REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (KGO) --The owner of Martin's Beach in San Mateo County, the focus of a major legal challenge over public access, showed up in court Monday after being compelled to do so by the judge.
Vinod Khosla, a well-known venture capitalist and billionaire, seemed to know very little about why access to the beach south of Half Moon Bay was closed.
Records indicate Khosla paid $37.5 million for Martin's Beach and the land around it. But when it comes to knowing why public access to the beach was suddenly blocked, he couldn't recollect any details.
Khosla arrived at the courthouse by himself after a superior court judge ordered him to appear. He's one of Silicon Valley's top venture capitalists and a co-founder of Sun Microsystems.
Khosla purchased 53 acres of prime oceanfront property near Half Moon Bay that includes Martin's Beach, a popular surfing area that has been accessible to the public for a century. At some point, a gate and lock blocked access. Opponents argue that's a violation of the state's Coastal Act and they want to hold khosla responsible.
"It's critically important because there's potentially over $10 million in civil fines and penalties owing on these Coastal Act violations," Surfrider Foundation attorney Mark Massara said.
In court, Khosla took the witness stand for one hour and 14 minutes. Over and over, he said "I don't recollect" when asked questions about what he knew about blocking access and about a previous legal challenge that affirmed public access.
"It appears to me that everything he did out there is cloaked in the attorney-client privilege," attorney Joe Cotchett said. "He cannot remember a thing, and he seems to have taken his manager, the poor man sitting in the front row, as the individual that has closed this beach."
Khosla said he receives 500-1,000 pages of documents a week and trusts his attorneys and his property manager to make decisions and to handle matters.
This is a man who spends his life being a detail man, listening to pitches from start-up's seeking capital.
Khosla and his attorneys would not speak to reporters.
"His intent all along, in our opinion, was to build a private residence, thinking that he could close us down -- a beach that's been open for 100 years," Cotchett said "It's as simple as all that. This is not rocket science. You either comply with the law, or you don't."
The case is being heard without a jury.