Celebrating Joe Cotchett & His Victory for Martin’s Beach

Photo by Simon Huynh

As you’ve hopefully already heard, we will be honoring lawyer Joe Cotchett at this year’s Nature’s Inspiration. We’ll be celebrating Joe for his influential career speaking up for people and the environment. Joe is considered one of the best lawyers in the state and has built his career representing the underdog against powerful interests. He is also involved in extensive pro bono work. We are grateful for all Joe has done for our community. One effort has been particularly near and dear to our hearts: his work to defend public access in the Martin’s Beach trial. The trial just won a major victory, giving us even more reason to celebrate Joe and his incredible work at our annual gala.

Martin’s Beach, just south of Half Moon Bay, has been the subject of much controversy since billionaire Vinod Khosla blocked access in 2009. Martins Beach Road is the only road between highway 1 and the beach, and after buying this rural piece of land (on which Martins Beach Road lies) Khosla locked the gate to the road. Amid many other court battles to restore access to Martin’s Beach, Joe and his law firm, Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, have been providing pro bono representation of the Surfrider Foundation on behalf of the public.

Having virtually exhausted his legal options in California, and after a denial in the highest state court that resulted in an injunction to re-open the beach to the public, Khosla took his case to the federal level with an appeal to the United States Supreme Court. This past fall, the Supreme Court declined to take up the case, ending a long phase of this particular battle over access to the coast. The decision not to hear the case was not only a significant win in the effort to restore public access at Martin’s Beach, but also important for the California Coastal Act, since if the case had been heard by the Supreme Court, it quite possibly would have resulted in severe weakening of this legislation.

As Joe said in the Los Angeles Times after the victory, “The most conservative and divided Supreme Court in my lifetime confirmed that even a billionaire, who refuses to acknowledge that the law applies to him and retains the most expensive attorneys he can find, cannot create a private beach. Beaches are public in California, and the immensely wealthy must comply with the Coastal Act just like everyone else.”

Protecting the Coastal Act

The California Coastal Act of 1976 mandates that rural areas like the San Mateo coast remain rural and protects public access and coastal resources. Since its passage, Green Foothills has worked tirelessly to ensure that all local coastal plans are in full compliance with the Coastal Act.

A clear violation of the Coastal Act, we have been involved in the Martin’s Beach saga from the beginning. Legislative Advocate Lennie Roberts has been working with Joe, the Surfrider Foundation, San Mateo County, the Coastal Commission, and other beach users to ensure our coastal protections were upheld and public access was completely restored. In 2014 Lennie provided expert testimony in the Martin’s Beach trial.

We are so grateful for all Joe has done for our community throughout his career and the Martin’s Beach trial. We hope to see you at Nature’s Inspiration on Sunday, September 22 to celebrate. Buy tickets here.

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