Permit needed to keep trespassers off private property
Yesterday, a San Mateo Superior Court judge issued a stunning tentative ruling in one of the two Martins Beach lawsuits pending against coastal landowner Vinod Khosla.
The judge concluded that the decision to disallow the public to trespass onto private property–after allowing the public to do so for a fee–constitutes “development” requiring a Coastal Development Permit from the California Coastal Commission. The immediate effect of the ruling, if it becomes final, is that it forces Khosla to re-open his private property while he applies for a permit allowing him either to close it off or to modify the terms and conditions of public access.
The ruling is premised on a broad, near-limitless reading of the Coastal Act’s definition of “development,” which includes any change in the intensity of use of property or of access to water. According to the Court, by discontinuing public access onto private land, Khosla decreased the intensity of use of that land and of access to his beach, thereby engaging in “development.” The Court’s tentative ruling follows a string of court decisions that have gone down the proverbial slippery slope to allow the Coastal Commission to regulate most activities undertaken by property owners in the coastal zone.
It’s difficult to imagine that the Legislature intended for the Coastal Commission to have jurisdiction over these kinds of private decisions. A property owner should be able to decide–without the government’s permission–whom he lets onto his property, and under what terms and conditions. The Court’s tentative ruling in this case makes all coastal landowners a little less free, but it could still make the right decision and adopt a final ruling that reasonably interprets the Commission’s jurisdiction. And if it doesn’t, the courts of appeal may still have the opportunity to weigh in.
What to read next
Shed a (crocodile) tear for Luke Skywalker today, as Mark Hamill’s much ballyhooed Autograph Law is set to be undone and reformed by the same California officials who made the mistake to pass it in the first place. AB 228 has arrived at the Governor’s desk, and in all likelihood will be signed into law any day.
Our new flagship publication, Sword&Scales, offers 16 pages of news and information to bring you up close to the vital work of our legal team. Our ardent defense of the right to own and use private property takes center stage in the inaugural issue. It’s at the core of our mission in the nation’s courts.
On Thursday, in Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, PLF filed this reply brief in support of its cert petition to the Supreme Court of the United States. In this case, we’re representing Minnesota voters in a First Amendment challenge to a ban on political apparel at polling places.
The Daily Journal published my column on California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland, recently decided by the California Supreme Court. As the op-ed points out, the ruling undermines Proposition 218’s requirements that all new taxes at the local level need voter approval.