an attorney for the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation, which has a separate lawsuit pending against Khosla.


“It gets really absurd,” he said. “Why not exempt all modern law” from applying to coastal rancho properties.

Say, that sounds like a wonderful idea.

Photo by jdlasica