The Final Showdown?

posted by / Photos / September 23, 2008



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The yay-sayers and the nay-sayers on the 241 Foothill-South toll road extension came together Monday in another heated round of case-making. Hold on, what? Didn’t we kill this thing months ago? Well…yes and no. After a decisive 8-2 vote by the California Coastal Commission (CCC) in February halting the planned development, which would send an I-5 alternative through the heart of San Onofre State Park, a crew of Transportation Corridor Agency sore losers brought Frankenstein back to life with an appeal to the fed’s Secretary of Commerce, Carlos Gutierrez, under the “Federal Coastal Zone Management Act.” As early as October (or as late as January 7), Gutierrez will have to decide whether to overturn the CCC’s decision based on the testimony delivered yesterday in Del Mar – all ten hours of it. So Monday was game on, with toll road proponents (clad in bright orange t-shirts and puppy blood) squaring off against truth, justice and the American way (that’s us). With National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) General Counsel Jane Luxton and an army of security guards moderating the proceedings, it was tense, gnarly, edge-of-your-seat stuff, from the opening remarks to the final salvo.

Hahaha. No, no, it was a f–king golf match. Chip-chip-putt through 18 holes of redundant “facts” and arguments. The day consisted of 4-minute sound bites from every two-bit politician and his cousin on why the toll road will end world hunger, or why it’s the worst idea since domesticating cats. Showing uncanny passion and stamina, representatives from both sides spent the day and early evening giving the conventional thumbs up to their own speakers and thumbs down to the enemy scum (seriously, that’s how they do it.) Still, if it was like golf, it was more Happy Gilmore than Augusta National. With lawyers, politicians, surfers, kids, hippies, teamsters, and one large ape in attendance (even the primates are on our side), there was slightly more color to the proceedings than, say, a Rancho {{{Santa Fe}}} noise ordinance hearing. The boos and cheers from the opponents’ side were loud and unapologetic, despite security guard threats and Luxton’s persistent pleas for quiet. At one point, as a testament to the diversity of the “Save Trestles” crew, a 92 year-old woman was followed directly by a high school junior, as they and other private citizens spoke their minds to the panel. Even the apparently-real Association for Nude Recreation had a rep arguing “no” on 241. Fortunately, he came fully clothed.

But of course, there’s no punchline to this story yet. Today was like the American Idol episodes where no one gets kicked off; the Feds were just gathering info, and from here it’s to backrooms and dark alleys where the fate of “the Yosemite of surfing,” as one protester’s t-shirt put it, will be decided. Takeaways at this juncture: they made the right decision the first time, but this is a whole new level of governmental bureaucracy – and money talks. If the Secretary of Commerce does in fact overturn the CCC’s original decision , the TCA will still need to obtain a building permit from the CCC for the coastal portion of the road – putting us back where we started in February. Man, another set of these hearings? Pray it doesn’t come to that.

Notable Quotables (special politicians’ edition):Donna Frye, San Diego City Council Member (anti 241): “Beware of the people who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.”

John Whitman, South Orange County Chamber of Commerce (pro 241): “I am sure [the opponents] would prefer that Trestles remain a ‘locals only’ beach. You have the responsibility to look beyond the provincial needs of local surfers to make this stretch of coast available to all Californians.”

Ronald Reagan, former California governor and US president (presumably anti 241, as quoted on a t-shirt): “This expanse of acreage, San Onofre Bluffs State Beach, now has its future guaranteed as an official state park.”

State Senator Christine Kehoe (anti 241), representing the 39th district: “It’s not just a toll road through a state park, it’s a toll road instead of the state park.”

Jerry Amante (pro 241), Mayor of Tustin, on traffic: “We can not bury our heads in the sand and wish these problems away.”

Wayne Eggleston, sole San Clemente City Council member who opposes the toll road (anti 241): “The road is not the answer to our traffic problems. The TCA refuses to acknowledge the other options available.”

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