Can very rich owner of beach property close out the public? Update: No.

Vinod Khosla is about to find out:

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. — The Pacific Ocean glistens in the distance, past the rolling bluffs that rise beyond the electric gate that blocks off Martin’s Beach Road. The road leads to Martin’s Beach, once a revered hideaway for surfers, fishers and beachgoers drawn by its isolation, dramatic cliffs and sweep of soft sand.

But these days, the future of this hidden beach on the San Francisco Peninsula is being fought in a courthouse 25 miles away, in a battle that has become the latest class-charged standoff involving a wealthy entrepreneur in this polarized part of California. Vinod Khosla, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, paid $37.5 million in 2008 for a 53-acre parcel of ocean land that includes the beach and the road — and proceeded to close the gate, posting armed guards and signaling that he was prepared to spend what it takes to keep the public off what he contends is private land.

“People are saying, ‘Talk about entitlement: Rich people think they can get away with anything,’ ” said Rob Caughlan, the former president of the Surfrider Foundation, the nonprofit organization that brought the suit. “All we want is to get Khosla to follow the same law as everyone else does.”

This NYT story by Adam Nagourney will engage a number of your personal levers, e.g., rich guys versus the rest of us, eminent domain, conservation, private versus public property. Oh and armed guards at gates.

And do take a look at the article − It’s Privacy vs. the People in the Battle for Martin’s Beach – − for a glorious, full-color panoramic photo of the beach in question.

UPDATE 9/27/2014. Apparently he can’t. From AP, via the New York Times:

California: Judge Orders the Road To a Popular Beach to Be Reopened

A Northern California judge on Wednesday [9/24/14] ordered a Silicon Valley billionaire to reopen his private road to a beach beloved by surfers and swimmers. The judge, Barbara J. Mallach of San Mateo County Superior Court, ruled that the billionaire, the venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, would have to obtain permission from the California Coastal Commission if he wished to close off Martin’s Beach, a secluded stretch of coast south of Half Moon Bay. The case, brought by the surfer and environmental group Surfrider Foundation, had been seen as a test of 1970s laws ensuring public access to the state’s 1,100 miles of coast. For more than a century, owners of the beachfront property had allowed beachgoers to use a private road to reach Martin’s Beach, in exchange for parking fees. But Mr. Khosla, whose lawyer did not return a call for comment, locked the gate on the road after buying the 89-acre property in 2008.

Down with the selfish rich.

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