San Diego: drink it in!

This past Friday, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) approved the very first Sustainable Communities Strategy in the state as part of its regional transportation plan. The strategy document is the critical planning piece mandated by California's anti-sprawl law, SB 375. As I discussed over the summer, SANDAG's plan meets its greenhouse gas reduction goals largely through congestion management and decreased ridership from the down economy.  It does not fundamentally alt er land use patterns, which are the province of local governments. As a result, progress on reducing per capita greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle miles traveled actually backslides by 2035 and 2050 -- hardly the long-term game-changer we need. The California Attorney General has already weighed in with some harsh comments, and we can expect a lawsuit any day now from environmental groups.

There is reason to expect that the SANDAG plan can be improved, either through lawsuits this round or in future planning efforts. But the legislative language of SB 375, coupled with the political realities of trying to empower regional entities to influence local land use decisions, means that SB 375 is unlikely to make a big impact on land use and transportation anytime soon. SANDAG was the first out of the gate, but other regional entities around the state are likely to suffer the same fate with their plans.

The question this process should raise for smart growth advocates is whether the money and time invested in SB 375 implementation represents the most effective use of limited resources. Read more of this post