CNFF Response to SANDAG Vote to Appeal 2050 RTP Court Losses to California Supreme Court

We at CNFF are disappointed in SANDAG’s vote to appeal the multiple court losses related to their greenhouse gas emissions-increasing 2050 Regional Transportation Plan to the California Supreme Court. It is a waste of our community’s financial resources, and will cause additional delays to the work of SANDAG staff to develop comprehensive transit-first transportation scenarios to serve all of San Diego County.

We are, however, incredibly encouraged by the increasing numbers of engaged San Diegans who demand these elected representatives use our regional transportation budget to prioritize transit and bike infrastructure. Thank you all for engaging in the public process alongside us.

CNFF remains committed to working to improve quality of life in the San Diego region, including advocacy to improve transportation choices, quality of life, the economic benefits of transit-oriented development, and to the preservation of our truly special natural environment by limiting sprawl.

TRANSIT FOR SAN DIEGO – TAKE ACTION NOW!

[Note: if the ACTION links don’t work for your email client, see the bottom of post. Thank you!]

Dear Friends of the Environment and Transportation Advocates:

As you may have heard, last week the Court of Appeals rejected SANDAG’s long term transportation plan.

This Friday, December 5, SANDAG will meet again to decide whether to comply with CEQA and greenhouse gas reduction laws, or appeal again to the California Supreme Court.

PLEASE URGE THEM NOT TO APPEAL.

If SANDAG appeals, they will further “kick the can down the road,” and double down on their commitment to building highways instead of transit.

The San Diego community needs SANDAG, made up of elected officials throughout the region, to stop wasting time and money with litigation, to follow open and straightforward governance laws, and to lead by building safe and effective transit alternatives instead of more roads.

Take action by clicking HERE.

Thank you!

~ CNFF

Note: if the link does not open your email client, please send an email to current and incoming SANDAG board members at the below email addresses:

“I am a resident of San Diego County, and I urge you NOT to appeal the recent Appellate Court Ruling regarding the 2050 Regional Transportation Plan.
Please invest in transit infrastructure.
Thank you.”

jDale@ci.santee.ca.us; JMinto@ci.santee.ca.us; RMcNelis@ci.santee.ca.us; matt.hall@carlsbadca.gov; ccox@chulavistaca.gov; mwoiwode@coronado.ca.us; tsinnott@delmar.ca.us; bwells@cityofelcajon.us; lshaffer@encinitasca.gov; sabed@escondido.org; jim.janney@cox.net; kalessio@ci.la-mesa.ca.us; msessom@lemongrove.ca.gov; rmorrison@nationalcityca.gov; jfeller@ci.oceanside.ca.us; dhigginson@poway.org; kevinfaulconer@sandiego.gov; toddgloria@sandiego.gov; corlando@san-marcos.net; lheebner@cosb.org; jritter@cityofvista.com; ron-roberts@sdcounty.ca.gov; Dave.Roberts@sdcounty.ca.gov; jwood@ci.oceanside.ca.us; stevevaus@cox.net; kgaspar@encinitasca.gov; marapostathis@ci.la-mesa.ca.us; MSalas@chulavistaca.gov

Transportation Justice: Conservation and Environmental Justice Groups Call on SANDAG to Give Transit a Chance

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 12, 2014

CONTACT

Jack Shu, Cleveland National Forest Foundation, 619-708-2050
Nina Erlich-Williams, Public Good PR, 415-577-1153, nina@publicgoodpr.com

CONSERVATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE GROUPS CALL ON SANDAG TO GIVE TRANSIT A CHANCE

Protesters rally after today’s SANDAG meeting to urge shift away from car-centric planning

San Diego, Calif. – Dozens of protesters gathered after the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) Board met today to determine which alternatives would be analyzed in “San Diego Forward: The Regional Plan.” SANDAG’s regional plan will serve as the basis for transportation and land use planning for the region through 2050; decisions made by SANDAG today will have a significant impact on growth patterns, and their impact on climate change, throughout the county for the next 35 years.

The SANDAG board voted to continue with a business-as-usual approach to transportation planning for the region, delaying investments in transit and continuing to prioritize freeway expansion. Groups that rallied after the meeting included San Diego 350.org, Bike San Diego, Cleveland National Forest Foundation, Environmental Health Coalition, Preserve Wild Santee and Sierra Club.

Jack Shu, president of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, noted, “Instead of moving San Diego forward, SANDAG is intent on looking backward to the failed freeway-centric policies of the last century. Focusing short-term investment on a robust rail-based transit network is both possible and preferable to wider freeways and roads. Transit first is working in Los Angeles, and it would work in San Diego if our leaders would embrace it.”

The Cleveland National Forest Foundation developed a transit-based alternative to SANDAG’s car-centric transportation plan in 2011. The 50-10 Transit Plan outlines a realistic approach to making San Diego’s urban areas bike and pedestrian friendly through robust investments in transit over the next ten years. The 50-10 Transit Plan echoes the types of investments that have been made in Los Angeles, where a rapidly expanding light rail system is moving Angelenos out of their cars.

“The two network scenarios proposed by SANDAG staff don’t in any meaningful way address how transportation demand is changing: people are driving less and they expect choices besides the personal automobile,” said Samantha Ollinger, executive director of BikeSD. “Bicycling allows both transportation choice and access, while also making it easy for those without the luxury of choice to experience and involve themselves in their communities. The SANDAG board could have delayed finalizing the proposed two scenarios until a true alternative was prepared, one that analyzed full construction, operating and maintenance costs and actually provides transportation options to San Diegans besides driving.”

SANDAG’s vote today determined which transportation scenarios will be analyzed in the environmental review process that is required by state and federal law for its regional transportation plan. The board failed to consider a scenario that would frontload investment in light rail and develop a connected pedestrian, bike and transit network for urban corridors and centers. Today’s vote continues on the path SANDAG established when it passed its $200 billion state-required Sustainable Communities Strategy/Regional Transportation Plan (SCS/RTP) in October 2011.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Cleveland National Forest Foundation, Sierra Club, California Attorney General Kamala Harris and others sued SANDAG in the San Diego Superior Court over its 2011 plan, arguing that it did not adequately address the growing threat of climate change as required by state law. In December 2012 the court agreed with the plaintiffs and called on SANDAG to update its plan to better comply with state law. The case is currently on appeal.

California is now enduring its third year of drought; threats of wildfire and sea level rise are also growing. All signs point to a need for immediate action by regional leaders to take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and curb the threat of climate change. As a regional planning agency, the onus is on SANDAG to take steps toward climate stabilization. California, and indeed the nation, will not be able to avoid climate change-induced catastrophes without restructuring transportation planning in a manner that prioritizes alternatives to private car travel.

“The network scenario SANDAG has decided upon is inadequate in moving the region forward on a path towards transportation justice, which ensures that in overburdened communities there is an increase in transit access and affordability, improvement of public health and safety, and equity in transportation investments,” added Monique G. López, policy advocate for transportation justice with the Environmental Health Coalition. “We’ve heard enough talk – it’s time for action; San Diego can’t afford to wait another 35 years for car-free transportation alternatives.”

The Cleveland National Forest Foundation (www.cnff.org) is made up of private citizens who believe that action must be taken to protect the remaining undeveloped lands in the forest and that sound regional planning to build sustainable, quality urban communities is fundamental to saving the integrity of our wilderness areas.

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Release: NEW ANALYSIS: Regional Transportation Needs Could be met without Expanding I-5 Freeway

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 12, 2014

CONTACT

Nina Erlich-Williams
W: 510-336-9566
C: 415-577-1153

nina@publicgoodpr.com

NEW ANALYSIS: Regional Transportation Needs Could be met without Expanding I-5 Freeway

Coastal Commission to vote on whether plan will proceed on August 13

San Diego – In advance of the August 13 California Coastal Commission meeting, an independent transportation expert is calling into question the analysis used by Caltrans to justify a massive expansion of the I-5 freeway in coastal San Diego County. The expansion would add four “managed lanes” to a 27-mile stretch of Interstate 5 north of San Diego up through Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Oceanside. The commission is scheduled to hold a critical vote on the matter at its upcoming meeting.

Norm Marshall, president of transportation and land use consulting firm Smart Mobility, Inc., reviewed the 2010 Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for this project in 2010 and found that the analyses used an outdated version (circa 2003) of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) transportation model. The SANDAG Regional Transportation Plan adopted in 2007 indicated that I-5 traffic growth would only be about half that assumed by Caltrans in its project plans.

SANDAG’s 2011 analyses show that traffic will increase by 17 percent between 2010 and 2040, but the 2003 analyses used by Caltrans had predicted a much sharper increase in traffic: nearly 30 percent by 2030. The annual growth rate in I-5 traffic assumed by Caltrans is over 100 percent greater than the growth rate currently forecast by SANDAG. At this lower growth rate, the projections being used to justify I-5 expansion would not be reached until 2057, instead of 2030.

“SANDAG downgraded its predictions based on a number of factors: slowed growth due to the extended recession was one factor, as was lifestyle trends we’re seeing across the country,” explained Mr. Marshall. “Americans are making changes to shorten their commutes and/or cut down on single-car commuting.”

Much has changed for transportation planning in San Diego since Caltrans developed its modeling based on the 2003 data. AB 32 and SB 375 – state laws focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions –have been passed, there was a major financial crisis that included the foreclosure of over 75,000 houses in San Diego County, and SANDAG is now planning for much more compact future land use than anticipated in 2003. Given that the data were badly outdated even in 2010, Caltrans was negligent in not updating its analysis when it finalized its freeway expansion plan in October 2013. Caltrans itself acknowledged that the traffic numbers are wrong for 2030 in the appendix of its final analysis, but has not updated its analysis in the main body of the EIR. If it did update its analysis accordingly, it would be clear that there is no pressing need to expand I-5 in the way the agency is proposing. Every “2030” number relied on by Coastal Commission staff for future traffic volumes, future congestion levels, and future air emissions in its justification for freeway expansion is wrong.

The Coastal Commission report indicates that one of the primary goals of the proposed project is to increase the transit mode share to 10-15% for peak-period commute trips. Since the newer I-5 traffic forecasts show growth of only 17 percent between 2010 and 2040, then a 10-15 percent transit share could meet most of that need. “Clearly, a transit first approach is needed,” said Mr. Marshall.

The SANDAG program EIR governing the I-5 project EIR has also been successfully challenged in the California Superior Court by the Cleveland National Forest Foundation. While the case awaits appeal, public agencies are technically allowed to continue to rely on the EIR’s findings.

Along with increased traffic, the freeway expansion would increase air pollution in the region, which already gets a failing grade from the American Lung Association. The massive expansion would also over time increase traffic and greenhouse gas emissions, in direct conflict with state laws calling for aggressive emissions reductions.

Greenhouse gas emissions are directly tied to climate change, and a major threat associated with climate change is sea level rise. Therefore, getting the analysis right should be of particular concern to the California Coastal Commission, which is charged with protecting California’s coastline. Because the proposed freeway expansion falls within the “coastal zone,” the commission must approve the project before it can move forward.

“The courts have already found the regional analysis that underpins the EIR to be faulty, and SANDAG itself has acknowledged traffic growth is unlikely to spike as severely as once predicted over the coming decades,” said Duncan McFetridge, president of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, which commissioned Mr. Marshall’s report.

Community opposition to the freeway widening has been strong since the project was first proposed in 2004. The project has prompted concerns over loss of scenic vistas (Caltrans plans to erect sound walls along the expanded corridor that would block ocean views). Opponents also cite concerns over economic impacts due to increased traffic and lost regional tourism-related revenue, as well as dismay at continued investment in car-oriented transportation at the expense of public transit.

“The commissioners should follow not only the letter of the law, but also the spirit,” added Mr. McFetridge. “They should require Caltrans to prepare a more robust EIR that fully explores the benefits of transit before rubber stamping the freeway expansion plan.”

The California Coastal Commission will consider the I-5 expansion plan at its August 13 meeting which will commence at 9:00 a.m. at the Catamaran Resort, 3999 Mission Blvd., San Diego.

The Cleveland National Forest Foundation is a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving the plants, animals and other natural resources of Southern California mountains by protecting the land and water they need to survive. For more information, see: www.cnff.org and www.transitsandiego.org.

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NOTE: CNFF has submitted the following public comment letters to the Coastal Commission regarding the North Coast Corridor Public Works Plan:

January 6, 2014
July 21, 2014 comments (including expert analysis from Norm Marshall, of Smart Mobility, Inc.)
August 11 supplemental comments

 

Caltrans Overestimates I-5 Growth

Help the Forest: Email Comments to Supervisors and Attend the Meeting Wednesday!

Forest friends:

It’s rare that we reach out to you two weeks in a row, but we need your help to protect the Cleveland National Forest!

The County Board of Supervisors will meet THIS Wednesday, June 25, to set guidelines which will determine the fate of the forest.

Last week, we contacted you with information about the Forest Conservation Initiative (FC), which was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 1992 to establish 20 uninterrupted years of forest protection. It was widely supported by the public, local governments, and high profile individuals, and has fulfilled its purpose of protecting the health and stability of the forest.

However, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors will meet THIS Wednesday, June 25, 9:00 a.m., at the County Administration Center, 1600 Pacific Highway, Room 310, San Diego, CA to consider plans to replace these longstanding protections, and we need your help.

The FCI is the first item for discussion. Click HERE for a PDF of the agenda and HERE for the Staff Report.

The Cleveland National Forest Foundation has strongly urged the San Diego County Planning Commission, and now the Board of Supervisors, to consider the environmental and legal concerns of removing FCI protections. There is an excellent piece posted at Voice of San Diego today by renowned climate change expert Dr. Michael Soulé, also urging the County to re-adopt the FCI. Please share this piece and the opportunity to help with your friends!

If you would like to help, please plan to come speak at Wednesday’s meeting!

Letters of support for the Forest Conservation Initiative can also be sent via email to the Supervisors and Board Clerk.

Feel free to use this draft language, and adapt it to discuss why preserving the Cleveland National Forest is important to you:

Dear Supervisors:

San Diego proudly protected its forest by a resounding vote of the people when it passed the Forest Conservation Initiative in 1992. Land within the Cleveland National Forest should remain protected.

Since the FCI was adopted, the San Diego region has experienced the impacts of devastating wildfires, and we are only now beginning to understand the impacts of climate change to our local water supply and fire conditions.

If the forest is not protected by a re-adoption of the protections as they were implemented by the Forest Conservation Initiative, San Diego’s growing population WILL sprawl into newly developed lands within the forest boundary. The increased fire danger, diminishing water supply, and impacts to habitat will endanger human life and wildlife. This is unacceptable.

I urge you to direct staff to include all the protections initially embodied in the Forest Conservation Initiative as the EIR preferred alternative.

Sincerely,

Emails can be directed to the following addresses:

bill.horn@sdcounty.ca.gov; greg.cox@sdcounty.ca.gov; dianne.jacob@sdcounty.ca.gov; Dave.Roberts@sdcounty.ca.gov; ron-roberts@sdcounty.ca.gov; thomas.pastuszka@sdcounty.ca.gov

Please send your emails as soon as possible for consideration by the Board, and feel free to copy me on your comments at sofar@nethere.com for CNFF’s records.

Feel free to email this to friends. You can also share this link via email, Twitter, or Facebook.

For the future,
Duncan McFetridge
Director
Cleveland National Forest Foundation
Po Box 779
Descanso, California 91916
619-659-8962
Web: cnff.org
Facebook: facebook.com/transitsd
Twitter: twitter.com/transitsd

CNFF logo

CNFpic

The Cleveland National Forest needs your help!

Dear CNFF friends:

Many of you have been faithful supporters of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation since the early 1990’s, when San Diego County residents overwhelmingly voted to protect the Cleveland National Forest by establishing the Forest Conservation Initiative (FCI) in 1993.

The 20 year FCI preservation plan sunset in December 2013. The county, misinterpreting the sunset clause, has been working to determine the appropriate zoning within the Cleveland National Forest since that time. We at CNFF strongly urge the County Supervisors to continue to uphold the will of the voters by readopting the FCI and  protect property within the boundary of the CNF from subdivisions . Any new development should occur WITHIN, and NOT outside country town boundaries where forest values begin.

The rivers, reservoirs and streams fed by our Forest are vital to our region and immensely important in age of climate change and drought.  Unnecessary development within these fragile wild lands would endanger water quality, compromise habitat, and increase regional fire vulnerability.

UT San Diego published an Op Ed by La Mesa Councilman Art Madrid and CNFF Director Duncan McFetridge last year discussing the history and necessity of continued Forest Conservation Initiative protections last May, entitled: “Cleveland National forest needs protection.”

The County Board of Supervisors will discuss options for preserving or developing sensitive forest lands on Wednesday, June 25. The agenda and times will likely be posted by this Friday, June 20.

We at the Cleveland National Forest Foundation need your help to keep the forest wild and free!

Ways you can help:

  • Attend the Wednesday, June 25 meeting and give public comment in support of extending the protections in the Forest Conservation Initiative
  • Email the County Board of Supervisors and County Clerk
  • As always, make a tax-deductible donation to continue the work of CNFF.

We hope to see you on June 25, and please feel free to email us with any questions.

Cleveland National Forest Foundation
Po Box 779
Descanso, California 91916
619-659-8962

Web: cnff.org
Facebook: facebook.com/transitsd
Twitter: twitter.com/transitsd

LOCAL GROUP CHALLENGES CONTROVERSIAL I-5 WIDENING PLAN IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 5, 2013

CONTACT
Severn Williams, 510-336-9566
sev@publicgoodpr.com

LOCAL GROUP CHALLENGES CONTROVERSIAL I-5 WIDENING PLAN IN SAN DIEGO CO.

Cleveland National Forest Foundation Challenges Massive Freeway Widening Project That Would Cause Severe Climate Change Impacts

San Diego – The Cleveland National Forest Foundation (CNFF) filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) yesterday in San Diego Superior Court. The case aims to prevent the expansion of the I-5 freeway along coastal San DiegoCounty. The lawsuit alleges that CalTrans did not comply with state environmental law when it approved the Interstate 5 North Coast Corridor Project and asks the court to delay any construction activities until it has an opportunity to evaluate CNFF’s concerns about the project.

“CalTrans is stuck in a 1950s mentality, where building more and bigger freeways is seen as the solution to congestion,” said Jack Shu, president of CNFF. “Studies and our own experience in Southern California have proven that widening freeways only accomplishes one thing: enticing more single-occupancy vehicles onto the road. If CalTrans really wants to reduce congestion through High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, all it needs is some signs and paint. The infrastructure costs and long-term public health and public safety impacts associated with this project far outweigh the short-term benefits it might provide.”

The I-5 North Coast Corridor Project would add four “managed lanes” to a 27-mile stretch of Interstate 5 north of San Diego up through Del Mar, SolanaBeach, Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Oceanside. While these lanes would be accessible to carpools and busses, they would also be used by single-occupant vehicles for a fee.

CalTrans projects that, with the expansion, the number of vehicles on the freeway will rise by approximately 50% from current levels, resulting in 140,000 more vehicles per day on some sections of the freeway. Along with increased traffic, the freeway expansion will increase air pollution in the region, which already gets a failing grade from the American Lung Association. The massive expansion will also trigger a surge in greenhouse gas emissions, in direct conflict with state laws calling for aggressive emissions reductions, and stimulate sprawl development, threatening the region’s open space and wilderness areas.

The lawsuit alleges that CalTrans, as lead agency, did not adequately analyze and mitigate for these impacts in the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) approved for the project. More than 5,000 comment letters by groups ranging from community and environmental groups to the California Coastal Commission and the U.S. Department of the Interior raised concerns about the project, yet the FEIR did little to address these issues.  Equally troubling, CalTrans did not release the FEIR to the public until after it had approved the project. “Given the level of controversy around this project, CNFF has serious concerns with CalTrans’ failure to allow public participation with respect to this vital document,” Shu stated.

“We are asking the court to stop CalTrans from rushing ahead with this damaging project, whose financial and environmental costs far outweigh any projected benefits,” commented Rachel Hooper, attorney with Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, LLP, who represents CNFF in the case. “CalTrans based its decision to allow the freeway expansion on a flawed environmental document, one that improperly downplayed the project’s actual impacts.  If the true extent of environmental harm had been disclosed, there might well have been an entirely different outcome.”

Community opposition to the freeway widening has been strong since the project was first proposed in 2004. In addition to the air quality and climate change-inducing impacts emphasized in this lawsuit, concerns over loss of scenic vistas (the project includes plans to erect sound walls along the expanded corridor that would block ocean views), economic impacts due to increased traffic and lost regional tourism-related revenue, and investment in car-oriented transportation at the expense of public transit have been cited by project detractors as significant impacts that must be mitigated.

“The bottom line is that the cost of expanding the I-5 is much greater than the wasted public dollars that would be invested in the construction project itself,” added Shu. “The degraded air quality from the project’s increased traffic will generate enormous health care costs as a result of increased cancer and asthma rates. The project will continue to lock us into an auto dependent economy with substantial amounts of capital leaving our region.  Families will have to devote more of their budgets than necessary on transportation costs. It’s a bad deal for San Diegans, and it sets us on the wrong course for generations to come.”

To arrange interviews with Mr. Shu or Ms. Hooper, contact Severn Williams at 510-336-9566 or sev@publicgoodpr.com.

The complaint is available here.

The Cleveland National Forest Foundation is a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving the plants, animals and other natural resources of Southern California mountains by protecting the land and water they need to survive. For more information, see: www.cnff.org and www.transitsandiego.org.

Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP is a law firm specializing in land use, natural resource, environmental, and governmental law. Since 1980, the firm has provided public agencies and community groups with the highest quality legal representation, offering an array of litigation, counseling and planning services. For more information, see: www.smwlaw.com.

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