Saturday, March 10, 2007

Can Trestles Be Saved? OC History Gives Us a Good Clue

{This is Part 7 of my special report on the proposed extension of the 241 Toll Road to San Onofre State Beach (aka Trestles). If you'd like, you can find the other stories in the "Speeding Our Way to Trestles" series here. As the debate heats up over Trestles and the 241, I'd like to go in depth and examine all the issues involved... And I'd love for you to come along for the ride as we explore what can be done to relieve traffic in South Orange County AND Save Trestles Beach. Enjoy! : ) }

Now we know the true folly of trying to build a toll road to Trestles. It won't do anything to fix South County's traffic woes. It probably won't survive all the legal hurdles that it faces in court, and on the Coastal Commission. And really, the only thing that it is guaranteed to do is to destroy the entire ecosystem of San Onofre and Trestles beach.

However, is there anything we can do to stop TCA from pursuing total madness? What can we do to save Trestles forever, and stop all this crazy talk about this immoral AND impractical toll road?

Well, perhaps history can teach us a lesson. After all, this is not the first time that we in OC have fought over the future of our beaches. Follow me down below for a wild and wonderful history lesson (illustrated with plenty of lovely pictures!) in fighting over development and saving Orange County's coastal treasures.

(Cross-posted at Calitics)

Bolsa Chica: A Beautiful Work in Progress

This truly has been a long struggle, but in then end it has certainly proven to be a beautiful one. In 1973, as part of a controversial land swap, the State of California suddenly had 300 acres of Bolsa Chica in its possession. Within a few years, the state was able to restore the land, and set it aside as an ecological preserve. However, private developers still had plans to convert the remaining wetlands into a massive development complete with marina, high-priced "luxury" residential, and commercial areas. After several years of legal battles, the developers settled with environmentalists in 1989 and agreed to pare down the development.

Then in 1997, the state acquired another 880 acres of Bolsa Chica wetlands. In 2005, 41 more acres were acquired, bringing public ownership of the Bolsa Chica to over 1,200 acres. Wetland restoration of nearly 600 acres of Bolsa Chica began in 2004... And then in August 2006, sea water flowed into the newly restored wetlands for the first time in over a century. The Bolsa Chica wetland restoration project was the largest coastal wetland restorations ever undertaken in Southern California.

Now we can't completely celebrate yet, as developer Shea Homes still wants to develop homes on fifty acres in the outskirts of the wetlands, near a flood control channel. Hopefully the Coastal Commission will reject this nonsense, and we can finally settle down and enjoy one of the last and greatest coastal wetlands in Southern California.

Crystal Cove: An Island Untouched by Time

Like the fight over Bolsa Chica, it's been a long and hard struggle to save Crystal Cove from over development and and an overpriced "luxury" resort. In the 1970s, a few longtime residents of the historic cottages were able to convince the state to set aside this pristine stretch of coast as a state park... As well as convince the State Historical Commission to recommend it for the National Register of Historical Places. But still, trouble loomed over the fate of the Cove.

Although the Irvine Company had sold all the property south of PCH to the state for a park, that did not stop them from building a new development of McMansions directly across the street... And allowing all the polluted runoff from the new McMansions from flowing down Muddy Canyon and Los Trancos Creek into Crystal Cove. And then, all had begun to seem lost when the state entertained a proposal to do away with the historic cottages and allow for a multimillion dollar private "luxury resort" to be built on the now-public parkland.

At this point, when all seemed doomed, local environmentalists put aside their differences with each other to form a coalition to stop the gentrified over development of Crystal Cove. And after many years of battling developers and the state, THE ENVIROS WON! Although the McMansions remain on the inland side of PCH, they no longer spill pollutants into the creeks feeding into the ocean. And though developers were frothing at the mouth at the possibility of establishing yet another mega-resort on OC's "Gold Coast", the historic cottages won out over the mega-resort.

Today, the beach is open for all of us to take pleasure in. And oh yes, the cottages are now open as an affordable escape for ALL OF US to enjoy. Crystal Cove will forever be a unique, timeless place that's so close to all the surrounding OC madness, yet so far away.

Laguna: The Ultimate Dream Come True

Oh yeah, speaking of unique... Nothing can ever be as uniquely dazzling as my darling Laguna! And of course, no other place in Orange County has ever been as environmentally conscious as Laguna.

In 1964, Laguna Beach developed the first access standards in an early effort to prevent over development in the hillsides and canyons. While it may have been too late to stop soon-to-be calamitous developments like Bluebird Canyon, it did begin to slow development into other parts of town. In 1967, a group of local activists founded Laguna Greenbelt, an organization that wanted to build upon these access standards, and preserve all the remaining hillsides, canyons, lakes, and open space around Laguna. And though the rest of the county was then laughing at Laguna's "eccentric" ways back then, they would soon come to appreciate all this "eccentricity".

Through the 1980s, Laguna Greenbelt and other environmentalists pushed and pushed and pushed to establish the open space around Laguna as parkland for everyone to enjoy. Heck, they even tried to get Congress to declare Laguna Canyon as a national park! However, they could not seem to find success...
Until 1990, when the Irvine Company agreed to give up its plans for development and sell the land. And oh yes, in November of that year 80% of Laguna voters agreed to tax themselves in order for their city to chip into the purchase of this last chunk of Laguna Canyon in order for the ENTIRE CANYON to be preserved as parkland for all to enjoy.

In 1991, local environmentalists then established the Laguna Canyon Foundation to ensure the good stewardship of the new Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. And since then, Laguna has continued to carry the gold standard of environmental protection and preservation in Orange County. Local activists truly have been able to work with local government, regional developers, and Laguna residents to ensure that Laguna remains as wild and wonderful as ever.

OK then, so what does this all mean for Trestles? Well, it means that there's hope! After all, look at what local activists have been able to do in saving the Bolsa Chica Wetlands. Look at what local activists have done in preserving the timeless bucolic elegance of Crystal Cove. And please do notice how Laguna has ultimately succeeded in keeping its canyons, hills, and coastline wild forever!

If we have won all these battles in preserving the natural beauty of these Orange County treasures, then WE CAN STOP THE TOTAL MADNESS THAT IS EXTENDING THE 241 TOLL ROAD TO TRESTLES! There are many great grassroots campaigns to save this unique ecosystem, and preserve it for all to enjoy.

Again, if you'd like to get active in saving San Onofre State Park and Trestles beach for all to enjoy, then please check out these fine organizations:

- Save San Onofre

- Save Trestles

- Save Trestles Blog

And whatever you do this weekend, make sure to enjoy a wild and wonderful one! I'll certainly try to do so! : )


Alex said...

Where's the love for OC Weekly's coverage of this fiasco?


Great piece of work there, Davey.

Andrew Davey said...

Thanks! And yes, I certainly do appreciate all the work that you've done on this whole controversy. In fact, I've referenced many of your articles in many of my past articles:

Thanks, Alex, for helping to make my job easier. And please do continue your good work at OC Weekly. You're one of my last hopes of The Weekly retaining ANY of the great journalism that once made it such a great read. : )

Alex said...

Hey, I'm a simple man - as long as they ask me to write and pay me for it, I'm happy to oblige. Even if I'm living in San Francisco going to law school. :-)