California, An Endangered Species.

The past and the present. I was born at this location in San Marcos (San Diego County), California in 1956. Ten or fifteen years ago I could have found my way here nearly blindfolded. I had to really search for it this time–nearly all recognizable landmarks are gone. Quiet country living has given way to a freeway and strip malls.

Sam Soderberg and neighbor friend.

During the first half of the twentieth century there was what could be called a romance of California living. Frank Lloyd Wright once used the term California Romanza. City life was in a patchwork of what are called urban villages. Both San Diego and Los Angeles had a grid of metropolitan trolley lines. Planners in those days built many bungalows and bungalow courts along these trolley lines. In San Diego of 1947 you paid a nickel to ride anywhere among the urban villages. Downtown, North Park, Kensington, Normal Heights, Hillcrest, Mission Hills, University Heights were among the familiar names along the way. Many dwellings came without garages–it was typical for many to get around without an automobile.

But city living was only one option when living the California Romanza. There was also the country life. Quiet, wide open spaces and fresh air. San Marcos of 1956 was a part of a much more expansive patchwork of areas perhaps too sparsely populated to be called villages. You really only became aware of entering San Marcos because of a cluster of signs indicating the agricultural organizations of the area. The chicken population of San Marcos was vastly greater than the human population.

Gone are the picket fences, the old farm houses, chicken ranches, and livestock. Echo Lane, which was then a dirt road (It washed out during wet years) is now a drive way into the parking lot for big box retailers including Home Depot.

The sign at the edge of the property read “Echo Lane Kennels.” My mom and dad raised beagles and won a shelf full of trophies and ribbons from dog shows. We had this horse for a short time. It was a temperamental creature that liked to throw its rider and kick.

Not a horse friendly sight now. The parking lot and architecture could really be anywhere. All across the country there are countless such developments. A homogeneous strip mall model has cookie-cut its way from one end of the country to the other. The landscaping here falls into a term commonly used: “mitigation.” When enough people decry the ugliness of a development, a few bushes and trees are added to “mitigate” the impact.

These were the “star” breeders for Echo Lane Kennels, Marilyn and Joe–named after Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio. These two beagles produced many a prize winning offspring.

Sam and Zack Soderberg

And there were sheep. A child’s life centered around household animals and livestock on several acres of land can only be found in California nowadays in areas far more remote than San Marcos. Once just a dot on the map, San Marcos today is joined at the hip with Escondido as a mini megalopolis.

No longer a place where “the sheep and the antelope play.” One of the reasons so many of us “old timers” got involved with the effort to save Trestles and San Onofre State Park is because we have witnessed the huge change in California in our life time. The creation of the California Coastal Commission was largely the result of a realization that California was being lost to development. Having this commission was a figurative drawing of a line in the sand. We’ve pretty much lost the interior of California to freeways, subdivisions and strip malls. The country life of communities such as San Marcos is gone forever. But the creation of the Coastal Commission was to say “hands off” when it comes to the coastal corridor. Yet even with that, it is a difficult struggle to keep what is left.

This small country house I was born in was certainly no Buckingham palace. However it was very sad when I drove by here in June of 1983 and found the old familiar gravel driveway no longer attached to any structure.

The house used to be on the left side. Straight ahead there was a barn. Nothing left in 1983 but the foundations and rubble.

The kennel and former home of Joe and Marilyn. My dad told me that shortly after I learned to walk I became very adapt at climbing this fence. He seemed to enjoy recalling how my toes curled around the wire just as my fingers did when scaling the fence.

And then it came to this. A pile of rubble in 1983. Finally a parking lot and strip mall.

And Echo Lane is no more. This is like a metaphor of what has happened to California. An echo barely heard of a time prior to the day of the red trolley cars being sent to the junk yards. Before public transit was forsaken. Before the automobile and freeways became priority. In fact this is how my family came to leave San Marcos. The freeway built there lopped off part of our property. And once the freeway went in, everything else followed. Many of us who have seen this play out time and time again in California had to step up and say “NO!” to the freeway proposal through San Onofre State Park. Once a park is gone it doesn’t come back. Just as Echo Lane will never be again.

Highway From Hell. The Effort To Save Trestles.

PLEASE NOTE: The update A VICTORY FOR TRESTLES link is below at the end of this piece.

“Tricky Dick” may have been many things. But Richard Nixon wasn’t without fine taste in choosing this site for his “Western White House” during his years as U.S. President. His house was a top this bluff which provides a fine view of the beach and surfing spot known as Trestles.

It is called Trestles because of the train track and trestles that ride along the coastline through here. This is part of some 3,000 acres that comprise San Onofre State Park. In addition to the beach area the park includes the San Mateo Creek and San Mateo Campgrounds–all designated as a State Park in 1971 by Governor Ronald Reagan.

The trestles at Trestles. The San Mateo Creek is one of the few relatively unobstructed streams remaining on the west coast.

The lack of serious stream obstruction allows mother nature to replenish the beach area with renewed silt and sand. Most areas along the coast that have lost flowing streams to the ocean (because of development) now have eroding beaches. Trestles boasts an abundant broad beach.

A tree as driftwood. Another material critical to the nature of this beach are the large round river rocks that tumble downstream during significant storms. These rocks form the foundation of reefs along Trestles that make this one of the premier surfing locations on the planet. The consistent waves at Trestles are characterized by their sloping wide faces giving a surfer ample room to “carve it up.”

Trestles isn’t a beach you drive up to or easily reach. It is about a mile walk or so–depending on which stretch of State Park Beach you prefer. The scenery and environment along the way is extraordinary.

But now this beautiful and rare State Park is in danger. “Powers that be” want to transform parkland into a new freeway called “The Toll Road.” Because of worsening traffic jams on over crowded Interstate 5, the plan is to do what they’ve always done in California, build more freeway. In the photo above you see Interstate 5, the upper bridge structure. The bridge below used to be U.S. 101. Back in the days of U.S. 101 everyone complained about how bad the traffic was. So Interstate 5 was built. It was supposed to be the solution to all the traffic problems. “The solution was short lived. There are stretches of Interstate 5 that have been expanded numerous times since its completion back in the 1960’s. Yet no matter how many lanes are added and added again, we end up in the same old problem. Too much traffic. Now the transportation and traffic planners are at it again. The idea is for San Onofre State park to be sacrificed at the altar for the all mighty automobile gods. And since this freeway, a toll road, is a private enterprise–a private development–someone is going to make a lot of money from this wholesale decimation of this gorgeous natural preserve. One wise comment I heard “They”re trying to solve a 21st Century problem with a 1960’s solution.”

These concrete monstrosities have a severe impact on the land, the vegetation and the animals. The native coastal chaparral becomes significantly disturbed by the huge shadow and lack of sunshine these structures impose. The problem developers and planners refuse to look at is that no matter how many freeways we build it will never be enough. “If you keep doing the same old thing, you’ll keep getting the same old results.”

Here is a view of the parkland that will be lost. The dirt path here will give way to earth movers, backhoes, and tractors. Then the landscape will be scarred and then blighted with looming bands of concrete and steel. Once we lose so much of this State Park, which State Park or Natural Wonder will be next? Why must we be fighting the battles all over again that such people as Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir had to wage? As long as there is greed and shortsighted policy, the struggle will always persist. Arnold Schwarzenegger likes this project and is pushing for it.

The Surfrider Foundation, among many other groups, has fought this project long and hard. Here is the sidewalk demonstration I attended on Saturday, February 2 in San Clemente.

The demonstration is working up to a more comprehensive show of force at a California Coastal Commission meeting to be held in Del Mar on February 6th. A decision on the issue may well be forthcoming from this meeting. Surfrider Foundation and The Sierra Club, among others, are planning and seeking a large turnout of members and friends for this meeting.

At least a hundred residents and members were there. All ages, men, women, boys and girls.

Two leg demonstrators, four leg demonstrators. In this case, 3 leg demonstrator.

Three legs are not a handicap for “Lucky.” He moves about just as if he had 4 legs.

Lots of horn honking in support of the demonstration that day.

Save Trestles Demonstration_35

Join me for the California Coastal Commission meeting on Wednesday February 6th, 9 A.M. at the Del Mar Fairgrounds—at Wyland Hall 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd. Del Mar, CA 92014 – Just off the I-5 in Del Mar at Via de la Valle exit. This is the most important hearing in regards to the future Trestles and San Onofre State Park, as the Commission will hear the application for the Foothill South Toll Road.

For Further info

My other pictures of Saturday’s rally in San Clemente:

UPDATE: (click below)

A Victory For Trestles