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Judge Is Asked to Block Marines’ Housing Project

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In what has become a battle over the housing needs of Marines versus the preservation of a coastal site, a federal judge was asked Monday to halt a housing project on a beachfront bluff of Camp Pendleton.

The San Clemente-based Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit group dedicated to protecting the state’s beaches, filed suit last summer to stop the construction of 120 duplexes for officers’ quarters on the base’s northwest corner near what was President Nixon’s Western White House and close to a popular state beach used by surfers.

“I would like to ask this court to stop this project because it doesn’t make any sense,” Surfrider Foundation attorney Tom Davis told U.S. District Court Judge Rudi Brewster. “It doesn’t make any sense environmentally; it doesn’t make any sense economically.”

The Surfrider Foundation opposes the military housing site because the 33 acres of oceanfront property at San Mateo Point includes a protected wetlands reserve and is near Trestles, a world-famous surfing area.

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Surfers have argued that putting housing on the site is as outrageous as putting housing near Half Dome in Yosemite, and that surely there are other spots on the 125,000-acre base.

But Tom Stall, attorney for the U.S. Marine Corps, argued that the site is needed for officers who train troops on the northern part of the sprawling base and that it is one of the last flat spots available.

“This is not pristine land here, it’s not Yosemite Valley,” Stall said.

Stall argued that the area already has buildings, which were used by the Secret Service during Nixon’s tenure, and an asphalt road used by the state Park Service. The site was once used by the Coast Guard for a navigational radar station.

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Department of Defense attorney Joel Armstrong, talking to the judge via speaker phone, told Brewster that four sites in the southern area of the base were considered but rejected because of the commute time.

The foundation says the military has not complied with the National Environmental Policy Act and wants the Marines to prepare an environmental impact statement on the project.

Stall said the 60 buildings or 120 units will house between 360 and 600 people, with 896 automobile trips per day in the area. He said 41,600 gallons of sewage and 1,927 pounds of solid waste will be generated each day. And, Stall said, there would no longer be a buffer between Orange County and Camp Pendleton.

Construction is scheduled to begin Jan. 9. Brewster said he did not expect to issue a decision until that day or the day before.

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The project won the endorsement in October of the California Coastal Commission.

The Marine Corps says more than 1,000 officers are waiting for base housing.


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