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Legislation Authorizing Taking of Private Property Through Eminent Domain Ready for Governor's Signature

On August 28, 2014, proposed legislation to allow greater public access to Martins Beach in San Mateo County was presented to Governor Brown for his signature or veto. Senate Bill 968 was authored by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, and originally sought to require the State Lands Commission ("SLC") to use eminent domain to seize a private road that connects to Martins Beach. After an amendment proposed by Sen. Hill, the legislation now requires the SLC "to consult, and enter into any necessary negotiations, with the owners of a specified property known as the Martins Beach property...to acquire a right-of-way or easement for the creation of a specified public access route to and along the shoreline." If those year-long negotiations fail to result in a mutual agreement, and the private property owner does not voluntarily provide public access by January 2016, the SLC will be authorized to acquire a right-of-way or easement by eminent domain. If signed by the Governor, the specific impact of the legislation will be determined by the three elected officials that serve on the SLC: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Controller John Chiang, and Finance Director Michael Cohen.

Senate Bill 968 was drafted in response to a well-documented, ongoing dispute with property owner and Sun Microsystems Founder, Vinod Khosla. After living on the property for two years Mr. Khosla instructed his property manager to lock a gate to a private access road which provided access to Mr. Khosla's residence, but had also previously been used by beach-goers to access Martin's Beach. This bitter dispute is unlikely to calm in the upcoming months as the California Coastal Commission continues their investigation into whether a public prescriptive easement was established and litigation with the Surfrider Foundation continues.

If you live near the California coastline and have thought about developing your property or are currently struggling with the permitting process, contact the experienced land use attorneys at The Loftin Firm, P.C. today.

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