SACRAMENTO — AB 1426, by Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas), to enshrine in state law a settlement agreement protecting San Onofre State Beach from infrastructure development was signed by Governor Newsom. This marks the successful conclusion of what has been a nearly two-decade fight to save the iconic world class surf spot, Trestles, and the surrounding state park, which is enjoyed by more than 2.5 million yearly visitors.
AB 1426 prohibits any transportation agency or government entity from authorizing, funding, or constructing any new infrastructure that encroaches on the land currently protected by a combination of San Onofre State Beach and the Richard H. and Donna O’Neill Conservancy.
Ever since the early 2000’s, a broad coalition of conservation groups have advocated against the use of the park in a proposal to build a multi-lane extension from the Foothill south toll road in Orange County south to Highway 5. The signing of AB 1426 into law codifies the settlement reached in 2016 between the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA), the Save San Onofre Coalition, and the State that has prevented road construction to date.
“I am incredibly grateful to all of the amazing people who have kept the pressure up over all these years to bring us to this point,” said Assemblymember Boerner Horvath. “This new law ensures that the hard work of everyone who fought to save this park cannot be undone. This is a huge victory for the cause of conservation in Southern California and for the future generations of surfers, bikers, hikers, and fishermen who will be able to enjoy this special park just as we have.”
In addition to being one of the top-five most visited parks in the entire system, San Onofre State Beach is also home to the last remaining undeveloped watershed in Southern California, the San Mateo Creek. Proposed road projects would have bisected the stretch of the park where the creek runs, ruining the popular campground and disturbing the habitats of some rare and endangered species.
“Signing AB 1426 into law provides the permanent protection for San Onofre State Beach that this critical state park deserves,” declared Rachel Norton, Executive Director of the California State Parks Foundation, the sponsor of the bill. “In this current pandemic, the importance and need for access to state parks and outdoor recreation has become clear. AB 1426’s passage ensures that the much-needed recreation and coastal access that San Onofre State Beach provides will not be threatened again.”
“The time, talent, and energy that thousands of Save San Onofre and Save Trestles supporters put in over the last two decades has finally been honored,” said Stefanie Sekich Quinn, Coastal Protection Manager for Surfrider Foundation. “For years, coastal advocates and park supporters led the charge for protecting the park and Trestles – whether it was packing numerous public hearings, attending surf events and paddle-outs, or lobbying legislators. We’re thrilled that Governor Newsom and the Legislature agree that protecting San Onofre State Beach is a clear state priority.”
“This is a huge win for California coastal protection,” said Damon Nagami, Senior Attorney and Director of the NRDC’s Southern California Ecosystems Project. “As we face a biodiversity crisis and inequitable access to nature, AB 1426 erases the threat of road construction through a popular state park that would harm endangered species and eliminate affordable coastal accommodations for low-income families. Governor Newsom’s signature cements these protections into law with bipartisan support.”
“San Onofre State Beach contains San Mateo Creek, the last remaining undammed coastal watershed in southern California,” said Dan Silver, Executive Director of the Endangered Habitats League. “The park is home to eleven threatened and endangered species whose survival rests on a protected, intact ecosystem. With AB 1426, we’ve not only preserved the park for our recreation and enjoyment, we’re helping those species survive and thrive.”
The signing of AB 1426 ensures one of the state’s most beloved beaches will remain undisturbed at a time when local trips to enjoy the outdoors are more important than ever. The new law will take effect on January 1st, 2021.