Or, How to Fool a County.
To soothe concerns that their 241 (Foothill-South) toll road extension would rape the environment, destroy endangered species and habitat, pave over archaeological and sacred sites, close the San Mateo Campground, bisect inland San Onofre State Beach and possibly impact the world-famous surfing at Trestles, the road-building Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) offered the state a real oogie cookie. They propose a scant $100 Million to be used towards state parks, specifically San Onofre and Crystal Cove. The oogiest part of this cookie is that it's about 70% horse crap, but that didn't stop Governor Schwarzenegger from endorsing the offer. Still, if we make sure he's the last to spout off on the merits of the 241, then he has to eat it.
The cookie, that is.
Nevermind that State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, State Parks Foundation President Elizabeth Goldstein and local park supporters find the offer grossly inadequate. Nevermind that no amount of money WOULD be adequate, as both State Parks and the Coastal Commission staff consider the impacts of the project unmitigatable (as in, too serious to be covered by any amount of money). What's REALLY FANTASTICALLY FUNNY is that only a measly 30% of the TCA's pathetically small sum would go to the parks. The other 70% would supposedly cover the renewal of San Onofre State Beach's lease, due to expire in 2021.
Read on to see how even THAT $70 million estimate is horribly wrong.
Originally, State Parks paid only one dollar ($1.00) for the lease – it's what lawyers call a “nominal fee”, meant to be more symbolic than anything else. Still, the TCA claims that the lease agreement calls for a renegotiation considering the land's “fair market value.”
Sounds reasonable – except it's not true. While US Code Title 10 Section 2667 (b)(4) states that a lease of military lands shall provide for payment “an amount that is not less than the fair market value of the lease interest,” there's more to the law than the TCA expects you to know. Continue on down the page to subsection f (2), which allows the military to accept less than fair market value for a lease provided “a public interest will be served as a result of the lease and the fair market value of the lease is unobtainable or not compatible with such public benefit.” When the Navy first granted State Parks a lease in 1971 to create San Onofre State Beach, the State only had to pay $1.00 in rent for all 50 years of the lease. “The fair market value of the property at that time clearly exceeded one dollar,” a Coastal Commission Staff Report points out. It also reiterates a point made to the Commission in 2006 – that “there is no longer adequate open space coastal property to replace that which would be lost at SOSB.”
Do you get that? There isn't enough coastal property like San Onofre to replace what we'd lose if we destroy it. Not in the entire state. We'd destroy the majority of California's last untainted coastal land in one fell swoop. Well, the TCA would – but we would have to let them.
So is the TCA proposing that State Parks pay the Department of the Navy a totally unnecessary $70 Million? If not, why not lump more of that money into actual mitigation? Are they fully aware that no amount of money could possibly make up for the damage they desperately hope to cause? Or, considering the lawsuits and public outcry against the project, maybe the TCA simply has no idea what the law is.