Release: Group that successfully sued SANDAG over 2011 RTP says 2015 Plan has same flaws

October 5, 2015

Nina Erlich-Williams,

Group that successfully sued SANDAG over 2011 RTP says
2015 Plan has same flaws

SANDAG’s data show City of San Diego’s CAP is realistic and achievable

San Diego – The Cleveland National Forest Foundation (CNFF) today announced that its attorneys submitted a critical letter to the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) on its behalf over SANDAG’s proposed 2015 update to its Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy. The letter, which is posted to the CNFF website, makes a strong argument that SANDAG’s 2015 plan is not meaningfully closer to meeting state-mandated greenhouse gas reduction goals than the deeply flawed 2011 plan.

SANDAG is set to vote on whether to adopt its proposed 2015 plan on Friday, October 9. There has been significant controversy in recent weeks regarding the impact SANDAG’s car-centric plan could have on other regional efforts to curb climate change, including the City of San Diego’s ambitious Climate Action Plan (CAP).

“SANDAG has been aggressively spreading misleading information in recent weeks making the case that the City of San Diego’s CAP is not achievable,” said Jana Clark, board member of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation. “The people of San Diego can no longer enable a system that is more interested in propping up developers than protecting public health.”

CNFF developed a transit-based alternative to SANDAG’s car-centric transportation plan in 2011. The 50-10 Transit Plan, which links the region’s cities with the metropolitan center, 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.

CNFF has worked with Norm Marshall of Smart Mobility Inc., an expert in developing advanced tools and techniques for travel demand modeling and analyzing land use and transportation systems, to conduct its own independent analysis of future transportation patterns in the region based on data published by SANDAG. The results of the analysis show that SANDAG is making choices that limit its ability to invest in transit, which serves mixed-use density, to the detriment of public health and mobility for future generations.

SANDAG is relying on a flawed model for future transportation planning that underestimates transit ridership potential and overestimates the degree to which San Diego County residents will rely on personal car travel in the coming decades. SANDAG’s own Urban Area Transit Strategy has a goal of 30% transit use in the downtown area and 20-25% transit use in the urban core. The City of San Diego’s CAP is in line with these projections.

“SANDAG’s data show that more and more San Diegans are getting out of their cars and finding other ways to get around. We’re seeing these kinds of patterns in urban areas throughout the country,” said Norm Marshall.

Mr. Marshall’s analysis also shows that the City of San Diego’s CAP includes realistic goals that will set the region up for long-term success as mandates to curb greenhouse gases inevitably increase in the coming decades.

A number of other conservation and good-government groups in the region have also signaled their strong support of the CAP and their concerns about SANDAG’s 2015 RTP/SCS. Supporters of CNFF’s position include Bike SD; League of Conservation Voters, San Diego; League of Women Voters San Diego; and Preserve Wild Santee.

Jeanne Brown, President of League of Women Voters San Diego, added, “Climate change is now. Heat records are being broken, glaciers are melting, and the seas are rising. And the choices are quickly becoming limited. We must act now to prevent truly catastrophic consequences. Inadequate measures are inexcusable.”

“San Diego can only be a world-class region if it has the foundation built on a strong, connected and sustainable transit system that facilitates walking and bicycling within its SANDAG’s Urban Area Transit Strategy,” noted Samantha Ollinger, Executive Director of BikeSD.

Livia Borak, President of League of Conservation Voters, San Diego said, “San Diegans understand that climate change is a serious threat to our quality of life. We urge our local leaders to listen to their constituents and confirm their commitment to addressing climate change by demanding revisions to the Regional Plan.”

For more information about the 50-10 plan and Mr. Marshall’s analysis, or to speak with representatives from the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, contact Nina Erlich-Williams at or 415-577-1153.


CNFF Calls Upon Supervisor Bill Horn to Recuse Himself from Lilac Hills Ranch Vote

The Lilac Hills Ranch project, which seeks to bypass the San Diego County General Plan’s restrictions on sprawl development, would build an expansive new housing and commercial center in the rural and fire-prone Valley Center and Bonsall communities of San Diego County.

County Supervisor Bill Horn owns a home and agricultural property less than a mile and a half from the proposed project.  The project would affect Supervisor Horn and his property in various ways.  For example, it would negatively impact him by doubling traffic volumes in front of his home, but would also benefit him by bringing commercial services closer to his home and raising the value of his property. Although he would be directly affected by this project, he thus far has refused to recuse himself from voting for its approval.

The Cleveland National Forest Foundation (CNFF) has formally called upon him to disclose his conflict of interest and recuse himself from the upcoming deliberations and vote of the Board of Supervisors, citing the Political Reform Act (Gov. Code §§81000). The project will likely be considered at the October 14, 2015 meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

In its September 21, 2015 letter, CNFF urges County counsel: “Supervisor Horn must publicly disclose his interest, recuse himself from all deliberations and decisions concerning the Project, and leave the room when the Board discusses and votes on any decision concerning the Project.”


New Report Shows San Diego Urgently Needs Major Investment in Public Transit

For Immediate Release
April 16, 2015


Nina Erlich-Williams, 415-577-1153

New Report Shows San Diego Urgently Needs Major Investment in Public Transit

SAN DIEGO— As San Diego’s population grows, a new report finds that the region’s shifting demographics are driving an urgent need for major public transit investments and a halt to highway expansions. A move toward investments in transit would protect air quality, prevent suburban sprawl and support demographic and land use trends toward pedestrian-friendly communities.

The report, prepared by transportation expert Norman Marshall on behalf of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, says outdated assumptions are driving the San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG, to prioritize highway projects that increase car use and air pollution. These assumptions buck established trends among younger Californians, who tend to drive less and are more inclined to live in compact urban areas than older generations.

“As San Diego planners update their regional transportation plan, they should seriously consider aggressively shifting investments away from highway expansions to public transit,” said the Cleveland National Forest Foundation’s Jana Clark. “This report reinforces what we already know: a freeway-focused approach to transportation planning will invite more traffic onto the roads, increasing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. To keep San Diego moving, we need to stop building new highways and start creating a world-class transit system.”

Titled “The 50-10 Transit Plan: Quantifying the Benefits,” the report explores a number of social, traffic and land use models and finds they all point to the same conclusion: transit is critical to San Diego’s future. By prioritizing transit spending over the next decade, the report says, the San Diego area could accommodate an anticipated 31 percent population increase by 2050 while decreasing automobile use and air pollution.

Given recent legal challenges, SANDAG should consider reassessing its $200 billion long-range transportation plan for the region. SANDAG’s existing plan front-loaded the expansion of freeways, which will lead to sprawl and reinforce the region’s dependence on cars. That plan’s heavy reliance on automobile transportation will also lead to increases in greenhouse gas emissions, even though state climate policy and science demand significant reductions in these pollutants.

The best way to address those traffic and pollution problems, the new report says, is with a plan that would implement 50 years of transit improvements in the urban core over the next decade. That would allow the San Diego region to create a comprehensive, integrated transit system that would support a shift to more compact, walkable communities.

For more information about the new report and the Cleveland National Forest Foundation’s climate-friendly transit plan, go to The new report was made possible through a grant from the Ford Foundation supporting the Transportation Justice Partnership with the San Diego Environmental Health Coalition.

The Cleveland National Forest Foundation ( 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.


California Supreme Court Accepts SANDAG Regional Plan Case on Narrow Climate Change Issue: Majority of Lower Court Ruling Stands

March 13, 2015

Severn Williams

California Supreme Courts Accepts SANDAG Regional Plan Case on Narrow Climate Change Issue: Majority of Lower Court Ruling Stands

San Francisco – The California Supreme Court has granted partial review of a closely-watched environmental case that could have broad implications for transportation planning throughout the state. Cleveland National Forest Foundation v. San Diego Association of Governments aims to determine whether the San Diego Association of Governments complied with the California Environmental Quality Act when analyzing the impacts of its 2050 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy on climate change.

Both the superior and appellate courts agreed that the San Diego-area planning agency failed to fully assess and mitigate against the climate risks associated with its plan, which invests heavily in freeways and subsidizes sprawl at the expense of public transit. The Supreme Court agreed to review only one narrow issue within the case. It will consider whether the environmental review of regional transportation plans must include an analysis of the plan’s consistency with statewide goals for greenhouse gas emission reductions embodied in a gubernatorial executive order. Executive Order No. S-3-05 set specific reductions targets to be reached by the year 2050.

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court let stand the vast majority of the Court of Appeal’s decision,” said Rachel Hooper, managing partner of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, LLP, who represents Cleveland National Forest Foundation and Sierra Club in the case.

There were several important issues in the case that were resolved by the Court of Appeal and were not taken up by the California Supreme Court. Under the Court of Appeal’s holding, SANDAG will be required to: develop more robust mitigation for the climate impacts associated with its plan; complete a more rigorous analysis of the air quality/ public health, and agricultural impacts of its plan; and develop a full range of alternatives to its proposed plan, including options that would reduce driving in the region.

This is the first case in which the California Supreme Court will consider the implications of SB 375, a state law aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions through improved regional transportation planning. SANDAG was the first regional government in the state to develop a Sustainable Communities Strategy/Regional Transportation Plan under SB 375. Cleveland National Forest Foundation, Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, and two community groups all sued SANDAG over its approach, noting that, under the agency’s plan, regional greenhouse gas emissions would increase dramatically by the year 2050. The agency had argued that the plan would reduce emissions in the short-term, but it did not acknowledge that the plan’s long-term increase in emissions was inconsistent with state climate policy. State Attorney General Kamala Harris intervened in the case in support of the petitioners.

“This case has important ramifications for whether or not California will ultimately achieve its greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals,” added Rachel Hooper. “We are hopeful that the court will agree that regional transportation agencies must assess their plans’ conformity to state climate policy. Without such requirements, it will be difficult for California to reduce its long-term contributions to climate change.”


Happy Holidays from CNFF

Dear Cleveland National Forest Foundation Supporter,

Happy Holidays & Season’s Greetings!

We have great news since our last annual greeting. Our long struggle to protect our local forest, to promote functional transit‐based cities, and to fight for climate stabilization has resulted in a remarkable climate change victory. For our successes, we owe a debt of gratitude to our many donors, volunteers and friends – including our co-plaintiffs and Attorney General Kamala Harris.

The Superior Court ruling on SANDAG’s failed transportation plan has been upheld and strengthened by the California Court of Appeal. The decision confirms that SANDAG violated state law by failing to fully account for, and take steps to reduce, greenhouse gases and harmful air pollution in its environmental review of the region’s $200 billion long-range transportation plan. This published court action sets new climate pollution reduction standards for the entire state of California – that climate scientists and CA policymakers agree are necessary by mid-century to avoid the worst effects of climate disruption.

This victory, along with the Sierra Club’s victory against the County over its weak Climate Action Plan has strengthened our hand in our many battles against environmental assaults in the region including: the I-5 widening, Lilac Hills Ranch, SDG&E’s Forest power project, and the County’s attempted rezone of Forest Conservation Initiative lands. It also validates our 50-10 Transit Plan, a transit-first alternative we developed in response to SANDAGs freeway centric planning. The Ford Foundation bolstered this effort by providing a grant to promote the 50-10 Plan.

As we move from a court victory to the political arena we are faced with new challenges of translating these dramatic court victories into local and state policy. More than ever we need your help to carry this groundbreaking work to make our cities functional and to preserve and protect our treasured natural lands.

With your help CNFF will continue to serve the forest, the people and the public trust in our tireless advocacy for a health planet.

Tax‐deductible donations can be submitted via our PayPal account at or You can also mail donations to CNFF, P.O. Box 779, Descanso, CA 91916.

Thank you for your support!

Duncan McFetridge
Director, CNFF

TWITTER: @transitsd   
WEB: and


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.


[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.


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!


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.”;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;