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 passed the Assembly Floor on a bipartisan 61-10 concurrence vote.
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.
For nearly two decades, 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. This bill will put into law the settlement reached in 2016 between the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA), the Save San Onofre Coalition, and the State has prevented road construction to date.
“AB 1426 will make sure that the hard work and advocacy of everyone who has fought to keep this place protected cannot be undone,” said Assemblymember Boerner Horvath. “Protecting this park in statute will bring an end to the years of litigation, and today’s vote brings us one step closer to protecting this special place for future generations of campers, birders, hikers, fishermen, and surfers.”
As one of the top five most visited parks in the entire system, San Onofre State Beach and its last-of-its kind coastal watershed attract more than 2.5 million visitors every year. This popularity has driven thousands to organize in opposition to these construction plans on a scale unparalleled in the state’s history.
“Protecting San Onofre State Beach is critical to realizing the inclusive vision of the California Coastal Act,” said Ben McCue, Executive Director of Outdoor Outreach. “AB 1426 will help our state’s ability to provide for meaningful coastal experiences that enhance our communities’ health, wellness, and quality of life.”
“We are thrilled this historic park protection legislation is on its way to Governor Newsom’s desk,” said Stefanie Sekich-Quinn of the Surfrider Foundation. “The bill cements nearly 15 years of grassroots advocacy to permanently protect all the invaluable cultural, recreational and ecological resources at San Onofre State Beach.”
The realities of COVID-19 pandemic have made it clear just how essential access to natural places is to the mental and physical health of all Californians. This bill guarantees that 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.
AB 1426 enjoys broad support from a variety of conservation, labor, and business groups. It now heads to the Governor’s desk for his signature.