California Coastal Commission votes against the six-lane Foothill South route.
Before a boisterous crowd of more than 3,500 people, commissioners decided 8 to 2 that the proposed Foothill South project violates the California Coastal Act, which is designed to regulate development along the state's 1,100-mile shoreline. They reached the conclusion following hours of sometimes heated public testimony that pitted protecting the environment against the need to relieve traffic congestion in south Orange County.
With all the talk of surfers and environmentalists, it seemed a concern for sacred sites was overlooked. But one observer sees the outcome as a convergence of interests.
She remembers being a little girl and walking with her mother and hearing the wind blow. "God's voice," her mother said to her.
"She always instilled in us a connnectedness to the land," said Robles, now in her 50s and the mother of three grown sons. "Not just the land, but to nature, people around us."
Her mother was a member of the Acjachemen Nation, which includes the Juaneño band to which Robles belongs. Part of the six-lane tollway would have coursed around and near the ancient Acjachemen (pronounced a-HOSH-a-men) village and sacred site where Robles' ancestors lived centuries ago.
"I thought it would destroy this place," she says, looking down over the San Mateo Valley in southeastern Orange County that was home to the village known as Panhe. "It's the one place in Orange County where we can come and practice our spirituality."
She's convinced the tollway would have done untold damage to the land around Panhe. She'd like to attribute part of the project's defeat to a belief that people today have a greater appreciation for Native American culture.
"The way state laws were written, Indian history wasn't protected," she says. "But maybe that's the juncture we're at now, that this part of California history is being seen as irreplaceable."
She wants people to appreciate Native American sites--not out of a sense of guilt, but from a sense of importance.
"Places like this are important to us, because it's our history, our connection to who we are," she says. "But the other part that worried me is that I'm an American. I'm a Native American, but I'm an American. I love this country. I love this country. I believe in all the stuff about freedom and justice and our ideals. We lose our greatness as a country if we lose our ideals, if we let everything be destroyed.
It's foolish to destroy a natural habitat to solve a short-term transportation problem. In other words, it's foolish to pave over paradise and put up a parking lot.
Find another solution instead. Charge for peak-hour travel. Use technology that allows more cars per road. Build a tunnel below or a second level above the freeway.
All that costs money, of course. So end the failed Bush-wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. End the tax cuts for the rich. Start putting the money where it will do some good--in a sustainable infrastructure.