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City Of San Clemente Sues To Destroy Trestles

It was but ten short months ago that “Trestles Saved!” rang as the headline du jour. In November 2016, the Surfrider Foundation, the Save San Onofre Coalition and a number of other activist groups celebrated an agreement with the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) that indefinitely halted any plans for the construction of the 241 Toll Road through California State Park land in San Clemente and the watersheds that feed into Trestles and San Onofre beaches. As far as environmental politics go in Southern California, it was a win.

But the toll road just can’t be killed. At the end of July, the City of San Clemente and a gated community called The Reserve filed lawsuits seeking to overturn the protection agreement. Their contention is that that there was an absence of public comment and environmental review surrounding the original decision.

The agreement “virtually guarantees that the TCA will now seek to cram the toll road directly through the only places remaining available, i.e., the preserved open space, mitigation land and trails located in the established communities of San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano and/or Rancho Mission Viejo,” reads the lawsuit.

Translation: the rich people that live in The Reserve don’t want the toll road going through their backyard just like the literally millions of people that use Trestles and San Onofre don’t want it going through their beach.

For some asinine reason, city officials in San Clemente are going along with it and have filed their own suit. It makes no sense. Surfing is the biggest industry in town—much more so than the rehab homes and burrito joints that seem to be springing up everywhere (and let’s just skip of over the failing outlet mall that opened last year).

“It’s unconscionable for the City of San Clemente and The Reserve Maintenance Corporation to attempt to destroy a state park enjoyed by millions. A toll road through the state park is a proposal that was rejected by the California Coastal Commission, President George W. Bush’s Commerce Department and the Regional Water Board. It’s time for all Californians to again rally to save the park,” Dan Silver, a spokesman for the Save San Onofre Coalition, said in a prepared statement.

In 2012, Dr Chad Nelson, now CEO of the Surfrider Foundation, lead a study that found that Trestles alone generated $8 to $13 million in revenue for San Clemente annually.

“The waves at Trestles attract surfers from throughout Southern California who contribute to San Clemente’s local economy by spending money in town when they visit. They buy gas, eat at local restaurants, and shop in local stores,” he wrote. 

"I am extremely perplexed by the the City of San Clemente’s decision to file a lawsuit that could potentially overturn the agreement that the Surfrider Foundation and SSCOC had made with the TCA," said San Clemente's big wave doyen, Greg Long. "The agreement that is in place will indefinitely protect the San Mateo watershed, something that for the last 15 years the vast majority of San Clemente residents stood in solidarity for. Taking legal action that could potentially revoke the current agreement and reopen the San Mateo option for development is not only unnecessary, doing so is going to divide our community at a time that we should be standing in solidarity against the TCA and the newly proposed routes."

So why do city officials want to pave it all over? Well, a 2011 Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) economic impact study of the initial segment of the 241 Toll Road estimated that approximately $17.7 million in tax revenues would go to state and local governments. Conceivably, after said state and local governments take their share of the tax revenue only a small portion of that $17 mil would end up in the San Clemente treasury.

Meanwhile, those same city officials have done almost nothing to invest in the San Clemente surf scene and help the industry grow. It’s telling that “the surf ghetto” is where everyone from Timmy Patterson to Dewey Weber build boards. How about instead of slurping the suits at the TCA, figure out how to herald and support these talented craftsmen who have been an integral thread in the community for decades? Considering that San Onofre is basically the birthplace of California surf culture, find a way to celebrate that. Build a museum. Guaranteed more money would start flowing into town. Not saying it needs to be garish and gross like Huntington Beach, but a little love could go a long way.

As far as talent goes, San Clemente’s one of the world’s premier hotbeds. Jordy Smith, Filipe Toledo, Dylan Graves, Lisa Andersen, Rosy Hodge, some of the best surfers on the planet have picked up stakes and moved here solely to be closer to Trestles. Locally speaking, San Clemente has produced generations of world-class surfers.

And now, the City of San Clemente wants to throw hot asphalt all over that because of some tax revenue and a few rich people complained? Well, here’s the rub. The Hurley Pro comes to town in a couple weeks—Gabs Medina’s already burned everyone at Lowers in preparation—but what’s important is that the highly visible people like Jordy and Filipe and Rosy, whose careers directly benefit from their newfound proximity to Lowers, leverage their influence and speak up. Please, let the city officials know just how important this area is to the global surfing community.

At the end of the day, this latest round of lawsuits could all be avoided if the TCA would just beat it. For 15-plus years, the surfers and people of San Clemente have been dealing with this rogue government agency that seems decidedly more interested in generating revenue than improving the quality of life for the locals.

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