AG Sues Over San Diego’s Transportation Future

AG Sues Over San Diego’s Transportation Future

Photo by Sam Hodgson

Sandag’s 2050 transportation plan focuses more heavily on expanding San Diego roadways than expanding rail capabilities.

 

As the public agency responsible for planning San Diego’s transportation future drafted plans to spend $200 billion on roads, bikeways and public transit over the next 40 years, the state kept watch.

The San Diego Association of Governments was the first regional agency to have to comply with a new state law requiring its transportation plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next 25 years. The governor’s office and state Attorney General Kamala Harris said the plan didn’t go far enough to get San Diego drivers off the road and into buses, trolleys or bike lanes.

On Monday, Harris sued, putting more heft behind a similar lawsuit that local and national environmental groups filed after Sandag approved its plan last year. The suits both show that neither the state nor environmentalists want to see Sandag’s approach become precedent in California — and are willing to fight.

“The 3.2 million residents of the San Diego region already suffer from the seventh worst ozone pollution in the country,” Harris said in a news release. “Spending our transit dollars in the right way today will improve the economy, create sustainable jobs and ensure that future generations do not continue to suffer from heavily polluted air.”

We’ve previously summed up one of the chief criticisms of Sandag’s plan:

The state has said Sandag must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7 percent by 2020 and 13 percent by 2035. …

Sandag’s plan exceeds the state’s immediate goal of 7 percent emissions reduction by 2020 and just meets the goal of a 13 percent reduction by 2035. But once the state’s goals go away, Sandag’s plan allows emissions reductions to decrease.

If you want to understand why Harris sued and what the transportation plan is all about, here are three easy steps.

1. Read our story detailing exactly how San Diego’s local transportation planning became a big statewide issue. Or just read these two key sentences: “As California looks to combat climate change, it’s looking to regional planning agencies like Sandag to be on the front lines of the fight against greenhouse gas emissions. Recent state laws have worked toward reductions by encouraging agencies to promote less sprawling development and transportation networks that include more transit options.”

2. Watch our San Diego Explained segment that looks at what the heck a $200 billion — billion! — transportation plan is all about. Just how does the region plan to spend all that money on roads, trolleys and buses? Watch this:

3. Check out this quick summary from our editor, Andrew Donohue, that pulls out five key things about the transportation plan. They’re a bit dated, but the top point is still vital to understand: Sandag’s plan makes major investments in public transit, but spends more on roads first.

I’ve asked Sandag to respond to the suit; I’ll update this post with their response when I get it.

Update: Jerome Stocks, the Encinitas mayor and Sandag chairman, called to say he was frustrated and disappointed that Harris would use taxpayer money to sue another taxpayer-funded public agency.

Asked about the specifics of the case, Stocks demurred.

“I’m certainly not going to present a legal brief in the media,” he said.

Rob Davis is a senior reporter at voiceofsandiego.org. You can contact him directly at rob.davis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0529.

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Rob Davis

Rob Davis

Rob Davis is a former senior reporter for Voice of San Diego. He is currently a freelance writer in San Diego. He can be reached at robdaviswrites@gmail.com or 619.259.0529.

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40 comments
Jeff Sanders
Jeff Sanders subscriber

According to that Air Resources Board chart, the San Diego region is about 7th in this state and way below the level in some other areas.

jskdn2
jskdn2

According to that Air Resources Board chart, the San Diego region is about 7th in this state and way below the level in some other areas.

Cooper Pilot
Cooper Pilot subscriber

I'm from Southern California. You are NOT going to get me out of my car. I'm fine with a little pollution and two hour commutes. Better than public transit.

cooperpilotsd
cooperpilotsd

I'm from Southern California. You are NOT going to get me out of my car. I'm fine with a little pollution and two hour commutes. Better than public transit.

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin subscribermember

In Addition, The attorney General has should have no role in these kind of decisions.

mgland
mgland

In Addition, The attorney General has should have no role in these kind of decisions.

Sara_K
Sara_K subscribermember

In the first decade, the RTP/SCS invests 28% more on highway projects than on expanding the transit system. These funds are guaranteed; funding for later transit projects is not. How many roads will we need to accommodate projected population growth?

Sara_K
Sara_K

In the first decade, the RTP/SCS invests 28% more on highway projects than on expanding the transit system. These funds are guaranteed; funding for later transit projects is not. How many roads will we need to accommodate projected population growth?

Cooper Pilot
Cooper Pilot subscriber

Oh come on, folks. This is a car place, and people are not going to get out of the cars. It's all cars, and it will stay cars, even when our lungs are sprouting growths from all the pollution and it takes an hour to get from Clairemont to downtown. We like our cars, and are not going to give them up to go sit with stinky people on public transit.

cooperpilotsd
cooperpilotsd

Oh come on, folks. This is a car place, and people are not going to get out of the cars. It's all cars, and it will stay cars, even when our lungs are sprouting growths from all the pollution and it takes an hour to get from Clairemont to downtown. We like our cars, and are not going to give them up to go sit with stinky people on public transit.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

It's insanity that anyone even listens, and it's yet another indication that we should split from Sacramento and become our own state.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

It's insanity that anyone even listens, and it's yet another indication that we should split from Sacramento and become our own state.

Gerald Hosenkamp
Gerald Hosenkamp subscriber

Rest easy, folks. The law suit will solve everything. I'm sure Ms. Harris has included an easily implemented solution! Perhaps costly, but so what.

GBH1
GBH1

Rest easy, folks. The law suit will solve everything. I'm sure Ms. Harris has included an easily implemented solution! Perhaps costly, but so what.

Sara_K
Sara_K subscribermember

The public will be best served by prioritizing alternatives that get us away from increasingly expensive, polluting fossil fuels. We don't have enough open space, water and energy resources to accommodate endless sprawl. SANDAG needs to free its staff resources to develop feasible alternatives to roads-only options for the future.

Sara_K
Sara_K

The public will be best served by prioritizing alternatives that get us away from increasingly expensive, polluting fossil fuels. We don't have enough open space, water and energy resources to accommodate endless sprawl. SANDAG needs to free its staff resources to develop feasible alternatives to roads-only options for the future.

Jacqueline Mary
Jacqueline Mary subscriber

We also need decent public transit to serve the poor and the tourism industry. How are people supposed to get and keep jobs without access to decent and affordable transportation? How is our tourism industry going to remain competitive without decent public transit?

jacquelinemry
jacquelinemry

We also need decent public transit to serve the poor and the tourism industry. How are people supposed to get and keep jobs without access to decent and affordable transportation? How is our tourism industry going to remain competitive without decent public transit?

Don Wood
Don Wood subscriber

Stocks is about to lead SANDAG into a monumental legal and public relations defeat. The SANDAG board needs to appoint someone far less dogmatic to lead them. The only way SANDAG isn't going to lose this suit would be to sit down with the AG's office and the plaintiffs and agree to modify the plan so that it complies with state law.

Don Wood
Don Wood

Stocks is about to lead SANDAG into a monumental legal and public relations defeat. The SANDAG board needs to appoint someone far less dogmatic to lead them. The only way SANDAG isn't going to lose this suit would be to sit down with the AG's office and the plaintiffs and agree to modify the plan so that it complies with state law.

Masada Disenhouse
Masada Disenhouse subscriber

Happy to see that the AG joined the suit. The SANDAG plan totally did not meet California's climate laws and they needed to be called out on it. I hope the result is a better plan that has San Diego doing its part to prevent the worst climate impacts (more wildfires, drought, coastal flooding, etc here in SD)

mdsd
mdsd

Happy to see that the AG joined the suit. The SANDAG plan totally did not meet California's climate laws and they needed to be called out on it. I hope the result is a better plan that has San Diego doing its part to prevent the worst climate impacts (more wildfires, drought, coastal flooding, etc here in SD)

Lucas OConnor
Lucas OConnor subscriber

It's an odd system being advocated here, that laws only apply based on personal preference. That's traditionally worked out really well.

lucasoconnor
lucasoconnor

It's an odd system being advocated here, that laws only apply based on personal preference. That's traditionally worked out really well.

Dianne Parham
Dianne Parham subscriber

Greed and cars traditionally win out over the environment in this county. Unfortunately, when we have destroyed the last of the environment, we will make ourselves extinct. What a good idea. If the government doesn't protect the environment, corporations certainly won't. Too many corporate managers and politicians (including developers and their minions) basically don't care about anything but profits and stuffing bonuses in the pockets of CEOs and stockholders no matter how much of the atmosphere and water is destroyed (guess they are planning on moving to another planet when they are done wrecking this one). Protecting our limited resources is exactly what I would want our tax dollars to do. Better that than building a stadium for a billionaire.

dialyn
dialyn

Greed and cars traditionally win out over the environment in this county. Unfortunately, when we have destroyed the last of the environment, we will make ourselves extinct. What a good idea. If the government doesn't protect the environment, corporations certainly won't. Too many corporate managers and politicians (including developers and their minions) basically don't care about anything but profits and stuffing bonuses in the pockets of CEOs and stockholders no matter how much of the atmosphere and water is destroyed (guess they are planning on moving to another planet when they are done wrecking this one). Protecting our limited resources is exactly what I would want our tax dollars to do. Better that than building a stadium for a billionaire.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Stuff like this is what makes California a laughing stock.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Stuff like this is what makes California a laughing stock.

George Holbrook
George Holbrook subscriber

@lucasoconnor: Strange how those "hostile" local elected officials are ELECTED locally to express the will and interests of a local SANDAG constituency and local citizens, not the will and pleasure of NorCal bureaucrats. Perhaps some identify more for whatever reason with the efforts of state interests to guide local matters from Sacramento and Harris' San Francisco. Personally, I prefer local San Diegans choosing their future transportation needs over the power hungry folks to the north. Harris is simply showboating as part of intentions to run for governor after GJB leaves office.

geoh808
geoh808

@lucasoconnor: Strange how those "hostile" local elected officials are ELECTED locally to express the will and interests of a local SANDAG constituency and local citizens, not the will and pleasure of NorCal bureaucrats. Perhaps some identify more for whatever reason with the efforts of state interests to guide local matters from Sacramento and Harris' San Francisco. Personally, I prefer local San Diegans choosing their future transportation needs over the power hungry folks to the north. Harris is simply showboating as part of intentions to run for governor after GJB leaves office.

Claire Vannette
Claire Vannette subscriber

So what happened between September, when Harris was still politely requesting that SANDAG make changes, and now? Did SANDAG blow her off?

clairejvannette
clairejvannette

So what happened between September, when Harris was still politely requesting that SANDAG make changes, and now? Did SANDAG blow her off?

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

I'd love to see the detail behind Harris' assertion that San Diego has the "7th worst ozone pollution in the country". Didn't know this was a standard that justified suits like this.

toulon
toulon

I'd love to see the detail behind Harris' assertion that San Diego has the "7th worst ozone pollution in the country". Didn't know this was a standard that justified suits like this.

Lucas OConnor
Lucas OConnor subscriber

Amazing how hostile local elected officials are to just working within the law.

lucasoconnor
lucasoconnor

Amazing how hostile local elected officials are to just working within the law.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Here's the fix, mandate that every public employee (including moonbeam) must use public transportation at all times. Include a mandatory 6 months in jail for any public employee caught in a personal vehicle in a non emergency situation. 7% reached. Problem solved.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Here's the fix, mandate that every public employee (including moonbeam) must use public transportation at all times. Include a mandatory 6 months in jail for any public employee caught in a personal vehicle in a non emergency situation. 7% reached. Problem solved.