This week, I profiled Vinod Khosla, whose nearly decade-long quest to close the road to Martin’s Beach, which he bought in 2008, has always been a mystery to me. Here, instead of buying a beach house, he bought an entire community, south of San Francisco, with about 75 little cottages on it and some decent surfing. And then he started fighting to close the gate down to the beach. At one point he hired guards, and five surfers were arrested, which shocked the community and created a public relations disaster.
Mr. Khosla doesn’t even like to swim, has not built himself a house there and seems to have few plans for it. Today, his case is being considered by the Supreme Court, and if chosen, it could reshape policy around California’s 1,100 miles of coastline.
Why did this internet pioneer with a background in greentech investing let himself become such a villain?
I’ve asked Mr. Khosla to sit down and talk about it for years, and finally he agreed. He knew my opinion already — I grew up in California and found his quest to close off the beach foolish and vaguely offensive (those open, accessible, public beaches are the state’s great gift to its citizens and visitors).
Mr. Khosla was open and honest, giving me time and walking me through his life and thinking. Over hours of interviews, we talked about what motivates him and what impact he wants to have. It frustrates him that he could be forced to keep a money-losing parking business running, and he feels that the previous owners were treated better, that everyone is now biased against a billionaire.
What emerges in the end is less a story about beach policy than one about a very principled, very focused individual who hates the idea of being swayed by public pressure or legal headaches, who actually finds those pressures to be motivating. He doesn’t even want to win and says it would make him sad. But he can’t stop himself from fighting.