San Diegans are looking for leaders who will move swiftly to get people back to work in good-paying jobs; leaders who will be bold in working to ensure we are passing on clean air and water to our children by moving smart public policy forward.
The San Diego Association of Governments has missed a golden opportunity to show leadership and position our region as a global model of innovation and sustainability.
Per state law, its 2050 Regional Transportation Plan, adopted in 2011, was supposed to lay out a blueprint for how our region could develop housing, transportation and commercial areas in a manner that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
SANDAG could have rallied stakeholders behind a bold plan to invest aggressively in transit, both to provide good jobs and to promote transportation options that reduce carbon emissions.
Prioritizing investment in transit is the right thing to do for workers and the local economy. Leaders from all walks of life agree with the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, which recently passed a resolution urging SANDAG to aggressively swing its infrastructure dollars toward transit and away from building more freeways and roads.
Instead, SANDAG has doubled down on a plan that both the Superior Court and the Court of Appeal found violated state law for failing to properly mitigate climate-damaging emissions. Rather than building a plan for the 21st century, SANDAG has thrown good tax dollars after bad to appeal the case to the California Supreme Court.
SANDAG, which is responsible for regional land use and transportation planning, shouldn’t continue to fight for a backward-facing plan. Given California’s extended drought, local wildfire risk and the specter of sea level rise in our coastal regions, SANDAG should instead do all it can to curb regional contributions to climate change.
The California Supreme Court agreed to take up one narrow issue in the lawsuit over SANDAG’s 2011 plan. The court will decide whether regional planning agencies must analyze the consistency of their plans’ long-term emissions with the state’s ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions; these goals are based on well-established climate science.
For years, SANDAG has been skirting the spirit, if not the letter, of state policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Under SANDAG’s 2011 plan, short-term emissions would initially drop but then ultimately spike by 2050. SANDAG does not dispute this disturbing emissions trajectory. In a notable reversal, SANDAG opted to analyze the consistency of its new, 2015 plan with state policy.
SANDAG’s lawsuit is both troubling and puzzling. Scientists are unambiguous about the global need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if we hope to limit the worst effects of climate change.
The Superior Court judge who first heard the case in question, Cleveland National Forest Foundation v. San Diego Association of Governments, chided SANDAG for its “kick the can down the road” approach to curbing contributions to climate change.
Our local leaders imagine we have plenty of time to change our approach to planning, despite ample evidence to the contrary. Instead of front-loading investments in public transit, as Los Angeles has done, they continue to pursue a car-centric model.
The Legislature and multiple governors have been clear about the urgency of this issue. Gov. Jerry Brown recently brought California’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets in line with those of other nations. California now has until 2030 to cut emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels.
If these aggressive statewide targets are to be met, regional governments such as SANDAG should take all feasible actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Let’s hope the court joins the other two branches of government and sends an unambiguous message about climate change: We don’t have any more time to waste.