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09 • 25 • 2020

15 Years, Thousands of Activists, One Goal — Save Trestles Forever

By Stefanie Sekich-Quinn

After a marathon campaign of more than 15 years, the battle to Save Trestles came to fruition today when Governor Newsom signed AB 1426 into law.  This new legislation will protect San Onofre State Beach and Trestles from any type of road construction.  

The valiant effort to Save Trestles has been a long and winding road (no pun intended).  The first step in this battle was the formation of our mighty Save San Onofre Coalition (SSOC), which represents millions of people from local and national organizations. In 2005, SSOC first came together when over 1,000 activists showed up at a Parks and Recreation Commission hearing to speak out against a six-lane toll road that would have cut through San Onofre State Beach — damaging the last remaining undeveloped watershed in southern California, the world-famous surf break at Trestles Beach, multiple endangered species, and sacred Indigenous sites. 

Over the course of a decade, SSOC mounted a historic activist-led opposition against the toll road development .  In 2008, this formidable coalition organized the largest public turn out in Coastal Commission history, where over 3,500 people attended the Commission hearing and the road was unanimously rejected.  Following the Coastal Commission vote, toll road developers appealed to overturn the Commission’s decision.  But the appeal decision didn’t stop our activists. Once again, we organized — thousands of people attended the Department of Commerce hearing, voicing strong opposition to the toll road — and we won again.

SSOC continued our winning streak in 2013, 2014 and 2015, when both the State and Regional Water Quality Control Boards rejected TCA’s attempts to build the road in “segments.”

These victories, over the course of a decade, helped us achieve a landmark lawsuit settlement in 2016 that banned toll road developers from building in the park. Unfortunately, in 2017 two lawsuits were filed by the City of San Clemente and The Reserve Management Corporation to undo our park protections, and that is precisely why this new legislation is so important!

AB 1426 shores up protections we have fought so hard for, codifies the judicial decree that currently protects San Onofre State Beach, the Donna O’Neill Land Conservancy, and the San Mateo Watershed, and validates nearly 20 years of grassroots advocacy.  

The word “historic” is often overused, but in light of this legislation, today truly is a historic day.  This legislation, and previous lawsuit settlements, is the culmination of years of hard work to Save Trestles and brings an end to one of the hardest fought, longest-lasting environmental battles in California’s history.  This victory would have not been possible without the thousands of passionate and motivated advocates who stood our ground to FOREVER save Trestles.