The California Coastal Commission is in San Diego this week, holding meetings from January 8–10 at the Catamaran Resort on Mission Bay.
On Thursday, the group took comments on the so-called North Coast Corridor Public Works Plan before heading out on a field trip to view some of the 34 projects planned or in progress from Del Mar to Oceanside related to highway improvements/expansions, rail and transit work, and environmental protection/restoration.
Before commission members and citizens boarded a bus supplied by North County Transit or joined the caravan of private vehicles trailing behind, the commission agreed to delay issuing a final decision on the plan until at least June, with a decision more likely coming around August.
The first of two stops for the tour was at Overlook Park, above the San Dieguito Lagoon, where mitigation work to offset the environmental impact of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating station is ongoing. As part of implementation of the public works plan, the San Diego Association of Governments would expand upon restoration efforts here and at several other lagoons bisected by Interstate 5 as the freeway travels through North County.
Along with the environmental benefits, however, comes a massive freeway-expansion project that could add as many as 140,000 cars per day to the already heavily trafficked I-5. The environmental group known as the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, which has also challenged SANDAG's broader Regional Transit Plan, in December filed a suit to block the freeway plan.
Foundation president Jack Shu questioned the portrayal of the environmental work at San Dieguito and elsewhere as being part of the public works plan that his group has challenged, implying instead that the habitat restoration was already required as a result of damage done by existing roadways and infrastructure.
Trip organizers declined to address his query, requesting that public comment be restricted to another venue.
"We have no problem with lagoon restoration," Shu later told the Reader. "It's just the way it's portrayed as being tied to this new expansion when it shouldn't be."
The bus stopped again at the San Elijo Lagoon on the border of Solana Beach and Encinitas. Trip sponsors pointed out plans to double the length of the bridge used by I-5 to traverse the lagoon, allowing for a more open design underneath that would cause less interference with tidal flow in and out of the marshland.
On the drive, points of interest that didn't merit a stop included a bike path connecting the Sorrento Valley Transit Station with UC San Diego at the Genesee Avenue exit and aesthetic improvements along Lomas Santa Fe Drive.
Other non-freeway improvements addressed included the installation of new retaining walls to shore up hillsides affected by lane additions, additional bridges to provide pedestrian and bicycle access across the freeway, and development of 27 miles of bike paths throughout coastal North County.