By Eric Heinz
Hundreds gathered at The Reserve, a subdivision in San Clemente, on Sept. 9 to promote the Coalition to Save San Clemente’s campaign to block any toll roads from being built through the city.
The Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) have proposed various ways to alleviate traffic by constructing toll roads. The TCA contends traffic will become a major problem for South Orange County within a few decades.
Mayor Kathy Ward said she recently went on a trek with TCA officials who explained some of the alignments and where they could potentially be built, some of which she said are planned in places that could be more detrimental to the city than originally thought. The TCA is looking to complete a supplemental environmental impact report by the end of the year and a draft environmental impact report in early 2018 for the proposals.
Mayor Kathy Ward speaks to the audience of about 400 people on Sept. 9 at The Reserve during a community gathering and concert to raise funds for the Coalition to Save San Clemente and to bring awareness of toll road issues in the area. Photo: Eric Heinz
Musical performances were provided during a Sept. 9 gathering at The Reserve subdivision to raise funds for the Coalition to Save San Clemente and bring awareness of the toll roads issues facing the area. Photo: Eric Heinz
Roger Bütow, the executive director of the environmental organization Clean Water Now, said he and his organization are offering their services to the Coalition. Bütow said he intends to comment on the environmental reports when they become available.
“We’re trying to refine the structure (of the Coalition), and what we’re hoping is to make things work more efficiently because we have expertise in these fields,” Bütow said during the Sept. 9 gathering. “Part of what we want to bring to the table…are our in-house skills and abilities we want to bring to this effort.”
Mark McGuire, who is working with the Coalition, presented documents that state the toll roads were supposed to be paid for and made free to access in an initial agreement, but now the TCA has planned to keep the roads tolled through 2050 or 2053, depending on the road.
Two lawsuits are currently challenging the legitimacy of a settlement agreement forged between the TCA and various environmental groups under the Save San Onofre Coalition (SSOC) that designates an avoidance area to the south of the city, as well as promises $28 million to environmental efforts, which will be used at the discretion of the powers linked to the agreement.
SSOC members have taken exception to the city’s and The Reserve’s lawsuits against the settlement agreement, alleging that it would undo the protections set forth by the agreement, which took about 15 years to complete.
“We’d like to see the city drop the litigation; why would the city want to (undo the settlement agreement)?” said Dan Silver, the executive director of Endangered Habitats League. “The only purpose of the litigation is to eliminate the protection of the avoidance area. If their suit or (The Reserve’s) lawsuit are successful, then these important lands would be open to this green alignment option (through environmental areas).”
Dan Bane, the lead attorney for The Reserve’s lawsuit, said the city and The Reserve’s lawsuits are being presided over the same judge. A hearing for the lawsuits has not yet been set.
“I still feel that designating the avoidance area is something that violated the Brown Act because it required a public hearing,” Bane said, who has argued that action was not made public.
In the meantime, it’s still unknown what effects the widening of the I-5 Pico corridor will have on traffic in the area. That project is likely to be completed in spring of 2018.
According to Coalition co-leader Eva O’Keefe, the event raised about $10,000 for the Coalition’s efforts, and about 400 people attended the event.