Protecting San Onofre State Beach
For more than 15 years, California State Parks Foundation has collaborated with key conservation and environmental partners in the Save San Onofre Coalition (SSOC), including Audubon California, California Coastal Protection Network, Defenders of Wildlife, Endangered Habitats League, Laguna Greenbelt, Natural Resources Defense Council, Orange County Coastkeeper, Sea and Sage Audubon Society, Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation and WILDCOAST to protect San Onofre State Beach from a proposed toll road.
For years, the park had been threatened by a proposal by the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) to build a multi-lane toll road that would have bisected San Onofre State Beach and ruined the San Mateo Watershed.
Park supporters vociferously fought that proposal, which was denied by the California Coastal Commission, federal Department of Commerce, and San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board.
After years of advocacy, lobbying at the state and federal levels, organizing and mobilizing grassroots supporters and organizations, and engaging in litigation to protect the park, in late 2016, California State Parks Foundation and its allies in the Save San Onofre Coalition negotiated a key settlement with the TCA that ended the toll road threat to the park.
Unfortunately, in July 2017, TCA, SSOC, and the state of California were sued by the City of San Clemente and a local homeowners’ group, Reserve Maintenance Corporation (Reserve), to invalidate the settlement agreement. The City and Reserve fear that, because it can no longer construct a route through the park, the TCA will pursue a route that goes through the City of San Clemente.
Currently, California State Parks Foundation continues to serve as the fiscal agent for the Save San Onofre Coalition, is a member of the core “implementing committee” charged with implementing the settlement agreement, participates in calls and in regular status meetings between the SSOC and TCA, and is the lead sponsor of pending legislation in the State Legislature, Assembly Bill 1426 (Boerner Horvath).
AB 1426 places the substance of two agreements into statute that were signed by conservation organizations, the Attorney General, the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA), Caltrans, the Natural Resources Agency, the Native American Heritage Commission, and the State Park and Recreation Commission, settling five lawsuits. The agreements followed rejection of a proposed toll road through SOSB by then-President George Bush’s U.S. Department of Commerce and the Coastal Commission because of the damage the road would cause to the state park and other resources. The agreements established an area including the state park and watershed lands that are protected from road construction and an agreement by the conservation groups to not oppose projects to extend State Route 241 outside of the protected area.
On September 25, 2020, Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath’s bill Assembly Bill 1426 to permanently protect San Onofre State Beach was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom. After nearly two decades of hard-fought advocacy to protect San Onofre State Beach permanently and statutorily, Governor Newsom made that goal a reality.
ABOUT THE PARK
San Onofre State Beach is a more than 2,000-acre park within the County of San Diego, in the city of San Clemente. Although classified a state beach, the park contains 1,183 acres (56% of total park acreage) of upland habitat, nature preserve areas, and trails in the San Mateo Valley. According to the Department of Parks and Recreation, San Onofre is one of the five most-visited parks in the entire state park system.
Cherished by swimmers, campers, kayakers, birders, fishermen, off-duty Marines, bicyclists and sunbathers, SOSB is a unique resource for Californians, providing, among many other things:
- Beach Access. The park contains 3.5 miles of beaches and six public access trails to ocean bluffs.
- World-Class Surfing. Trestles Beach is a world-renowned surf spot and is considered one of the premier surf breaks in the nation.
- Affordable Family Camping. San Mateo Campground contains 161 campground units is one of the only affordable coastal havens for middle and low-income families in the region.
- Habitat for Endangered Species. The park provides unique habitat for eleven threatened or endangered species listed under federal law.
- Clean Water. San Mateo Creek, one of the last relatively unspoiled watersheds in Southern California, runs through the park, meeting the Pacific Ocean at Trestles. The park also includes the San Mateo Wetlands Natural Preserve.
- Native Heritage. The park contains seven archeological sites, including an ancient sacred village, Panhe, which was used by native Acjachemen people and is still used as a sacred ceremonial and cultural location by the Acjachemen and Juaneno people.