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Regional Infrastructure Transportation Agency: Got SANDAG?
Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
November 18, 1999
I'm not a big fan of SANDAG. This is mainly due to the lack of vision currently being employed my this group. Representing the interest of municipalities, and not the citizens who reside in those cities, SANDAG is so behind the curve they now seem to be an impediment to the task they were created to oversee. Their charge consisted of planning for public facilities financing, housing, energy, land use, growth management, open space and habitat conservation, waste management, airport land use, binational coordination, watershed/water quality, and shoreline erosion on a regional scale.
Created in 1966 as the Comprehensive Planning Organization, under a state authorized Joint Powers Agreement, SANDAG is governed by a Board of Directors composed of mayors, councilmembers and a county supervisor from each of the region's 19 local governments. Advising the elected officials are representatives from the the San Diego Unified Port District, CalTrans, the San Diego County Water Authority, U.S. Department of Defense, and Tijuana/Baja California/Mexico. This seems rather impressive on the surface, but once you look at their track record you will see that SANDAG is more about economic growth, and that regional planning (their original mission) has yet to be carried out in any meaningful way.
In 1989 Member agencies took it upon themselves to designate SANDAG as the Regional Planning and Growth Management Review Board. In 1991 Member agencies designated SANDAG as the Congestion Management Agency. And in 1998 SANDAG produced a cities/county public policy based growth forecast for population, housing and employment in the year 2020. The forecast report proposed alternatives for accommodating a growth increase from 2.7 million to 3.8 million residents. The problem however is that SANDAG no longer sees its mission as one of growth management, but one of development accommodation.
The San Diego Region does not have enough reliable water sources to support its current population, yet SANDAG is making room for a million more people. Our transportation infrastructure is a nightmare yet the majority of SANDAG members want to increase the faltering system by widening the roads to accommodate an ever increasing amount of traffic. In existence for more than 30 years and SANDAG has yet to fulfill its original charge, and instead of providing future focused leadership it has held firmly to out dated technology and a growth ideology that has now brought our overpopulated region to the edge of environmental collapse.
Despite their assurances to the contrary, The San Diego Association of Governments has done little in the way of sustainable regional planning. Since its inception, residents in the county have been asking for a comprehensive mass transit system to no avail. Talk about lousy planning. With all the transportation planning, recently created commuter rails are not linked to the airport. When SANDAG purchased the rail right-of-way from Santa Fe Railway for the "Coaster" and Oceanside to Escondido commuter rail it did not charge the North County Transit District to provide service that accommodated all potential riders. Instead it allowed for NCTD to run a limited amount of trains, none in the middle of the afternoon, and in a way that put them at odds with the cities through which they travel.
The double-tracking controversy is a case in point. Too caught up in petty machinations of their own, cities are refusing to look at the big picture, while NCTD expects to work in a vacuum removed from the day to day issues facing coastal communities. NCTD wants double-tracking so that they can accommodate significant freight traffic, yet the North County Transit District believes a complete Environmental Impact Report is not warranted for such a monumental undertaking. They also believe that tunneling under Del Mar makes environmental and economic sense. Talk about being out of touch.
It should come as no surprise when I say that the legislation currently being pursued by State Senator Steve Peace makes all the sense in the world. Considering that SANDAG has failed to plan for regional growth in a way other than planning that regional growth, his call to consolidate the work of SANDAG, the San Diego Unified Port District, North County Transit Development Board, the San Diego Air Quality management District,and the Metropolitan Transit Development Board under the jurisdiction of one elected board, and there by making them accountable to voters, is long overdue. If residents of San Diego county want a regional mass transit system that connects them to the places they work and play, not to mention shop, dine, and go to school, the Regional Infrastructure and Transportation Agency (RITA) as proposed by Senator Peace should be supported. However if county residents want to continue to sit on I-5 spewing toxins into the environment, then they should continue to embrace the dysfunctional leadership currently provided.