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Awaiting Martin’s Beach decision: Attorneys give closing arguments, question constitutional property rights

Samantha Weigel/Daily Journal
Attorneys Mark Massara, left, Joe Cotchett, Eric Buescher and surfer Rob Caughlan gather for a press conference after Cotchett and Buescher presented closing arguments in the Martin’s Beach case at the County Center.
Attorney Jeffrey Essner, center, leaves court after representing Martin’s Beach property owner Vinod Khosla.

Attorneys for a wealthy property owner who contend it’s his right to gate off Martin’s Beach and environmental activists seeking public access to the coast presented closing arguments in a civil case to be decided by a San Mateo County judge within two months, with some predicting the issue could make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The environmental activist group Surfrider Foundation filed the civil lawsuit in March 2013 in an attempt to reopen the secluded sliver of coast just south of Half Moon Bay to the public. The case now rests in the hands of Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach who is anticipated to rule in the next 30 to 60 days.

Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla bought Martin’s Beach, previously open to the public for more than 100 years, in 2008 for $37.5 million and quickly closed the only access road to the public. The property became controversial as the rights of private property owners were pitted against California’s access to more than 1,000 miles of coastline.

Attorney Joe Cotchett, who represents Surfrider in its lawsuit, said although Wednesday may be the last he argues the case in the San Mateo County Superior Court, he doubts the results will end the saga to reopen the beach. The case, Cotchett said, has turned into a seminal one for private property rights and could have a broader effect on other disputes.

“I think this is the case Mr. Khosla wants to take to the Supreme Court,” Cotchett said. “[It’s a] philosophical divide between those who have and those who have not. … This case is not stopping here.”

Surfrider claims the billionaire property owner violated the California Coastal Act when he changed its land use by painting over signs and closing the only access road to the secluded beach before garnering mandated permits from the California Coastal Commission.

The respondent contends private property rights are historically protected under the Constitution and ceasing voluntary public access on private property is not considered development under the Coastal Act.

Jeffrey Essner, the attorney representing Khosla’s Martin’s Beach LLCs, said the California and United States supreme courts uphold the rights of individuals to control access to their property.

“The county, the Coastal Commission and now Surfrider by this action, and Mr. Cotchett’s demand for penalties, are forcing my client to accede his constitutional rights by extortion and give up a protected and cherished (private property) right,” Essner said. “This is forbidden by the Supreme Court and the United States Constitution.”

Surfrider maintains arguments over the constitutionality of the California Coastal Act and its assurance to maintain public access to coastal resources should be discussed in front the Coastal Commission and insist Khosla abide by the law.

Prayer for relief

On behalf of the Coastal Commission, the court can assess fines between $1,000 and $1,500 for each day someone violates the California Coastal Act. Cotchett urged fines be assessed beginning October 2010 and be paid into a special fund through the California Coastal Conservancy, which is overseen by the Legislature and can only be spent on coastal protection activities.

Cotchett said the court should penalize Khosla as he knowingly violated the Coastal Act and to ensure he follows through with applying for permits, Cotchett said.

“Somewhere, somehow, justice has to reign down on this individual, Mr. Khosla, and force him to go to the Coastal Commission and unlock that gate,” Cotchett said.

Essner argued groups like Surfrider and the Friends of Martin’s Beach, which filed a lawsuit alleging Khosla violated the state’s Constitution and was shot down last year, equate to coercion.

“The threat of an activist organization to impose tens of millions of dollars for exercising his constitutional rights is the type of extortion … the Supreme Court explicitly found unconstitutional,” Essner said.

Wealth and status

Both sides argue Khosla’s wealth has been used as a pawn in the case with Surfrider alleging the billionaire believes he is above the law and Essner contending the previous owners, the Deeney family, was never questioned over their disclosure of when to open or close the beach.

Fluid throughout the case were tales of Martin’s Beach historically being a prized surf break, a place for families to picnic and a unique gem along the coast. However, Essner argued that era has passed.

“My client understands that generations of families visited Martin’s Beach. The cherished memories they made there. But the fact is those treasured spots in the sand have long since washed away,” Essner said. “Martin’s Beach was no longer the place it was in the past and my client cannot be forced to recreate history and give up his constitutional rights.”

Surprisingly, Essner stated Khosla originally planned to keep Martin’s Beach open in a manner similar to the Deeney family, but the county sent a letter questioning why he closed it during the winter and instructing him to operate the beach as though it were a business.

Essner argued operating Martin’s Beach as it was previously would require bathroom upgrades, picnic tables, trash cans and would ultimately force Khosla to operate a business at a loss.

Surfrider has argued Khosla was well aware of the access conditions prior to buying the property and is required by law to receive approval from the Coastal Commission if he wishes to close Martin’s Beach to the public.

Other efforts

Khosla had not spoken publicly about owning Martin’s Beach until subpoenaed to testify in the case. Surfrider and state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, have said Khosla has dismissed all opportunities for an amenable compromise.

Concurrent with the Surfrider case, Hill proposed Senate Bill 968, which would require Khosla to negotiate with the State Lands Commission to reopen the beach. If a compromise cannot be met by Jan. 1, 2016, Khosla could face the state using condemnation for a right-of-way easement to create an access road off Highway 1.

Hill’s legislation easily passed the Senate and was amended in the Assembly to encourage, but not require the State Lands Commission to use its already allotted authority to use eminent domain. The bill has been referred to the Committee on Appropriations where it must be heard by August. Should it pass, the bill will go to the Assembly floor where it will need at least 41 votes to pass.

Eric Buescher, an attorney representing Surfrider, maintains the case isn’t about the constitutionality of the Coastal Act and Martin’s Beach has been needlessly closed for too long and the public need not wait any longer.

“The question here is not about the defendants private property rights. The question here is about whether the defendant violated the Coastal Act. … Disagreeing with the Coastal Act is not a valid reason to refuse to comply with it,” Buescher said. “The time for [Khosla] to be held liable and accountable for [his] contract is now, so the 6 million people who live within an hour’s drive of the San Mateo County coast are not deprived of its resources.”

samantha@smdailyjournal.com

(650) 344-5200 ext. 106

 

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Safra Catz, president and CFO at Oracle, out-earned all other female executives in the U.S.

Silicon Valley’s highest paid female excutive? Not Mayer, not Whitman, not Sandberg

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The top-paid female executive in Silicon Valley (indeed, the entire U.S.) isn’t a CEO. She’s Safra Catz, president and CFO at Oracle Corp., who took in $44.3 million in 2013, according to FindTheBest.com.

Three other Silicon Valley executives number among the top 10. Yahoo Inc. CEOMarissa Mayer placed number three on the ranking with $24.9 million a year; Hewlett-Packard Corp. CEO Meg Whitman, was seventh at $17.6 million; and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg captured the eighth position at $16.1 million.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison apparently likes paying his top executives — including himself — handsomely. He’s the highest paid CEO in Silicon Valley, according to FindTheBest, coming in fifth on the list of all U.S. executives at public companies, at $79.6 million in 2013.

Catz, 51, ranked 18th on the list among all executives. Still, she earned 14 percent less last year than she did in 2012. She has been president at Oracle since January 2004 and CFO since November 2005.

There’s a big gap among highly paid female executives after Catz. Mayer ranks 58th out of 16,000 companies on the list. The second highest-paid female executive in the U.S., United Therapeutics CEO Martine Rothblatt, ranked 26th among all executives.

 

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How Chick-fil-A Hires: The Christian Way

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The chicken chain’s hiring practice is long and controversial; but it’s hard to argue with results. Credit: J. Reed

There are a few things you need to become a franchisee operator of a Chick-fil-A.

A commitment to the company. A strong belief in “wholesome values”. A willingness to endure a year-long vetting process. And it helps if you are married.

What don’t you need? A lot of money.

Chick-fil-A is, store-for-store, the most successful fast food restaurant in America, despite all of its locations being closed once a week (Sundays). And yet, to become a franchise operator, a person only needs $5,000, compared to the $1.9 million it takes to open a KFC.

Rather than looking for operators with cash, S. Truett Cathy – the company’s founder – has always focused on finding people committed to the company’s mission statement. And what is that?

“To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us,” it reads. “To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”

The Hiring Process

Chick-fil-A gets between 10,000 to 25,000 applicants a year from aspiring franchise operators to fill the 60 to 70 open slots that open up each year, according to www.ajc.com. As part of the application, Chick-fil-A asks candidates to disclose their marital status, number of dependents and their involvement in community, civil and religious organizations, according to southernstudies.com.

The company’s vetting process can include more than a dozen interviews with an applicant – some lasting hours – and the applicant’s family, including with their children, according to Forbes.Cathy told the magazine he is looking for married candidates (he believes they are more industrious) who are loyal, wholesome and treat their families well.

“If a man can’t manage his own life, he can’t manage a business,” Cathy said, according to Forbes.

Chick-fil-A’s hiring practices have been met with opposition, as the company has been sued at least 12 times on charges of employment discrimination, according to Forbes. And yet that has done little to stop the company from becoming the most successful fast food restaurant in America on a per-store basis.

The average Chick-fil-A store produced $2.7 million in revenue in 2010, which was $300,000 more than second-place McDonald’s, according to www.ajc.com. And turnover at Chick-fil-A stores for both franchise operators and hourly workers are both far below industry averages, according to Forbes.

One quick note, unlike many fast food chains, Chick-fil-A owns all of its stores and has franchise operators instead of owners. The setup seems to be mutually beneficial, as the average Chick-fil-A franchise operator makes $190,000 a year, more than most franchise owners, according to www.ajc.com.

The Bottom Line

Chick-fil-A’s hiring process is like Zappos in same ways: it has a very clear culture and makes cultural fit a top priority. The results are hard to argue with, as the company is one of the most successful restaurant chains in America, despite Forbes reporting that its closed-on-Sunday edict costs the company $500 million a year.

Saying that, there are many critics to the restaurant’s hiring practices and it seems to be a lawsuit-magnet. And by looking for a certain profile, the company is potentially excluding great candidates.

Ultimately though, what makes the company successful is its top-down commitment to one, clear vision, whether you agree with it or not. And that is epitomized in its hiring practice.

About VoiceGlance

VoiceGlance is a cloud-based hiring tool used by forward-thinking companies to hire smarter, instead of harder. Learn more here.

 

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‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ Gets ‘Too Hot For TV’ Trailer

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Universal (a division of Comcast CMCSA -0.73% Corp.) has dropped this full-length theatrical trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey courtesy of NBC’s The Today Show. The last ten seconds are arguably not safe for work, yet the trailer earned the green-band (for general audiences) approval.  There was actually a sanitized for network television version that debuted this morning on The Today Show which was followed by an interview with the cast and a clip from the film. This was actually preceded several days ago by what amounted to a teaser to the trailer presented by Beyoncé Knowles’s Instagram account. The star of Austin Powers: Goldmember and The Pink Panther will be singing a version of “Crazy in Love” for the film adaptation of E.L. James novel, some of which is sampled in the above trailer. It was certainly a different way to drop a yet another teaser for a trailer.  But them’s the breaks as the technology changes how marketing materials like this are dispersed. In this day and age, how a trailer is released is arguably as much of a news story as the existence of said trailer and what it contains about the film it is advertising.

This one was actually supposed to come out next week, where it would have competed directly with Walt Disney's DIS -0.53% Guardians of the Galaxy. But it was moved back to February 13th, 2015. So yes, Universal is either betting that women will drag their significant others to this erotic drama as something of a Valentine’s Day date movie and/or that single women will take in the picture as a kind of girls’ night out outing for the manufactured romantic holiday. This may seem like an unusual V-Day pick, but I’d argue it’s no more unconventional than studios opening a male-centric action picture over the holiday weekend and cynically hoping to woo the female audience by showing off what little romantic content it happens to contain (re: Daredevil). Maybe Universal will cut a trailer with a car chase and/or an explosion or two.

I’m not going to go into the issues that critics have with the source material, which is of course a bondage-centric bit of Twilight fan fiction that became a publishing sensation and indirectly coined the rather offensive term “mommy porn.” As is always the case when females become interested in any kind of popular art, the pundits and analysts were out in full force over the last couple years trying to explain why women had the gall to enjoy something that isn’t explicitly targeted at the male audience.  No one feels the need to explain why men like Transformers, but we all have to wring our hands over why women enjoy Sex and the CityTwilight, or Fifty Shades of Grey. My only issue with the film is that the online fan petition to get Alexis Bledel cast as Anastasia Steele didn’t work. Because you know, art…

I wrote last week about the fifteenth anniversary of Eyes Wide Shut and how Warner Bros. blew a chance to legitimize the NC-17 rating as a mainstream classification for adult films that aren’t explicitly pornographic in nature. I’m assuming Universal is going for an R-rating for at least the domestic theatrical release, but one could argue that Fifty Shades of Grey is also something of an opportunity to legitimize the NC-17 at least as a commercial option, if not an artistic one. Point being, I can’t imagine anyone intending to see an R-rated version of Fifty Shades of Grey would be turned off by the prospect of an NC-17 version. Nonetheless, I can’t imagine this film won’t get… um… spanked by (predominantly male) critics at large so artistic respect would still be out of reach for the NC-17 even on the off-chance that Universal takes the plunge.

Of course, the big question is whether or not adult moviegoers, female or male, will venture out to a theater and watch what is basically (and I say this without moral judgment) pornography amid other moviegoers. If ever there was a test case for a major studio release going Video On Demand and first run theatrical on the same date, it is this one. One last thing, the one unconditionally positive aspect of this film is that it is a female-targeted motion picture that is based on a novel written by a woman, adapted by a female screenwriter (Kelly Marcel) and directed by a female director (Sam Taylor-Johnson). In an era when women can’t even getting directing gigs for Sex and the City movies, the Hunger Games and Divergent movies are all helmed by men, and only the first Twilight was directed by a woman, Taylor-Johnson getting a crack at a probable hit darn-well matters. For that reason alone, I hope Fifty Shades of Grey makes a boatload of money next February. Fifty Shades of Grey, starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, opens February 13th, 2015. As always, we’ll see.

 

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Mad Men or Mad Math? The Decline and Rebirth of Online Advertising 

Ad-AgenciesVeteran-Madison-Avenue-advertising-executive-Jerry-Della

by Satish Polisetti – adsnative.com

As more sites like Facebook, Twitter and Buzzfeed blend ads directly into a user’s content stream, the future of online advertising is quickly shifting. It’s a brave new world defined by content, not dimensions; mad math, not mad men. Science and data, not merely creative endeavors.

Where are we today? Currently, online ads are defined primarily by size and dimensions — with IAB ad unit guidelines describing leaderboards (728 x 90 pixels), skyscrapers (160 x 600), and full banners (468 x 60), to name a few.

These very basic but widely accepted standards are based on the artistic perspectives of a previous generation – from the minds of creative geniuses you might see on Mad Men. These have more to do with traditional ad buys, and print ad dimensions, ones that have not really changed much in the past few decades since the swinging 60’s of Don Draper.  When we jumped into internet advertising, the look and feel of advertising changed, but standards failed to get with the times.

And then there were banners:

The history of the online banner ad can be traced back to Yahoo! and a nascent online advertising ecosystem. These are where the leaderboards, skyscrapers and full banners really claimed their moment. A full decade later, tech giant Google was using AdWords and text based advertising to push a new kind of content-based advertising that set the tone for the next stage in ads: Facebook and the news feed.

Facebook, which quickly conquered the world’s attention – and their data, figured out how to actually use the massive amount of user data they had at their fingertips to makes ads better — by creating editorial-based stories on your news feed.

So if the online ad has experienced so much growth, why are we still living in a world where the standards are based in the era of the Yahoo! banner ad?

Luckily there’s a new set of standards gaining traction within our industry, which are semantic rather than dimensions based.

Core content, API’s, and the future of online advertising

It’s a game-changing question: What if this old idea of an ad being defined  by its size was replaced by editorial content and a description? What if ads were essentially the same as content? That’s what API’s and semantic standards are here for.

These new advertising standards make banners work like chameleons – blending into and adjusting to any type of website design.  What’s more, they take just 1/10 of the time to integrate than a traditional ad, they’re easy to implement, and they increase user engagement.

If this massive shift in direction continues – which I am confident it will – banners as a branding mechanism will start to fade away and a new ads standard will be fully accepted into the fold. Soon, all online ad experiences will be seamlessly integrated into your newsfeed or mobile experience. Already major budgets are being shifted to Facebook and Twitter advertising, and these shifts will make new API-based dimensions for banner ads the new standard. Entire industries will be changed accordingly. Companies that don’t make the transition will simply die a slow death – like the old advertising standards themselves.

Satish Polisetti Bio:

Native advertising expert and founder of AdsNative (www.adsnative.com). He’s a TechStars 2013 graduate, Mayfield Fund Fellow and 30 under 30 alumni of India’s #1 private university.

 

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Criminals Target Stubhub with New ‘Cyber Scalping’ Tactics

stubhub-hit-by-intense-network-of-cyber-fraudstersThe recent hacking of the world’s largest ticket marketplace, StubHub, points to new lengths in which criminals will go to turn their online capabilities and opportunities into illegal monetary gain. Seven criminals from around the world turned the San Francisco-based vendor’s online customers against them by hacking 1,600 accounts and laundering $1.6 million in fraudulent wire transfers and PayPal transactions.

“The assault on StubHub showcases the creativity of the cybercriminal underground,” said Trend Micro vice president of technology and solutions JD Sherry.  “They have taken ticket scalping to the next level in the form of ‘Cyber Scalping.’ Any event with a social aspect such as concerts or sports that conduct commerce with a large online community are primary targets for these sophisticated crime syndicates.  The sick twist on this form of scalping is that they are acquiring the tickets at no cost and garnering 100% profit.”

Trend Micro, a global leader in cloud security, also warns that cybercriminals are not yet done with the pilfered accounts and system information obtained illegally by the thieves. Rather, StubHub and its customers should be on the lookout for more fraudulent activity as the stolen content is more than likely making the rounds within the underground markets for purchase.

An attack of this magnitude can start with as little as the click of a link or the opening of a weaponized attachment. Another possibility would be popular watering hole sites or drive-by downloads that prove difficult to avoid and even more complicated to detect. Vendors who provide goods and services online to customers are increasingly becoming the target for these sorts of attacks, and should take a serious look at what anti-fraud capabilities they have in place.

 

 

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U.S. leads in number of people unconcerned about climate change and environmental disaster

The poll, conducted by U.K. research organization Ipsos MORI, was conducted in 20 countries across the globe, and gathered feedback from over 16,000 people. The poll asked eight climate change and environment-related questions.

When asked the question, “To what extent do you agree or disagree? We are heading for environmental disaster unless we change our habits quickly,” only 57.3% of the respondents in the U.S. said that they agree. Of the countries surveyed, the U.S. came in last in the number of respondents who agreed with that statement.

The ranking of countries surveyed when asked the question: To what extent do you agree or disagree? We are heading for environmental disaster unless we change our habits quickly. China had the most number of respondents to agree with that statement. The U.S. had the least. (Ipsos MORI)

China, which has been the leading emitter of carbon dioxide according to the Environmental Protection Agency, had the most number of respondents agree with the statement that the world is heading for a disaster. The Unites States is the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide, and comes in 13th in energy efficiency, according to ascorecard released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Air quality issues in China might have played a role in these results. The smog problem is notoriously bad in the country, and could be in the forefront of peoples’ minds as they answer questions about the environment. The U.S., on the other hand, has seen a marked improvement in air quality since the mid-20th century, when some regions’ pollution rivaled China’s current levels.

In another survey question, respondents were asked if they agree that the climate change we are currently seeing is largely the result of human activity. 54% of U.S. respondents said that they agree — the lowest agreement ratio of the 20 countries polled. In China, 93% agree that human activity is to blame.

In America, climate change often seems to boil down to party lines. The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication suggests there is a way to communicate the scientific consensus without triggering political polarization. They offer the solution of “using short, simple, declarative sentences or simple pie charts” when communicating the science to the public. They also note that while metaphors and analogies can be proven successful, it’s important to remember that “simple, sticky messages” are most effective.

 

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