Friday, February 15, 2008

TCA $100 Million Offer Really Was $30 Million One Dollar

I spent Wednesday, February 6th in Del Mar as the California Coastal Commission considered letting the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) build a six lane toll road through San Onofre State Park. When sick, I go to work as my employer has personal time off mixing vacation and sick days, but it was a day well spent as the Commissioners voted to save the park by a vote of 8 to 2.

Despite the fact that the current California State budget is $145 billion, something like forty Orange County elected officials addressed the California Coastal Commission and repeated the TCA’s bullet point that the $100 million dollars was a gift for the state parks that was desperately needed. The $100,000,000 TCA suggested mitigation measure is small compared to the $145,500,000,000 budget. In additional, the $100 million may really be only $30 million and one dollar.

The meeting started at 9 AM with the Toll Road agenda item starting about 10 AM. At 10 PM public input was closed and the Commissioners got their turn. A couple of Commissioners read their speeches from their laptop computers. Then it was Commissioner Steve Blank’s turn, a fairly new member appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said he did not have a prepared speech, but was confused and asked TCA CEO Tom Margro to return to the podium. It was the highlight of the meeting. I do not know if this is verbatim, but it does sound very close to what was said (from who did manage to get the commissioner’s name wrong which I have corrected):

COMMISIONER BLANK: “I was led to understand [San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station’s] operating license was contingent upon having an approved evacuation plan. Has the government declared their plan inadequate?”
TCA CEO: No - but can I elaborate?
COMMISIONER BLANK: No, thank you, you’ve answered the question.
Commissioner Blank then cited the TCA’s threat that it could cost $70 Million to renew the lease for the state park.
COMMISIONER BLANK: “Has the Navy ever denied the renewal of a lease of a state park?”
TCA CEO: “I can’t answer that question.”
COMMISIONER BLANK: “I believe the answer is no.”
Commissioner Blank went on to cite law and fair market value which would potentially allow for the lease to be renewed at less than $70 Million.
COMMISIONER BLANK: “Doesn’t this mean there is a clear path for the lease to be renewed at a price other than $70 Million dollars?”
TCA CEO: “It’s possible.”
COMMISIONER BLANK: “Since Navy didn’t ask for $70 million dollars … Is it possible that they might ask for a dollar in 2021?”
TCA CEO: “If they make findings.”
COMMISIONER BLANK: “So really at best it’s a $30 Million dollar proposal”
TCA CEO: “I would say it is a $100 million dollar proposal – for state parks.”
COMMISIONER BLANK: “Or a $30 Million dollar proposal?”
TCA CEO: “Or $30 million – which still benefits state parks.”
COMMISIONER BLANK: “I have another question - Is there a price tag for a state park?
TCA CEO: “Not that I’m aware of.”


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