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Chad Nelsen, Ph.D, CEO of Surfrider Foundation

After 15 years of fighting to protect San Onofre State Beach and Trestles from a toll road, we are gravely concerned about the San Clemente City Council’s recent lawsuit that seeks to invalidate a protective agreement we signed to safeguard the state park and San Mateo watershed from a destructive road.

The following is a quote from the San Clemente City Council’s lawsuit:

“…any alignment approved concerning the southern portion of the Foothill Transportation Corridor segment of SR-241 must connect to Route 5 south of San Clemente near Basilone Road in San Diego County.”

San Onofre State Beach lies directly south of the city of San Clemente near Basilone Road. This statement from the city’s own lawsuit makes it clear that the City Council wants to dig up already-rejected plans to build a road through San Onofre State Beach because there is no other way to connect SR-241 to I-5 south of San Clemente without bifurcating the sensitive watershed and state park.

The protective agreement prevents the road from being built through the state park and sensitive watershed lands. It does not require that a new road be built in Southern Orange County or direct where any new roads should be built. The city’s lawsuit has one purpose: to take away these protections and allow a road through the state park.

Thousands of people joined us in stopping this type of road when it came before the California Coastal Commission, President George W. Bush’s Department of Commerce and the Regional Water Quality Board because of the tremendous damage the road would cause to environmental, recreational and cultural resources in the park and watershed.

San Onofre State Beach is an invaluable community asset for the City of San Clemente. Millions of beach goers, campers, bikers, surfers and hikers visit the park each year. It generates more than $8 million for San Clemente’s economy. San Onofre State Beach is not only important to our economy, it improves our quality of life by providing world renowned recreational opportunities and a home to abundant nature. We need to come together to keep the protections in place for the state park.

For these reasons, we urge San Clemente residents to join us in urging the San Clemente City Council to drop its ill-advised lawsuit.


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comments (5)

  • Mr. Nelsen’s letter, like so many of the other ads and “hit” pieces sent out by the TCA and SSOC regarding the City’s lawsuit is incredibly misleading.

    First, the lawsuit does not advocate for any SR 241 extension, let alone any alignments through the state park or San Mateo watershed. Instead, what the lawsuit says is that the legislative route for the 241 (the one set forth in Streets and Highways Code section 541), states that the SR-241 (to the extent it is ever completed) must connect to Route 5 south of San Clemente near Basilone Road in San Diego County. More specifically, Streets and Highways Code section 541 defines the SR 241 as follows: “Route 241 from Route 5 SOUTH OF SAN CLEMENTE to Route 91 in the City of Anaheim.” The City is not advocating for the toll road in this area, it is simply pointing out that “any alignment for the southern portion of the Foothill Transportation Corridor section of the SR-241 connecting to Route 5 in the City of San Clemente does not, and cannot, conform to the route description for SR-241 as set forth in Streets and Highways Code section 541.” (City’s Complaint, page 34, lines 11-15). It is pretty disingenuous for Mr. Nelsen to state otherwise; nowhere in the City’s complaint does it advocate for any toll road extension.

    Second, the protective agreement, much like the settlement agreement, does contemplate an extension of the SR-241 connecting to Interstate 5; the SSOC, including Surfrider, agreed not to oppose any of these alignments but to instead align with the TCA in marketing pieces regarding the SR 241 extension. It also virtually assures, by blocking any and all other options, that any such extension will go through San Clemente and/or San Juan Capistrano. On November 11, 2016, the day after the settlement agreement was signed, Rick Erkeneff (of Surfrider) is quoted by the OC Register as saying that one toll road proposal would run through the east side of San Clemente.…/after-a-15-year-battle…/. Seems the design of the “avoidance area” designated in the settlement agreement and protective agreement was to achieve this result; otherwise, why was it made to include Rancho Mission Viejo and all of the planned development?

    Third, why are the SSOC and Surfrider now continually attacking the City? The City does not build toll roads. The real reason appears to be that the TCA and SSOC realize these agreements were done in secret and violate the law. Otherwise, what are they worried about? Why the need for the City to drop the lawsuit? If the settlement agreement and protective agreement are upheld by the Court, then nothing will change and the TCA/Surfrider have nothing to worry about. Otherwise, the agreements will be voided as ILLEGAL! The TCA and SSOC can then go back to the drawing board and find a solution that works for the environmental groups AND the residents of San Clemente. BOTTOM LINE: We value the state park. We value our open space. We value our homes. The SSOC should not have made any deal which protects one, to the detriment of the other.


  • As an SC resident whose home is not in the path of the proposed toll road, I hope that Mr. Neilon is not holding his breath waiting for me to oppose the City’s lawsuit. If the Settlement Agreement is a lawful agreement, SSOC should have no fear it will be upheld. If we find it is not, it should be quashed. The TCA can start again, and perhaps their next plan will stand the test of public and legal scrutiny.

    • SC Mom:
      No, Surfrider is just one of a score of NGOs (SSOC) who are holding THEIR collective breaths, waiting for the bank to open, in line to deposit a multi-year series of 6-figure paychecks (our $$$)….hopefully cash that 1st $7.1 million before a judge issues some form of an estoppel, injunctive relief….stops the green gravy train.
      It still boggles the mind, that it never occurred to SSOC that a large contingent of SOC anti-TCA folks wouldn’t go away, lay down and accept term and condition processes they were never included in—or capitulate due to these emerging, increasingly fear-laden messages like this one, trying to pull that infantile “Boogeyman’ll get ya!” ruse: Withdraw rightful (and seriously righteous) objections, SC et al, or you’ll “hink” the entire cool deal we (SSOC) made, k?
      And how exactly does that breed trust, threatening and wheedling, whining and bellyaching?
      Many still think that they can work with these people, but why when they’re ramping up pressure to quell your voice?
      Clean Water Now believes that the TCA is arguably totalitarian, borderline crypto-fascist. arterial roadway dictators.
      Trestles was “A” battle that the SSOC won, they took their best shot but fell significantly short of total victory—-but now can’t comprehend that they have left the rest of us to win “THE” war.
      That skeptics now sense that the SSOC didn’t finish the job (no 241 beyond Oso Parkway), the CSC and HOAs have stepped up their game, are recruiting more troops on a regional level, the NOT ONE MORE INCH campaign.
      For those paid to either sit dormant or worse, act as emissaries and de facto employees, in time of war they’re usually denigrated, called “collaborators.” That shoe seems to fit the SSOC, so ya know what? Sit down, shut up and try that (litigation) boot on for size!

  • This secret agreement was years in the making. Why didn’t Surfrider discuss it with the City or the People of San Clemente?

    The avoidance area is HUGE, going covering Rancho Mission Viejo and other areas almost to Riverside. It causes a funnel effect where the TCA has no choice but to blow a toll road through San Clemente. Why didn’t Surfrider include San Clemente — the premier surf city in America — in the “avoidance area”?

    Finally, who says Surfrider gets to decide what happens in San Clemente?! I don’t remember abdicating my vote to a foundation who seems to have lost their way.

  • The SSOC is beginning to sound like their spoils of war, their pile of dough, their gilded rainbow and coffer-stuffer is being jeopardized.
    Desperation is what’s being telegraphed, fear and loathing from the SSOC.
    The deal they cut basically leaves them as employees, as shills and stalking horses for the TCA regarding the 241 extension (amusingly termed “gap closure”). The gap is in the brains of the planners of these asphalt and concrete nightmares.
    Elizabeth & Cord, meanwhile, are both more than correct…
    For that matter, the City not only has a right to protect its residents from toll road creep (as attorney Mark McGuire so succinctly and aptly called it), the City has an ethical, a fiduciary responsibility to do so.
    So it’s rather ironic that the SSOC has not only sent the City a letter of demand that tries to leverage an amended lawsuit, a thinly-veiled threat in the form of a press release, but is now trying to contain, to move into damage control mode via pieces like this.
    Gotta laugh too, those dozens of SSOC attorneys (in-house or outsourced) didn’t see this coming? It’s like that Monty Python routine, where John Cleese in period costume sarcastically declares “No one expected the Spanish Inquisition!”
    If legal counsel for the SSOC didn’t see this potential conundrum, HOAs & the CSC go onto offense, then the different NGOs are sorely in need of newer, brighter more professional legal counsel.
    Just as the SSOC plugged one hole (Trestles/SOSB/San Mateo Creek mouth), they literally left the remainder of the entire City’s sub-sheds & adjacent lower reach of the San Juan Creek Watershed open for TCA business: Historical protectors voluntarily removing themselves from what now seems to be hypocritical mission statements
    Anyone reading the 2 agreements that these NGOs signed comes to realize that they are now TCA advocates, advisors and promoters.
    The SSOC members should stop rattling sabers, especially using that plural “We, us, our” co-opting propaganda. It’s an insult to the opposition, the increasingly savvy and organized blow-back like the Coalition to Save San Clemente.
    The SSOC bartered away, in essence exchanged part of their integrity, of their reputation for the promise of future power and gross sums of fiscal gain…….the residents of Ladera Ranch, RMV, San Juan Capo and committed SC citizens, are motivated to protect what the SSOC left exposed and vulnerable: Large swaths of pristine, native chaparral, ephemeral watercourses and vernal ponds, ESHA (high value habitat), migrational paths, recreational trails, the list nearly endless.
    Well, then, looked at that way, who was ill-advised, and who should withdraw?
    My NGO firmly supports the resistance movement, the “Not One More Inch” revolution: Hey, TCA? Stop right where you are at the Oso Parkway terminus, near Tesoro High School. Now.
    Leave the in-progress Oso Parkway Bridge and Los Patrones Parkway free, as they were originally planned, as they were pledged to be by RMV.
    And scrap those plans to build an ≈100+ foot wide, 3/4 mile long YUGE bridge to cross San Juan Creek, going over the top of the Ortega, gaining a monolithic toehold in the back slopes of SC, intended to transition the southerly terminus of Los Patrones for that final I-5 gap closure.
    More toll road paving, more eyesore infrastructure in SOC? We don’t need no stinking toll roads!

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