Proposal on Eve of Key State Lands Commission Meeting Lays Groundwork For California to Secure Public Access to Beach
SACRAMENTO – State Senator Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, will introduce a bill Monday to appropriate general fund dollars to the California State Lands Commission for staff resources and acquisition costs that would enable the commission to move ahead if it decides to acquire public access to Martins Beach through eminent domain.
Senator Hill is set to introduce the bill on opening day of the new legislative session – a move that comes one day before the State Lands Commission is slated to take up the Martins Beach issue.
“It’s important to show that the Legislature is willing to help fund the effort to uphold the public’s constitutional right of access to California’s beaches,” said Senator Hill.
The commission is scheduled to discuss how to proceed with Martins Beach access on Tuesday. The matter is to be taken up in closed session because it could involve litigation, but the commission is accepting public comment on the issue. Senator Hill has invited Peninsula residents and other Martins Beach supporters to join him at the meeting to voice support for public access to the beach.
“This is an opportunity for the State Lands Commission to send a message that California’s beaches cannot be bought to foreclose the public’s right of access to our coastline,” Senator Hill said.
Family owned for years, Martins Beach changed hands in 2008. The controversy over access to the beach began in 2010 when the new owner of the property, a holding company acting for a Silicon Valley billionaire, decided to close a gate on a private road the public had long used to get to the shore.
Legislation by Senator Hill in 2014, Senate Bill 968, directed the State Lands Commission to negotiate with the land owner “to acquire a right-of-way or easement … for the creation of a public access route to and along the shoreline, including the sandy beach, at Martins Beach.” The bill, signed into law by Governor Brown the same year, directed the commission to use its existing authority of eminent domain to acquire the public right-of-way or easement, if no agreement could be reached with the land owner.
The commission has negotiated with the landowner for two years without result, and a recent commission staff report said: “It is staff’s opinion that it cannot reach a negotiated agreement with Martins Beach LLC to acquire a public access easement to and along Martins Beach.”
The bill Senator Hill will introduce on Monday does not yet specify a monetary amount for the appropriation because the State Lands Commission has yet to disclose the figure obtained in its appraisal of Martins Beach. When the amount is made public, Senator Hill will amend the bill to reflect the cost of acquisition and related staff resources.
Related Visual Opportunity: Public comment portion of the commission meeting:
California State Lands Commission Tuesday, December 6, 2016 – 10 a.m. 1020 11th Street – 2nd Floor Sacramento, CA 95814