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By Shawn Raymundo

A multi-agency cooperative agreement to support three traffic relief projects in South Orange County and prevent the construction of a toll road in San Clemente is officially in place after the county’s transportation office gave the final go-ahead approval last week.

Elected officials on the San Clemente City Council and County Board of Supervisors voted late last month to join the cooperative agreement that’s intended to protect San Clemente’s open space and conservation easements from an extension of the 241 Toll Road.

The Orange County Transportation Authority’s executive board voted at its Oct. 11 meeting to also join, formalizing the South County Traffic Relief Cooperative Agreement between the three parties.

Under the agreement, the county and OCTA “will not build, support or authorize a new major thoroughfare in the City (of San Clemente) in an area that is subject to a conservation easement or is protected as open space under a local initiative.”

“For decades, residents in San Clemente have spoken loud and clear about the importance of preserving our open space and protecting the character of our community,” Mayor Kathy Ward said in a joint press release on Monday, Oct. 18.

“Thanks to this agreement, we can finally focus on common-sense traffic solutions to ensure our City and our neighboring cities remain desirable places to live, work and visit,” she continued.

The agreement solidifies three ongoing traffic relief projects in South OC: extending Los Patrones Parkway as a free, non-tolled arterial road; adding carpool lanes on Interstate 5, between Avenida Pico and the San Diego County line; and widening Ortega Highway in San Juan Capistrano.

Per the agreement, the city is required to ask State Sen. Patricia Bates to withdraw her two bills that are meant to provide further open space protections in San Clemente and formally end the 241 at Oso Parkway—where it presently stops and Los Patrones begins.

Praising the cooperative agreement, Bates, in the press release, stated that she was happy to withdraw Senate Bills 760 and 761.

“I am heartened to see the spirit of cooperation in Orange County that has allowed transportation leaders to come together to address the environmental concerns of residents and local businesses and create an agreement for the future mobility in South Orange County,” she said.

The talks leading up to the agreement on South County mobility issues began this past spring when the ongoing argument over potential toll road extensions between San Clemente and the Transportation Corridor Agencies intensified.

Board Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, who, as the Fifth District seat, represents several South County cities such as Dana Point, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano, called for the agencies and other stakeholders to meet and resolve the dispute.

“Being able to bring key players to the table and create a blueprint for addressing community concerns and developing local solutions to improve mobility in South County, is a win-win for everyone involved,” she said in the release.

SR_1Shawn Raymundo
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.

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comments (1)

  • There has been a false narrative that has been presented by some of the City of San Clemente that residents want Los Patrones Parkway Extension, LPPE, aka Los Patrones Parkway, LPP, to be entering our town. We don’t want the LPPE/LPP to enter our town not even by one foot and certainly not 700ft.
    San Clemente residents have opposed the LPPE from the beginning when it was entered as a receive and file in January 2019 by Supervisor Bartlett. San Clemente residents even spoke in opposition to it at the March 12, 2020 TCA Board of Director’s meeting. Mayor Ward knew that the grass roots movement, NMTR, advocated the No Build Option, which included the LPPE. However, Mayor Ward and the City refused to submit a letter in opposition of the Los Patrones Parkway Extension/Alternative 22 in April 2020. Consequently, Mayor Ward voted to support the LPPE despite public opposition.

    San Clemente residents oppose the LPPE and that is why the rescinding of the City’s support was on the agenda for 4 times at our San Clemente City Council meetings as it was a city issue that needed to be addressed.

    The “Initiation of a General Plan Amendment for the Removal of Los Patrones Parkway from the Roadway System Map on the April6th, May 4th, June 1st, and August 17th, 2021. At the August 17th meeting, Council Member Laura Ferguson asked City staff to prepare an analysis of what would happen if the City rescinds the support of the LPPE. Then at that point, the city council would bring back the rescinding of the support of the LPPE on the agenda to vote on. However, the City Manager, Erik Sund, did not do his due diligence in preparing an analysis if the City would withdraw its support of the LPPE. Council Member Ferguson stated that this is a violation of City Policy.

    I reached out to Mr. Lance Larson of the OCTA to find out what would be the next steps if the City of San Clemente would rescind its support of the LPPE/LPP, in the Master Plan of Arterial Highways, MPAH, and the General Plan Amendment, but he did not answer my question. Also, I contacted Orange County Deputy Director of Public Works, Nardy Kahn, to find out the same information and she did not respond to my questions. I certainly tried to reach out to our Stakeholders and they could not give me any answers. I wonder why they could not answer questions from the public?

    Just recently, the public were notified of this Co-Operative Agreement between San Clemente, the OCTA, and the County on the City’s agenda for the September 28th city council meeting. However, this cooperative agreement was a deal that was done behind closed doors. It was done without public input and it was a complete shock and in no way did this agreement superseded the city matter of rescinding the support of the LPPE. However, Mayor Ward implied that rescinding the support of the LPPE/LPP was somehow contingent on this cooperative agreement at the September 28th meeting. This was not conveyed to San Clemente residents. This is a false narrative by Mayor Ward.
    However, this was at the same meeting where Mayor Ward lied about Surfrider opposing legislation. She stated the following:

    “I would just say to anyone, that if you want legislation, you need to go and talk to the environmentalists and Surfrider because they are actively fighting any legislation for the City of San Clemente based on their settlement agreement with TCA. That’s who is stopping it.”

    However, Surfrider never opposed any legislation to protect the City of San Clemente. It is my understanding that Surfrider emailed Mayor Ward to correct the misinformation. Mayor Ward to this date has not corrected her statements made at the city council meeting.

    More importantly, this agreement takes away the rights of the residents and the City of San Clemente to oppose or challenge through litigation, the LPPE for “adequacy.” Horrifically, the City of San Clemente cannot challenge the outdated Environmental Impact reports, EIR’s, such as the EIR 584 and EIR 589, which are 20 years old. Why would the City of San Clemente agree to this?

    Also, the City of San Clemente has to support the funding of the LPPE/LPP, even if it is funded by the TCA. At the Orange County Planning Commission meeting of December 9, 2020, Nicole Walsh, the County Attorney, stated that the TCA could take over the County’s Interests of the LPPE/LPP thru eminent domain. She also stated this at the February 16, 2021 San Clemente City Council meeting.

    The TCA is already on record of possibly funding the LPPE/LPP. According to the TCA webpage, CEO Samuel Johnson noted that, “TCA’s focus on sound fiscal practices and innovation were on full display with this refunding. Our team evaluated market conditions and developed a strategy that appealed to both current and new investors, resulting in significant savings and strengthening the Agency’s ability to further reduce debt and consider support of regional projects like the Ortega Highway widening and the County’s Los Patrones Extension.”

    Additionally, the City of San Clemente can also fund this project thru Measure M2 Funds. Mr. Larson from the OCTA stated the following:
    ” M2 funds that the city receives comes from different categories – 1) via formula basis to be used for transportations purposes (based on sales tax and city road miles) and 2) via a competitive grant process based on periodical calls for projects – the San Clemente Trolley would be a good example within this category. I do not believe that any city earmarked Measure M2 funds would be used for the un-tolled Los Patrones Parkway (LPP), unless the city chose to do so.”

    This information is very important because the City of San Clemente could decide to fund the LPP/LPPE. That is something that many San Clemente residents should know.

    Additionally, this cooperative agreement also destroyed Senator Pat Bates bills. Consequently, this multi-agency cooperative agreement forced Senator Bates to withdraw her bills and people were counting on her legislation. Many San Clemente residents are disappointed with Senator Bates. What would be more iron clad than legislation to protect our open spaces, established communities, schools, parks and recreations centers, businesses, homes, and churches?

    Public sentiment on social media pages and in recent articles such as the Voice of OC. The article, South OC Toll Road Extension Worries Emerge as Supervisors Back New Roads for 14,000 Homes, in the Voice of OC, raises the concerns about a Toll Road because of this cooperative agreement.

    This cooperative agreement does not stop the TCA from Toll Roads thru the City of San Clemente!

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