49TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
Enough already, let's get back to work
241 Toll Road
Hello friend and neighbor,
Since our campaign for Congress kicked off in mid-January of this year, I have been very focused on national issues. I am well aware, however, that for residents of San Clemente there are two critically important local/state issues: the proposed extension of the toll road, and the current and future enjoyment of our traditional neighborhoods. Since it has felt so ominous for over a year now, I’ll start with the toll road.
I am adamantly, and indeed, morally opposed to any of the proposed routes that connect the 241 to the 5 freeway. My opposition grew throughout 2017, my first year on the TCA Board. Although there was no press release or formal “announcement” of my opposition, I made it clear through my responses to email inquiries beginning on December 7. Between December 7 and December 18 alone, I replied to 166 San Clemente residents who had emailed me about the 241. [The language of my reply is copied on the reverse side of this page.] My opposition did not develop in any kind of campaign or political realm (Darrell Issa announced on January 10, 2018 that he would not seek re-election; we entered the race after that). Rather, my opposition developed after months of listening, learning, inquiring, meeting with TCA staff, and more listening. Much of that listening was to residents of San Clemente who came to TCA board meetings month after month. That feedback was invaluable to me, and I commend all of the people who worked so hard to impact the debate. I am aware that they sacrificed work time and personal time, upending their own schedules to make an impact on the discussion. I am also aware that every minute of public comment likely involved many hours of preparation, research and general worry about the proposed plans. I am very thankful that so many took the time to make their concerns known. I am confident that the routes will be removed from the map in the coming weeks.
As for the “short connect” or proposed route 20, I remain willing to learn and listen at this time. Despite potential traffic impacts to both San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano, it would be irresponsible for me to outright and immediately oppose it for political gain. The willingness to at least consider the La Pata route may cost me your vote, but I hope you understand that I will not take a position without careful, thoughtful consideration of all available information, just to win your support. As data, technical considerations, and resident comments come in on the La Pata tie-in, I will continue the cost/benefit analysis, and inform you accordingly. And I will likely reach a formal position on it later this year. In the meantime, I welcome your feedback based on what we know at this time.
Briefly, as it regards the broader topic of the TCA, and its long-term viability and/or necessity, I do indeed have some developing concerns. If I were to ever lead or join an effort to consolidate agencies and eliminate tolls, however, it would have to be done thoughtfully and done right. This would mean a coalition of like-minded state legislators, along with at least a few regional leaders, and supportive efforts from the Governor’s office. I believe it would take a 1- to 2-year effort. Unfortunately, the recent bill filing by Assemblyman Chavez will only make future legitimate efforts to consolidate agencies and eliminate tolls more difficult. I spent several years as a Chief of Staff in a state legislature, and I can assure you that “campaign legislation” leaves a bad taste and adds a pinch of poison in the well for future legitimate reform efforts. I like Rocky on a personal level, but that was a tawdry campaign stunt, and I am very disappointed in him, as I am certain he knows better.
In summary, I am adamantly opposed to all of the proposed routes to the 5, and I am still reviewing the “short connect” to La Pata. I have developed some skepticism about the TCA operating model, and I intend to continue my review of the agency’s purpose.
STANDARD EMAIL RESPONSE BEGUN 12/7/17:
Thank you for taking the time to make your concerns known to me. The input from you and your fellow San Clemente residents has been immensely helpful. Thank you also for your patience in awaiting a reply.
As it regards the broad issue of regional transportation - do know that I continue to listen and learn, and incorporate new information. I am grateful for the information you have provided, and I will certainly review it in detail.
As for the larger anxiety about proposed routes 13, 14, and 17, I do not expect to be supporting any of the three. It is not clear to me that any of them will emerge from the feasibility study as viable – however regardless of the results of the ongoing study, I have concluded that the impact to either San Juan Capistrano or San Clemente these routes would entail, outweigh the benefits. I remain hopeful that our local, state, and federal officials can work together and forge a process and path that takes the 241 around SC and ties in to the 5 south of you, however either way I will not be supporting a route that cuts through the heart of your great city.
Thank you again for taking the time to weigh in #####. San Clemente residents have been understandably vocal, but always in an informed and productive way. I have welcomed and continue to invite your feedback. I am also available at 949-300-2254 for further discussion should you wish to be in touch.
Mayor Pro Tem. San Juan Capistrano
Another critical issue for all of us is the growth of drug treatment facilities in our neighborhoods. In the last few years, a perfect storm has resulted in an overwhelming number of homeless people here in California and the opening of new neighborhood drug treatment facilities at a record pace. (The two issues are most certainly related.) The nationwide crisis of opioid abuse and addiction, the Affordable Care Act’s creation of coverage for addiction treatment, and the availability of cheap investment capital is the perfect storm, bringing with it an overwhelming demand for services and willing and able commercial providers lined up to accommodate and profit from the need.
With all of these forces in place, the only remaining challenge for the industry is the cost of physical facilities. Typically, a medical-type setting would be limited to a certain type of structure, and one most certainly located in commercially zoned areas. As you know, that last hurdle has been routinely cleared by these operators buying and leasing neighborhood homes to house their operations. They are confident that local officials will remain paralyzed by the fear of running afoul of both state and federal fair housing laws. To date they have been largely correct.
Efforts to license and further regulate these facilities are noble. And locally, we have some highly committed and hardworking folks who are striving to do that. (No group is working harder or more comprehensively than Advocates For Responsible Treatment.) My concern is that, as with most major legislative initiatives, we will get just one bite at the apple. With that in mind, it must be a very big and game-changing bite. Requiring 600 feet between facilities will not change the fact that you or some of your neighbors are living next to tortured and struggling individuals, who are often described by the on-site supervisors as “potentially dangerous.” (I have first-hand experience with this from door-knocking during my campaign).
In January of 2019, as your Congressman, I will begin collaboration with the other U.S. Representatives and Senators who face this same challenge in their own neighborhoods, as we do. I will work to build support for legislation that will amend the Fair Housing Act (FHA) to exempt business owned/controlled housing from the auspices of the FHA. We will build on Congressman Rohrabacher’s bill, which is already an improvement over Congressman Issa’s bill as it regards the freedom municipalities would have to regulate and even disallow these neighborhood businesses. Most cities and towns do not allow boarding houses in R1 residential neighborhoods. The fact that they are leased to addicts should not change anything. There would be additional work to do at the state level as well. And I will use the bully pulpit of the local Congressman to inspire that effort. It has to be done. Sadly, there is no end in sight to this terrible scourge of addiction. And there is also no reason to think the unrelenting trend of locating these facilities in warm weather climates will otherwise ebb on its own.
I fully support the notion that a recovering and/or recovered addict or alcoholic should not suffer housing discrimination. Hence, an otherwise qualified applicant for housing should not be denied on an individual application. That is much different, however, from the broader interpretation that allows a business owner to run facilities and tap into that individual protection as a protective umbrella for their whole enterprise, with the end result being a commercial business located in a residential neighborhood. That is pure nonsense. I will take that conviction to Congress, and I will not rest until we have resolved this issue, preserving our neighborhoods for individuals and families, not businesses.
Candidate for Congress, CA D-49