Dispatch from La-La land

There is a typical California kerfuffle going on on the California coast near Half Moon Bay (south of San Francisco). A successful tech mogul named Vinod Khosla bought a 90-acre beachfront parcel that the previous owner permitted to be used by the public upon payment of a fee. But upon acquiring the land, Mr. Khosla closed public entry to this beach with expectable consequences. The locals threw a tantrum, demanding that “their” access to Mr. Khosla’s beach be provided.

This being California, the locals demanded that the state acquire the beach and make it public so they can use it. But they ran into several problems. First, no state agency is eager to plunge into this battle, since none has a dog in this fight. The likely candidate for acting as condemnor is the State Lands Commission which lacks the power of eminent domain. So appropriate legislation has been introduced and is pending, But where will the money come from to pay Khosla’s just compensation? Here things take a turn into black comedy. The State thinks of paying $360,000 for 6.4 acres out of Khosla’s 90-acre holding, and it purports to be serious, even though in that part of the state you can’t buy a dog house — literally — for that kind of money, much less a multi-acre beachfront parcel of land. Khosla thinks his parcel is worth $30 million, but the state is allocating $1 million for the acquisition of the 6.4-acre part of it.

In short, this caper has all the makings of another one of those California cases in which a condemnor bites off more than it can chew — like the famous DOT v. So. Cal. Edison case where the state deposited $240,000 for the taking of an Edison transmission corridor only to get hit with a $49.5 million judgment that was summarily upheld by the state Supreme Court.

So let’s stay tuned and see how it all turns out. It should be a good show for eminent domain mavens, and lots of employment for specialized lawyers.

For the latest doings in that controversy, see Angela Hart, California Moving to Seize Public Beach Closed off by Tech Billionaire, Sacramento Bee, June 19, 2017.