Power Shifts to Cities in San Diego County's Embattled Regional Planning Agency

Larger cities in California's second most populous county will be given more power thanks to a bill that reforms the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). One result may be that more public transit measures appear on the ballot.

October 16, 2017, 12:00 PM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

Gaslamp Quarter

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

"The San Diego Association of Governments, known as SANDAG, has for months been beset by allegations of mismanagement and negligence," reports Joshua Emerson Smith for the Union-Tribune. California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 805 (proposed by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego) on Oct. 11, shifting the balance of power on the 21-member board representing 18 cities and county governments in favor of the larger cities in the county.

“This changes everything,” said Nicole Capretz, executive director of the San Diego-based Climate Action Campaign. “Finally we have a real opportunity to design a new, more modern transportation system that priorities public transit, biking and walking as options.”

Opponents have called it “all-out assault” on local control.

Tony Krvaric, chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County, said the agency overhaul is “a shameful power grab by Sacramento Democrats, leaving the majority of cities in our county at the mercy of the two largest [San Diego and Chula Vista].” 

The Union-Tribune, which opposed the bill, nevertheless praised reporter Andrew Keatts of the online-only Voice of San Diego, "who uncovered the financial forecasting scandal that shredded SANDAG’s credibility," in their editorial on Oct. 13.

But new weighted votes are a loss for smaller cities like El Cajon, La Mesa, National City, Poway, San Marcos, Solana Beach and Vista. It’s why they and The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board opposed Gonzalez Fletcher’s power play.

One result, they write, will be to "expect more agreement on transit" and less on major highway expansion projects.

In addition, AB 805 gives the county's two major transit providers, the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System and the North County Transit District, the ability to go directly to the voters to fund projects rather than working through SANDAG, reported Smith last March.

Environmentalists and labor groups opposed SANDAG's half-cent transportation sales tax, Measure A, last November. It received 58 percent of the vote, but needed to pass with a two-thirds supermajority, like all transportation sales taxes in the state.

Hat tip to MTC-ABAG library.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017 in The San Diego Union-Tribune

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