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ORANGE COUNTY VOICES

Hayden Bill Threatens Quality of Life

Planning: SB 1277 could eliminate the locally preferred route for the Foothill South toll road.

May 02, 1999|STEVE APODACA | Steve Apodaca is a former mayor of San Clemente

Anti-quality-of-life extremists are again descending on Sacramento in a bid to pirate local planning and development authority from county and municipal governments. This latest assault on the autonomy of counties and cities to shape their own destinies comes in the form of legislation (SB 1277) sponsored by Sen. Tom Hayden (D-Los Angeles).

Hayden's bill, which was passed by the Senate's Natural Resources and Wildlife Committee, will effectively preclude the development of roads and other projects within state parks. If adopted, the legislation could eliminate from consideration the locally preferred alignment for the Foothill South toll road project, a vital solution to projected traffic gridlock in South County.

In its bid to achieve the narrow environmental objectives of special-interest groups, the Hayden bill effectively will undermine two decades of hard work and cooperative input by the residents and businesses of South County whose quality of life is directly threatened by the certainty of future traffic congestion. Moreover, it forecloses any reasonable transportation solutions in the region, sentencing South County to total gridlock.

Hayden's power grab is particularly disappointing in light of the Transportation Corridor Agencies' authentic efforts to balance important quality-of-life needs with the real issues of habitat preservation. The record clearly indicates that the alignments of the Foothill South project are the products of a fair, comprehensive, regulated planning process. The Hayden bill would thwart the will of the county and the city of San Clemente.

The Transportation Corridor Agencies organization, or TCA, has clearly demonstrated its commitment to safeguarding surrounding natural environments and habitats over the course of its development and operations of county toll roads. Innovative mitigation programs have been championed, employing scientific studies, endangered-species protection, habitat conservation, revegetation and habitat management.

The TCA has invested a staggering $150 million to ensure environmental-mitigation compliance of the San Joaquin Hills, Foothill North and Eastern toll roads. It is a participant and major contributor to the Central/Coastal Natural Communities Conservation Plan. In fact, TCA underwrote $6.6 million of the NCCP's $10-million endowment fund, in addition to the donation of mitigation sites to the program.

Unable to convince South County citizens that his concerns supersede the real quality-of-life issues raised by the specter of gridlock, Hayden is orchestrating an unfair commandeering of local authority in this legislation.

It peddles environmental extremism at the expense of quality of life. That's not fair to Californians in general, demonstrates little desire to achieve a compromise and ignores TCA's long track record of achieving balance between development and environmental interests.

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