Protecting Parks

San Onofre Saved! CSPF Celebrates Major Environmental Victory for San Onofre State Beach

After almost 15 years of pitched battle between the Save San Onofre Coalition (a stalwart collection of nonprofit environmental organizations, including CSPF) and the Transportation Corridor Authority (TCA), the fight over San Onofre State Beach finally came to an end on November 10. The TCA Board approved a long-negotiated settlement that at its core protects San Onofre State Beach and the Richard and Donna O’Neill Land Conservancy from future routes of the Foothill-South toll road (SR 241).

In addition to the TCA and the Save San Onofre Coalition, Attorney General Kamala Harris is also a party to the settlement on behalf of the People of California, the Native American Heritage Commission and the Park and Recreation Commission. The settlement represents a key acknowledgement that the protection of these precious lands can co-exist with the exploration of new routes for a connection between the SR 241 and the I-5. 

The fight over San Onofre took on symbolic importance as the poster child for development projects that threatened state parks. For CSPF, this iconic issue was so important that it was the first time we ever entered into a lawsuit to prevent a project from being built.

We fought battles in many different venues and under many different circumstances — from our persuasion of Congress to undo special legislation that granted the TCA exemptions from state and federal laws to the decision of the California Coastal Commission to reject a TCA permit request for the so-called Green Alignment that would have destroyed San Onofre State Beach; from a TCA appeal of the Coastal Commission ruling to the federal Department of Commerce (which ultimately was also rejected) to heated discussions about water permits and the proposed Tesoro Extension.

In the end, new leadership at the TCA, Michael Kraman, and Lucy Dunn, the president and CEO of the Orange County Business Council, brought the Coalition to the table to talk about whether there were ways to protect San Onofre and the Conservancy that would allow us to move on. To be honest, coalition members were concerned at first — these were not our first discussions with the TCA. Slowly but surely, however, trust was built that allowed the settlement to move forward.

We are especially grateful to the thousands and thousands of members and supporters who showed up at hearings, wrote letters and joined the fight for San Onofre. This decade-plus effort has been about ensuring public access to important lands for every purpose suited to them, whether that be the sacred practices of the Juaneño/Acjachemen people, the pursuit of the next great wave at Trestles Beach, or the simple gathering of family to camp, hike or picnic in one of southern California’s most popular state parks and most pristine habitats. As a result of our work with some surprising partners, that may indeed be possible for a long time to come. 

Key Settlement Terms

  • Settles five lawsuits challenging TCA’s 2006 and 2013 approvals of the Foothill-South and Tesoro Extension projects brought by the California Attorney General and the Coalition.
  • Provides that TCA will rescind its 2006 approval of the so-called “Green Alignment” that would have run through San Onofre State Beach and its 2013 approval of its Tesoro Extension project.
  • Requires TCA to refrain from building or funding a road project within an Avoidance Area that includes San Onofre State Beach, the Richard and Donna O’Neill Conservancy and other critical open space, wildlife habitat and cultural resources in the San Mateo Creek watershed.
  • Provides that TCA and the Coalition will cooperate in seeking additional long-term protections for the Avoidance Area in the form of legislation, interagency agreements, or conservation easements.
  • Establishes a $28 million conservation fund to help preserve and restore San Mateo Creek and its watershed.
  • Requires TCA and the Coalition to jointly develop a Coastal Access Management Plan to ensure public coastal access at San Onofre State Beach is maintained and enhanced.
  • Establishes a cooperative framework by which an alignment for the SR 241 extension and other I-5 traffic congestion solutions can be identified, evaluated and potentially advanced in a manner that follows applicable laws and meets south Orange County’s transportation needs, without opposition from Coalition members for alternatives that meet the requirements of the settlement agreement. 
  • Provides that the State Parties retain full authority to enforce any environmental or other law.

“California law is still not protective enough of our state parks. This reality is something that needs to be addressed, but this settlement is a good reminder that where there is a will to find a solution to some of the state’s thorniest problems, there is often a way.”
– Elizabeth Goldstein, CSPF President

In the News

Settlement Ends the Threat of a Toll Road through San Onofre State Beach
Los Angeles Times, November 10, 2016

After a 15-Year Battle, Trestles Surf Spot Is Saved
Orange County Register, November 10, 2016

Settlement Reached Between TCA, CA Attorney General and Toll Road Stakeholders
San Clemente Times, November 10, 2016

San Onofre Saved: Landmark Agreement Ends OC Toll Road Dispute
Huffington Post, November 10, 2016

Trestles Saved from Toll Road—Finally
Surfer magazine, November 10, 2016

Trestles Saved Forever! (At Least from the Toll Road)
Surfline, November 10, 2016

Trestles Is Officially Saved Forever
The Inertia, November 10, 2016

Landmark Agreement Ends 15-Year Dispute over SR 241 Toll Road Extension
BusinessWire, November 10, 2016

Environmentalists Save Trestles from Toll Road
Surfer Today, November 11, 2016

Trestles Is Saved after State, Toll Roads and Enviro Groups Agree to End Fight
OC Weekly, November 14, 2016

More Info

Joint Statement

Press Kit

California State Parks Foundation

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