Dear Elected Representatives of San Diego County:
Thank you for your service to our region. I know each of you came into your positions with different goals and visions for change you hoped to effect, and you all serve many members of your respective communities with integrity and valor. Politics can be an ugly business, and preservation of soul and best intentions can fall by the wayside at times.
It is especially difficult, I would imagine, when devoted and engaged citizens disagree with your actions as elected officials. The sentiment of many nonprofit and volunteer community members, many of whom work full time jobs and are raising families, is that their voices and the advocacy they pursue are dismissed when more powerful interests are at play.
As a San Diego County resident, I sometimes commute by bicycle, take the Coaster when possible, but mostly sit in freeway traffic on a regular basis. I would GREATLY prefer to take functional transit than suffer the same traffic congestion on a wider freeway in the years ahead.
I have attended a few SANDAG meetings over the years, and have been dismayed to hear my comments dismissed by some Board Members as “not representative of the community” and/or “infeasible.” That despite the fact that some of the same Board Members have vocally bemoaned the small number of members of the public who attend and participate in public workshops and SANDAG meetings.
The transit and bike advocacy public is showing up in greater numbers over the past months. Many are regular, busy people who deem this engagement with you worth their time.
However, we are still being dismissed, both in the public comments some of you have made and functionally in the Regional Transportation Plans you direct staff to prepare, then approve. Our preferences are too often dismissed in the funding allocations of budgets we provide, yet you control.
I love San Diego County. I went to college here. I am raising my children here. My daughters and I love playing at the beach and camping in the mountains. Now that they are teenagers, I wish they could safely and conveniently go to the beach, shopping, or the movies with friends via transit, avoiding the dangers presented by cars. It is with this love for our natural and built environments, my family, and my fellow citizens that I approach my advocacy, and it is personally upsetting when my science-, data-, and law-supported views are so readily dismissed.
I submit these comments in my personal capacity, but I also serve on the board of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation. While CNFF has engaged in many SANDAG planning processes over the years, including privately funding infill and transit studies with our modest budget and presenting these as options staff could build upon, our input is largely unwelcome. Efforts to engage meaningfully are treated disparagingly by some members of the staff and Board, as though our mission to increase quality of life in the region and protect environmental resources is somehow in conflict with SANDAG’s mission. Indeed, had our straightforward, pragmatic input over the years been met with an attitude of collaboration rather than hostility, Friday’s meeting would be about moving San Diego forward rather than the topic currently on agenda. Unfortunately, I have come to believe some at SANDAG think their role is to increase roads; not mobility.
I am writing to quite honestly share from my perspective, because I maintain hope that you as our regional leaders will recognize signs that the winds are changing, and you will likewise adjust your sails to facilitate moving the region in a new direction (pun intended). We are reaching a critical point of climate disruption, public awareness, a “peak road” condition with disappearing open space, and copious helpful data from other populous regions with successfully implemented transit and infill scenarios. Rather than waste more regional resources, including time and money, in litigation, I encourage you to be wise leaders in these changing times.
If you vote on Friday to further appeal the 2050 RTP ruling, I will be a voice of dissent. I will be critical of that choice, but I hope you know better now the “why” and “who” of yet another San Diegan who has a different vision for our shared future. Regardless of your vote, I maintain hope that you will be open to new information in the years to come, and be willing to adjust your policies accordingly.
The younger generation among our population is more interested in mobility and online connectivity than car ownership. I hope you will represent the future, rather than dig in on transportation planning principles of the past that have created many of the problems that impact all of us today. There are many of us who wish to be partners in that process, and the benefits outweigh the challenges.
Thank you for your consideration of my contributions to this regional conversation.