They say you can judge a man by the company he keeps, and the same could be said of roads. The county's plan to extend the Foothill-South Toll Road through San Onofre State Beach has precisely three friends: the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) that will build the road, the Southern Orange County Chambers of Commerce that anticipate a business boom following its construction—and someone named Mary Anna Anderson.
Anderson penned a May 14 letter to the Los Angeles Times in response to "They'd Pave Over Reagan's Park," a May 8 column excoriating the TCA plan.
"There is currently only one way in and out of San Clemente—Interstate 5," Anderson wrote. "An accident or freeway closure makes our community an island with no escape route."
Everybody hates traffic jams, and nobody can fault 500,000 South County residents who'd be eager to get the hell out of Dodge if the nearby San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station goes critical. But what of critics who say the road will destroy San Onofre State Park? No problem, Anderson says. It's possible to balance road building and nature, and "TCA has proved it."
Few would agree. The Foothill-South Toll Road's many critics include Friends of the Foothills, a ragtag rebel alliance of residents, elected officials, conservation groups and even homeowners' associations; Surfrider Foundation, the San Clemente-based international beach preservation group especially eager to protect the world-famous surf break at Trestles; the state Department of Fish & Game, concerned about the road's impact on protected species in and around nearby San Mateo Creek; the Juaneño Tribal Council, which represents the county's oldest indigenous residents; the California State Parks Department that oversees San Onofre; the California Coastal Commission, which raised concerns about the project's coastal impact; and Attorney General Bill Lockyer.
Who's Mary Anna Anderson? She doesn't say, choosing only to list herself as a San Clemente resident. Readers might have been interested to learn that she's also board president of the San Clemente Ocean Festival, a group backed by the TCA. The 29th annual Ocean Festival last month featured sports, arts and crafts celebrating the ocean. And it's always looking for supporters. Go to oceanfestival.org, and you'll see that donors are ranked by their contributions to Anderson's group, from Seahorse to Whale. The TCA comes in close to Whale, and just behind Killer Whale, at Shark.