San Mateo County judge takes tour of 'Martin's Beach'

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The judge in the case over access to the storied Martin's Beach surfing spot got a guided tour Thursday. (KGO)

The judge in the case over the disputed access to the storied Martin's Beach surfing spot in Half Moon Bay got a guided tour of the area Thursday. The private Martin's Beach Road, right off Highway 1, has been gated by billionaire Vinod Khosla. The question -- did he break the law with that gate?

Normally, when you go to a court case, you go to courthouse, like the one in San Mateo County. You sit in a room with a judge and a jury, and it's very formal. On Thursday, things were very different as the case literally went to the beach.

Just like any other day in court, the judge and attorneys arrived on time. They drove past a disputed gate, down a controversial road to a private and very beautiful court exhibit by the sea.

"I would hope that once the judge saw this magnificent beach and this sole access, I would hope that would help her decide the issue before us," attorney Joe Cotchett told ABC7 News.

San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach wore neither robes nor beach attire as she looked around Martin's Beach. The 53-acre, $37.5 million property was purchased in 2008 by billionaire Vinod Khosla, who co-founded Sun Microsystems.

The question is will the court allow him, a private landowner, to gate the road and close off coastal access without a permit, on land the general public has used for a century?

"This is a direct attack on the people of California and their right to enable themselves to enact laws that will give them access to public beaches," Cotchett said.

Cotchett represents the Surfrider Foundation, which brought the case for all Californians. But surfers, both young and experienced, held court Thursday.

"I can't figure out how a billionaire would be so short sighted, to come into San Mateo County and feel like he could push all the surfers and the fisherman and the public around," surfer Robert Caughan told ABC7 News.

"I believe it's a right of the citizens to have access to the sea," surfer Morgan Williams said.

What Judge Mallach was looking for, and saw, remains uncertain. She put a gag order on the proceedings.
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