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Thursday, March 23, 2006 | Anyone who lives in central San Diego can attest to the remarkable growth that has occurred in the last 10 to15 years. The downtown area is a hotbed of activity – from the Convention Center, the San Diego Zoo, and Balboa Park to Horton Plaza, the Embarcadero, countless first-rate restaurants, and of course, the latest jewel, Petco Park. Improvements to the bus and trolley system make it easier to get around than ever before.

Nonetheless, there are still issues with parking, trash, overcrowding and trying to find the right balance between development and open space, old and new, residential and commercial. There continues to be a disconnect between where people live and work, and the transportation options in between.

There has got to be a better way to make transportation and land-use decisions. Fortunately, there is. Just three years ago, San Diegans played a valuable role in crafting the Regional Comprehensive Plan (RCP) – a 30-year living document that provides a broad set of guidelines for making strategic regional decisions to achieve a better balance between that land use and transportation.

Growth can be beneficial when it’s done smartly and strategically. Residential areas that are close to jobs and offer convenient access to reliable transportation choices and public facilities are the wave of the future. Planning for mixed land uses can lead to a healthier environment, a more prosperous economy, and a better quality of life for all residents. This approach is a fundamental component of the RCP.

Central San Diego, particularly the downtown metropolitan area, has made amazing progress in creating mixed use development and supporting smart growth. But there is still plenty of room for improvement -improvements which will filter from the downtown area and influence other communities.

Now that the RCP has been adopted by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), we again are calling on you for your collective ideas on the plan’s implementation – specifically, what should smart growth look like in your community? How can regional and community leaders make better land use and transportation decisions that will improve your quality of life?

You have a wonderful opportunity to take an active role in shaping the future of your community. Do you foresee an area plagued by the chaos of unmanaged sprawl, or lauded for its innovative use of available space – for the efficient combination of housing, jobs, transportation, parks and open space? Help us by providing your thoughts on what are the best options. Now is the time to make the right decisions for a better future by implementing the smart growth concepts outlined in the RCP.

We encourage residents to get involved and attend one of nine workshops being held throughout the region in April. For more information about these workshop and others, visit the SANDAG Web site at www.sandag.org/rcp.

Jim Madaffer, City of San Diego Councilmember, SANDAG Board Member, SANDAG Transportation Committee Member

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