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By Cari Hachmann
The city of San Clemente and the Reserve Maintenance Corporation have filed a joint motion seeking to prove the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) and California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) lack the authority to override state law in their intentions to extend SR-241 Highway through San Clemente or north of the city.
“Defendants are actively pursuing the extension/expansion of the SR-241 Highway in a manner which is inconsistent with the legislatively designated route,” the motion states, in reference to the defendants, TCA and Caltrans.
According to the court document, the TCA and Caltrans’ current project proposals extend State Route 241 as a state highway from its present boundary at Oso Parkway near the city of Mission Viejo and connect it to Interstate 5 in or north of San Clemente. There are a total of five alternative SR-241 routes that have been proposed.
The City and Reserve’s attorneys are saying none of these proposals obey California legislation, which establishes the route for the SR-241, according to state code.
Streets and Highways Code section 541 describes SR-241 Highway thusly: “Route 241 is from Route 5 south of San Clemente to Route 91 in the City of Anaheim.”
City and Reserve attorneys argue the legislature intended Route 241 to bypass San Clemente and connect to I-5 south of the city near Basilone Road in San Diego County.
“Despite this legislative mandate, Defendants seek to approve, fund and construct SR-241 Highway alignment which connects to Interstate 5 in or north of the City of San Clemente,” the City and Reserve said in their motion, filed May 13.
The attorneys contend that the proposals are not legally permissible, because they do not conform to the route description for the SR-241 Highway set forth in the state code.
“Unless the legislature redefines that route, none of the proposed routes the TCA and Caltrans are currently pursuing are allowed by law,” said Dan Bane, Mayor Pro Tem of San Clemente, who also represents the Reserve, a homeowners association in the city.
Bane said the TCA and Caltrans’ first step should have been to determine if the California legislature is interested in redefining the route (SR-241) such that would detrimentally affect the entire city of San Clemente. “I doubt the California legislature would be willing to cram an unneeded highway through the middle of an established community,” said Bane.
“If defendants wish to pursue an SR-241 Highway route connecting to Interstate 5 in or north of San Clemente, then the Legislature must first amend streets and highways code section 541 to authorize such a project,” the motion stated. Bane said the city would oppose any such legislation.
The City and Reserve also filed a separate motion on July 15 against the TCA and Caltrans seeking to invalidate a 2017 protective agreement and a 2016 settlement agreement between the TCA, California’s former attorney general and several environmental groups, which designated an avoidance area through which a toll road could not pass.
Bane said the motion isn’t advocating for a toll road in the avoidance area, but rather alleges the TCA and Caltrans violated the law by entering into the agreements without “proper public process” and without including the city.
Opposition to the City and Reserve’s motion is due from the TCA and Caltrans on August 1. The court will determine whether it will grant the City and Reserve’s motion on August 15.
If the court agrees with the City and Reserve on their legislative authority arguments, the TCA and Caltrans’ current proposals would be sidelined indefinitely, and the City and Reserve’s second motion would be moot.