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Patricia Holloway, San Clemente, Capistrano Unified School District Trustee—District 3
Capistrano Unified School District’s (CUSD) lawsuits related to the proposed 241 Toll Road extension are intended to protect the health and welfare of our students and staff at district schools in the path of, or in proximity to, the various proposed toll road alignments, including idea 14, which encroaches onto San Clemente High School. Last October, the CUSD Board of Trustees voted to join the San Clemente and The Reserve HOA lawsuits against the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA), county and Caltrans. As part of this action, CUSD will be challenging the protective, cooperative and freeway agreements, but not the settlement agreement, between the TCA and the Save San Onofre Coalition.
In the protective agreement, Caltrans improperly agreed to effectively alter the original route of the toll road designated by the state Legislature where the toll road was to connect to Interstate 5 in San Diego County. Instead, Caltrans would allow the toll road to link with I-5 in Orange County, potentially through the city of San Clemente or San Juan Capistrano. This was done without authorization by the Legislature.
In the cooperative agreement between the TCA and county, the county consented to formally integrate the Oso Parkway Bridge Interchange and Los Patrones Parkway into the Toll Road system without proper environmental review.
Finally, in the freeway agreement, Caltrans will accept access control of the Oso Parkway Bridge Interchange—another component of the 241 extension—without any environmental analysis of the impacts.
In December, CUSD filed its own lawsuit against the TCA, county and Caltrans regarding the Oso Parkway Bridge Interchange. The proposed bridge would be built by the county right across from Tesoro High School. The district sought help from the county, which it flatly refused, and so the district filed suit alleging multiple violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Among these, CUSD believes that the county incorrectly approved the Oso Bridge Project at the staff level when this major development should have been the subject of its own EIR (not an addendum) and reviewed at a public meeting before the County Board of Supervisors.
CUSD objects to the way the TCA is chopping up the tollway into smaller segments (the Oso Bridge, Los Patrones Parkway and the section from Cow Camp Road to the I-5) with the intent of reconstituting these later into the Foothill/Eastern south toll road. This is a clear violation of CEQA and an obvious attempt to avoid the full and fair evaluation of impacts and project alternatives. While these legal actions won’t “stop” the toll road, if successful, they will compel the TCA and others to go back to square one and conduct proper environmental review. If the district prevails, it would give our schools and communities the right to comment during an open public process and to demand adequate protection of our students, staff and parents against the harmful effects of the eventual toll road.