Op-Ed: SANDAG Needs an RTP Do-Over

On October 28, 2011, the SANDAG Board of Directors adopted its 2050 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). SANDAG’s claims for the quality of its RTP can be found at its web site. You can also find a transcript of citizens’ comments voiced that day at that site. I cannot attest to the quality of the transcript; I do know that what I presented in public comment in the very short time allocated was clearer than the transcript reveals; I was one of many people who made comments.

As well described in a recent IVN story California Superior California Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor found that SANDAG had violated state law by failing to account for climate change and greenhouse gas emissions in the RTP. The first SANDAG meeting following this decision was last Friday (12/7/12) and although this decision and SANDAG’s response to it was a topic for closed session it was not on the public meeting agenda and therefore only non-agenda public comment was allowed. I was the only person who chose to comment on this at that meeting.

A fellow member of SanDiego350.org, Masada Disenhouse, was generous in providing much of the information used; any errors in interpretation or logic are mine. Following are my verbatim comments:

Following your approval of the RTP, the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club sued you for violating the CA Climate Solutions Act of 2006 and other laws. The Attorney General of CA (Kamala Harris) joined the law suit. A superior court judge just agreed with them this week and you are considering appealing.

If SANDAG appeals, they are very likely to lose and here’s why:

•  The plan is fundamentally flawed and doesn’t get us to where we need to be in 2050. Rather than achieving CA greenhouse gases reduction goals, it promotes further sprawl. To meet the ambitious emissions reductions required by CA executive order S-3-05 in later years, significant land-use & transportation changes need to be made now. Transit and appropriate land use must be an immediate priority in this plan.

•  The RTP fails to address real transit needs in San Diego County. They front-loaded more freeway lanes and back-loaded transit in the plan. Why? Did they think, once these lanes are built, they must stay? Were they thinking the state will run out of money in twenty years, and we won’t have to build out transit? Automobiles are expensive and require parking that the city doesn’t seem to be able to properly price. I live in Tierrasanta, and I need a car because it takes SO long to take public transit to get anywhere. I drive to Qualcomm, or often Old Town, to catch a trolley for downtown – if I’m going downtown. I love the trolley – but look at a trolley map…see how few neighborhoods are actually served by them? Spend some of that four-more-lanes-of-freeway money to develop alternative transit.

Here’s some more reasons SANDAG is likely to lose on appeal:

• They ignored thousands of public comments and a letter from the Attorney General’s office.

• They did not do what your constituents wanted. Californians, including San Diegans, voted down Proposition 23 in support of AB32.

• The impacts that climate change will cause for San Diego County include wildfires, droughts, and coastal flooding that will be more intense and frequent. Temperatures will be more extreme, and native plants and animals will disappear.

We were the first county to produce a plan under the new state greenhouse gases reduction requirements. It should serve as a good example. Take this opportunity to have San Diego County lead on climate change, to move to a clean energy economy, to show we value the future for our children and grandchildren.

(Following its closed session, SANDAG released a statement which included in part: “the SANDAG Board of Directors authorized its attorneys to meet with the petitioners, as they have requested, to continue settlement talks.  Resolving differences over the interpretation of climate change regulations will benefit all parties involved.  The Board also directed the legal staff to seek appeal if settlement discussions are not fruitful.”)

Photo credit: you-are-here.com