APA Story SB375 and SANDAG

The February issue of the American Planning Association (APA) journal published an article by Paul Shigley entitled “Aerial Combat” i in which SANDAG’s implementation of landmark global warming legislation SB375 was described in glowing terms. The inconvenient truth is somewhat different. Read Sofar’s description of the story along with the relevant documents and decide for yourself which version is true.


In his APA article, Mr. Shigley does an admirable job of summarizing California's valiant efforts to solve one of the most threatening environmental problems of our age. Unfortunately, however, he has chosen the worst example possible to illustrate how the landmark legislation SB375 might be implemented. In fact, SANDAG in San Diego County has steadfastly ignored the threat of climate change, and squandered opportunities to lead the way in supporting public transportation in Southern California.

Mr. Shigley accurately describes the California Attorney General's strong leadership in instigating legal and pre-legal settlements with public entities who flout climate change warnings. Remarkably, however, Shigley fails to mention that SANDAG was actually the subject of such pre-litigation discussions with both the Attorney General ii ,the environmental organization SOFAR iii , the Affordable Housing Coalition, and The Transit-Riders Alliance. In fact, at the conclusion of those discussions, SANDAG signed a settlement agreement iv for the precise purpose of mitigating the enormous climate change impacts expected to result from its flawed transportation planning; as the AG and SOFAR had pointed out, SANDAG’s Regional Transportation Plan serves to promote urban sprawl in San Diego County’s rural areas and to encourage a transportation system committed to the automobile.

Mr. Shigley also fails to mention that SANDAG’s poor transit planning was the subject of the ITPR v , a scathing report by a national team of transit experts, including Robert Cevero, who was mentioned in Shigley's article. The Attorney General specifically cited this report in its strong critique of SANDAG’s RTP. vi

SANDAG itself has conceded that implementation of its Regional Transportation Plan will lead to the destruction of agricultural lands, the long-term degradation of air quality and water and biological resources, and long term impacts from increased energy use in San Diego County. Tellingly, the agency’s approval of the RTP included a Statement of Overriding Considerations vii, which attempted to argue that these impacts could be justified for the sake of the economy. Yet, it is the economy of unsustainable development that SANDAG is promoting with its so-called 200 “smart growth centers.” (See map at p.13 of APA story article.) Randomly tossing 200 developments into a "sea of automobiles" is like "casting pearls before swine" In fact, such haphazard planning is exactly the opposite of Cervero's concept of a "string of pearls," or transit-based city centers connected by rail. Importantly, the ITPR points out that San Diego County could easily meet all its growth demands if it built such transit-based centers (p.33)

Instead of encouraging city-centered growth, the SANDAG plan, by its own accounting, promotes excessive growth in rural areas. The population in unincorporated San Diego County is projected to grow by 55%, and by an average of 42% in three rural communities, over the next 20 years. Freeway lane miles will increase by over 800 miles, leading to a 38.8 million increase in daily vehicle-miles traveled, or VMT; Gasoline consumption will increase by 31.26%, diesel consumption by 25%. To top it off, greenhouse gas emissions under the RTP will exceed existing levels by about 31%, or 5.3 million tons of CO2 per year. The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) viii for the RTP finds that this increase in GHG emissions will contribute to the exacerbation of climate change, and concludes this impact to be significant. Id. at 4.7-34 and 4.7-38.

In sum, while California and its Attorney General have led the way in our nation’s fight to control global warming, SANDAG has not shown similar leadership in San Diego. It was only through threat of litigation and a key settlement agreement that San Diego County has even a remote chance to build transit-based communities ix and change business as usual in Southern California. Mr. Shigley does a serious disservice by leaving out the "inconvenient truths" behind SANDAG’s plan.

i Shigley's Article, California's Aerial Combat
ii Attorney General's letter to SANDAG http://ag.ca.gov/globalwarming/pdf/comments_San_Diego_RT_Plan.pdf
iii SOFAR's letter to SANDAG
iv SANDAG Settlement Agreement
v ITPR http://www.sandag.org/uploads/publicationid/publicationid_1274_6239.pdf
vi RTP2030 http://www.sandag.org/programs/transportation/comprehensive_transportation_projects/2030rtp/2007rtp_final.pdf
vii Statement of overriding considerations
viii EIR2030 http://www.sandag.org/programs/transportation/comprehensive_transportation_projects/2030rtp/2007eir_final.pdf
ix Complete Community Mobility

Back to the top