This page contains information about a lawsuit settlement reached between the Save San Onofre Coalition and the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) in November 2016. The Save San Onofre Coalition was founded to protect San Onofre State Beach from a proposed toll road. The Save San Onofre Coalition is comprised of 12 California and national environmental organizations, including: Audubon California, California Coastal Protection Network, California State Parks Foundation, Defenders of Wildlife, Endangered Habitats League, Laguna Greenbelt, Inc., Natural Resources Defense Council, Orange County Coastkeeper, Sea and Sage Audubon Society, Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation and WiLDCOAST/COASTALVAjE
The lawsuit settlement permanently protects San Onofre State Beach by establishing avoidance areas where the TCA is not allowed to build a road. To read more about this historic settlement that ends one of California’s most hard fought environmental battles, review this blog. Visit this page to read past blogs that were posted over the course of a decade summarizing milestones of this flagship campaign.
UPDATE: As of July 2017, Congressman Issa stated he would like to undo this historic settlement agreement and dig up controversial plans to ram a road through San Onofre State Beach. In addition, two lawsuits were filed to dismantle our settlement that permanently protects San Onofre--scroll to the bottom of the page to read our Coalition's press release.
Toll Road Settlement Agreement
Frequently Asked Questions
What did the Save San Onofre Coalition accomplish?
For 15 years, the Save San Onofre Coalition has fought to protect San Onofre State Beach and the surrounding watershed. Through the November 2016 lawsuit settlement, we were able to permanently protect these irreplaceable resources by establishing an “Avoidance Area” which clearly defines where a toll road cannot be constructed. Our Coalition successfully negotiated the Avoidance Area not only to protect the Park and watershed, but also for the benefit of the millions of people who use the Park each year and for the thousands of people who fought to protect the park through the years.
What is the Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) doing now?
The TCA, as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), is in the process of studying a number of toll road alternatives. These alternatives must go through an open, public and transparent CEQA review process. Members of the public can participate in this process and address any concerns raised by these alternatives. The City of San Clemente is a founding member of the TCA and a voting member of TCA’s board of directors. The City of San Clemente has a direct role in this decision-making process.
Why isn’t the Surfrider Foundation opposing the TCA’s efforts now?
The Surfrider Foundation, and our Coalition partners, came together to protect Trestles, San Onofre State Beach, and other watershed lands from the so-called “Green Alignment” that would have bifurcated the state park, impacted the watershed and degraded the waves at Trestles. Under the Settlement Agreement between the TCA and the Save San Onofre Coalition, the TCA agreed not to build the road in the areas Surfrider and the Coalition worked to protect and the Coalition agreed not to take a position on any TCA project that avoids the area protected by the agreement. The Settlement Agreement does not dictate where a toll road can be built or where it can go. Instead, it states where a road cannot go.
What is the Surfrider Foundation’s position on a route through San Clemente?
As a result of the Settlement Agreement that protected the park and Trestles, the Surfrider Foundation and individual Coalition members cannot take a position on any of the TCA’s proposed routes, provided that none of them go through San Onofre State Beach and the surrounding watershed.
Why isn’t the Save San Onofre Coalition getting involved in this issue?
The mission of the Save San Onofre Coalition is to protect San Onofre State Beach. Some people believe the Coalition was formed to fight against toll roads in general. But our purpose has always been to fight for the Park. We set out to protect the Park for San Clemente residents and the more than 2.5 million people that come from all around the world to use it. We achieved that with the Settlement Agreement and we will continue to ensure that the TCA fully abides by that agreement.
There are rumors that Surfrider is getting $28 million from the lawsuit settlement.
This rumor is 100% false. Surfrider does not receive $28 million. As part of the Settlement Agreement, the TCA set aside $28 million as a habitat conservation fund. The TCA administers this fund and the money can only be used to acquire and restore conservation lands, primarily in the San Mateo Creek and adjacent watershed – which is what we fought so diligently to protect for the past 15 years. During two years of negotiations, we passionately advocated funds go directly toward conservation efforts. We are pleased this unprecedented conservation fund will further protect the special resources our Coalition has fought so hard to protect.
Under the Settlement Agreement, the Coalition was only reimbursed for their attorney’s fees and costs incurred in the campaign against the toll road. As such, the Save San Onofre Coalition received reimbursement for past attorney fees and staff costs, which was split among 12 organizations. Fighting the road for 15 years consumed much of the Coalition’s time and resources, including staff time, attorney resources, tracking the TCA when the campaign was not active, etc. In that time, our Coalition spent millions of dollars to fight the road. Under the reimbursement, we did not receive all the costs that we spent. Despite not recovering the full costs, we are pleased that the Settlement Agreement put an end to one of the most hard fought, long-lasting environmental battles in California history to protect our coast for this and future generations.
What about the so-called “La Pata/Cristianitos” route?
TCA cannot build or fund the La Pata/Cristianitos route because that route would run through the Avoidance Area including San Onofre State Beach. Furthermore, it would pose some of the same irreconcilable conflicts with the California Coastal Act as the “Green Alignment.” The Coalition will continue to oppose any and all proposed routes through San Onofre State Beach, including the La Pata/Cristianitos route.
Why did the City of San Clemente and The Reserve Management Corporation file a lawsuit against the TCA?
On July 28, 2017, the City of San Clemente and The Reserve Management Corporation filed separate lawsuits against the TCA and, as part of the lawsuits, named all 12 California and national environmental organizations that comprise the Save San Onofre Coalition as “real parties in interest.” By filing the lawsuit, the City of San Clemente and The Reserve Management Corporation are both supporting a toll road route that would devastate San Onofre State Beach. The lawsuits attack SSOC's settlement agreement, which protects San Onofre State Beach (one of California's most popular state parks) and other sensitive natural lands. The Save San Onofre Coalition strongly opposes any toll road alternative that impacts San Onofre State Beach. We all remain neutral on other toll road alternatives provided they do not enter the Avoidance Area that protects the State Park, Trestles, and other important natural resources. Read the press statement released by the Save San Onofre coalition responding the lawsuits.