Navy officials could block designation of the popular surf spot as a National Historic Landmark under a bill proposed by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, who says this would protect the current coexistence between surfers and the Marines at Trestles. The Navy owns the land, which is shared by the Marines and the public.

This Marine Corps photograph was taken at Church, one of the proposed Trestles Historic District beaches, during training Exercise Dawn Blitz in


Bill No.: H.R. 3687

Bill Name: The Military Land and National Defense Act

Introduced: Dec. 10

Summary: To amend the National Historic Preservation Act to provide that if the head of the agency managing federal property objects to the inclusion of certain property on the National Register or its designation as a National Historic Landmark for reasons of national security, the federal property shall be neither included nor designated until the objection is withdrawn, and for other purposes.

Practical application: Trestles beach area, which is leased by the state from the Navy through 2021, is in use by the Marines and owned by the Navy. It is under consideration to be included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Sources: H.R. 3687, The Register

WASHINGTON – A bill moving through the House could ultimately decide a power struggle between surfers and the Navy over the popular surfing spot Trestles Beach south of San Clemente.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, proposed the Military Land and National Defense Act in mid-December, which would give Navy officials the right to block the approval of a public request to designate the surf spot as a National Historic Landmark, and, Issa says, thereby protect the current arrangement of coexistence between the surfers and the Marines.

“This piece of legislation is critical to define the status quo,” Issa told the Register on Wednesday. “We have no objections to the designation; we have a huge concern about that designation changing or taking from our (military) training and maneuvering capability.”

The historic designation, which some say is to acknowledge the contribution the beach has had to the sport of surfing and others counter is to help block Orange County’s 241 toll road extension, would give greater authority to the state if it is granted. And Issa’s bill would give greater authority to the Navy, effectively killing the designation effort.

The beach is currently shared by the Marines, who use it for military exercises, and the public, who view it as one of the nation’s premier surfing areas. While the Navy owns the land, it leased a large portion to the state for public use; the lease expires in 2021.

The Navy does not believe Trestles qualifies for landmark status and continues to support the shared use of Trestles beach, according to Navy spokesman Lt. Greg D. Raelson, citing a 2013 letter from the Navy to California’s Office of Historic Preservation.

One Trestles advocate says he’s skeptical of a lease renewal. “We don’t know the future, as to whether the Marines will renew the lease,” said the retired founder of the San Onofre Foundation, Steve Long. “There’s a lot of speculation that they will not.”

There is some dispute over the effect the historic designation would have on the property. The Surfrider Foundation, one of the main drivers of the designation application, claims on its website that the designation will prevent, or at least make it more difficult, to carry out a 241 toll road extension. According to Long, Issa’s bill is a way to keep open the option for the toll road extension.

“I’m a little perplexed that there needs to be a law that gives the Navy the authority to overrule something that is relatively benign,” Long said.

The Marines and Issa don’t see the designation as benign. They believe the designation could reduce the military’s ability to use the property as it needs to.

“Today, everyone is saying (the designation) will have no effect,” said Issa. “But once it moves forward, if we don’t have this legislation, (we) would end up with the possibility of the court taking major pieces of maneuver areas.”

But the state disagrees with both. “A National Register listing does not automatically come with any prohibitions on public or private property,” said Jay Correia, a historian with the California Office of Historic Preservation.

Issa’s bill has been assigned to the House Natural Resources Committee, and a hearing has not been scheduled. The bill has 17 cosponsors, increasing the likelihood that it will pass through committee.

The toll road, and the designation, have been stalled.