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Supreme Court declines to hear California real estate case

A California billionaire cannot make a public beach his own.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently refused to hear an appeal by the man, who wanted to gate off access that runs through his property to the small area known as Martins Beach in San Mateo County.

The dispute has lasted about 10 years, and it has addressed whether the man needed the state's OK to gate off the road. A number of California courts have supported California's law that says access to the beach is a right guaranteed to all.

"Beaches are public in California, and the immensely wealthy must comply with the Coastal Act just like everyone else," said an attorney for the Surfrider Foundation, which sued the man.

An attorney for the man said the issue had to do with private property rights and not beach access.

"We are disappointed the United States Supreme Court decided not to hear this important case," she said. "No owner of private business should be forced to obtain a permit from the government before deciding who it wants to invite onto its property."

In 2008, the tech billionaire bought the 89-acre property on the coast south of Half Moon Bay. The property consists of 47 cottages, and he paid $32.5 million for it. He does not live there.

Once he took over the property, he kept open the access road and charged $10 per day to access the road, which was the policy of the previous owner. Two years later, he added a locked gate and posted armed guards at the site, though.

The beach is popular among surfers, as well as people who like to fish or enjoy a picnic. But the new owner said he had to shut down the "business" of running the parking lot once he recognized the upkeep of things such as the lot and a restroom made it a money-losing proposition.

Since losing his latest California court battle, he has opened the gate during the day and has an attendant who mans the gate.

Owning real estate in California has rules attached with it – whether they are city zoning laws, homeowners association policies or, as in this case, state law. While this case is extraordinary in terms of scope and land value, it's important to get legal advice on all aspects of those laws before buying property of any price.

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