Ann Gardner | Via Latina
California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris is warning the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) that the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for its 2050 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) is “legally deficient…and seems to be setting the region on a course that is inconsistent with the State’s climate objective.” In a 10-page letter, she notes that the Draft relies heavily on roadway expansion projects that fail to reduce Green House Gas emissions as required by State law, or to comply with CEQA’s mandate to mitigate significant impacts of these projects.
The Plan establishes guidelines for approval and funding of transportation projects in the San Diego region. Changes in the Plan could impact Caltrans’ I-5 North Corridor Project that expands the number of car lanes on I-5 between La Jolla Village Drive and Oceanside. The I-5 expansion project has drawn fire from local communities including Del Mar. Del Mar’s response to the I-5 Draft, similar to the AG’s concerns, questioned the Project’s emphasis on freeway expansion at the expense of other alternatives, including mass transit.
Harris, according to her letter, submitted the comments “pursuant to her independent power and duty to protect the environment and natural resources of the State from pollution, impairment, or destruction, and in furtherance of the public interest.” “Our review of the DEIR indicates that SANDAG has set too low a bar for determining whether the air quality impacts of its Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy are significant, and further has failed to analyze the impacts of projected increases in pollution on communities that are sensitive or already overburdened with pollution, in violation of CEQA.”
The Torrey Pines Community Planning Board (Del Mar Heights and Del Mar Terrace) applauds the Attorney General’s position. “The SANDAG Board should give more credence to the public’s intuitive understanding that transit needs must be first addressed to influence and alter the mentality of our citizens. San Diego cannot wait another 10 years to provide transit options when building more freeways simply encourages citizens to drive alone to work.”
As we go to press, the SANDAG Board of Directors is reviewing the Attorney General’s comments, and it is unknown whether the Board will approve her request to redo parts of the DEIR. Torrey Pines Community Planning Board chair Dennis Ridz opined that ignoring the request might result in lawsuits against SANDAG for failure to fulfill the requirements of CEQA, Senate Bill 375 and Assembly Bill 32. Del Mar Deputy Mayor Carl Hilliard and Solana Beach Mayor Lesa Heebner represent their cities on the 21-member Board.