By Eric Heinz
San Clemente’s primary legal counsel has pored over various documents to find avenues to stop the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) from establishing a toll road through the city’s neighborhoods, city attorney Scott Smith said at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 20.
Smith said the TCA is required to construct “environmentally sensitive” highways and that at least two of the proposals would likely damage such areas in San Clemente. A local measure related to environmental spaces would deem the roads inconsistent with the TCA’s strategy, Smith said, adding that because of that measure, the city could argue that it would not be able to share the same authority the TCA has to building highways through the designated open space.
None of the TCA’s 18 proposals for toll roads have been approved at this time, as they are going through the required environmental process, but the TCA has published the suggested routes. Many have been rejected by residents and the City Council.
“Some of (the proposals) will be in large areas owned by the city, and the city’s response would be that those properties are not for sale and never will be for sale, and Caltrans and TCA would not be able to show a better public use for those properties,” Smith said.
Smith also mentioned the TCA’s development fee on commercial and residential development is still being collected for one alignment that has been abandoned, and the city could challenge the reason for being required to continue to collect the fees.
Smith also said they will seek out legal obligations related to Los Patrones Parkway, which will connect Oso Parkway to Cow Camp Road, in keeping that road publicly available.
“We are working in cooperation with local homeowner’s associations, all of the homeowner’s associations,” Smith said. “Much of the open space that’s protected in San Clemente is protected by private homeowner’s associations.”
Smith said the City Council authorized the legal counsel to speak with the HOAs about creating open space, conservation and view space easements and to participate in restoration of the open space. Mitigation agreements are in place in the open spaces, some of which were forged more than 40 years ago by developers, Smith said.
The city has not declared that it will take legal action against the TCA at this time, and no action was taken during the meeting.
Smith said the issues may be brought to the attention of the TCA’s staff and board of directors in the near future.