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SPECIAL COVERAGE: Living With Wildfires: San Diego Firestorm 10 Years Later

Anti-Sprawl Group Calls SD Transportation Plan ‘Disastrous’

San Diego’s Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) today drew fire from a group that called it illegal and environmentally disastrous. The Cleveland National Forest Foundation also offered an alternative plan that would implement all the mass-transit proposals in the 40-year RTP during the coming 10 years.

They’ve dubbed their proposal the “50-10” transit plan.

The Regional Transportation Plan was created by SANDAG, San Diego’s regional planning agency. The RTP would spend $196 billion in state, federal and local tax money over the next 40 years to build roads, mass transit systems and related developments.

Lawyers for the Cleveland National Forest Foundation submitted a 100-page document to SANDAG, criticizing the RTP and SANDAG’s draft environmental impact report. The foundation said the transportation plan was a recipe for increased car traffic and increased greenhouse gas emissions.

“Rather than reducing VMT (vehicle miles traveled),” they wrote, “VMT would increase by 50 percent between 2010 and 2050… It comes as no surprise, then, that the plan would also fail to achieve any sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”

The man behind the critical report is Duncan McFetridge. A resident of Descanso, McFetridge headed up a voter referendum in 1998 that would have created a “greenbelt” around urban San Diego to dramatically restrict suburban housing developments. The countywide proposition was defeated at the polls.

But the gruff anti-sprawl activist continued his mission. He is now the director of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation. McFetridge spoke to me in familiar tones as he called the planning process dysfunctional and corrupt.

“You know, sprawl developers have the greatest thing going possible,” he said, “because SANDAG builds their freeways for them. The public pays for the infrastructure for sprawl development, and these guys laugh all the way to the bank!”

Some transit supporters give SANDAG credit for budgeting an unprecedented level of funding for mass transportation and active transportation … biking and walking. But many people agree with McFetridge when he says mass transit has to be developed before more roads are built and more freeways are widened.

The backers of a “transit first” approach argue you can’t expect people to choose mass transit when the expansion of highways encourages them to stay in their cars. Members of McFetridge’s group say their alternative, the 50-10 plan, is a better way to go.

“The premise of the plan is quite simple,” they write. “Fifty years of transit improvements would be implemented over the next decade. … Thus the plan would foster two main goals: To make transit time competitive with the automobile within the urban core; and to create neighborhoods that are close to needed services and amenities.”

My attempts to get comment from SANDAG on the 50-10 plan were unsuccessful. Lawyers for McFetridge’s group claim SANDAG’s Regional Transportation Plan is in violation of CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act.

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