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San Diego Predicts Shortcomings In Climate Plan’s Transit Goals

Photo by Katie Schoolov

A woman sits at an MTS bus stop at 30th St. and El Cajon Blvd. in North Park, June 15, 2016.

San Diego Predicts Shortcomings In Climate Plan's Transit Goals


Andrew Bowen, metro reporter, KPBS


An analysis commissioned by the city's planning department found far too many people will still be driving to work in two of the city's most urbanized neighborhoods. The city says the analysis did not account for other programs that will help meet the Climate Action Plan's ambitious transportation goals.

San Diego will fail to meet the ambitious transportation goals of the Climate Action Plan in two key neighborhoods, according to a recent analysis commissioned by the city's planning department.

The analysis looked at the city's updates to community plans in North Park and Golden Hill. The plans are lengthy documents meant to map out how future population and employment growth can become more concentrated to decrease the use of cars.

Both community plan updates are scheduled for a vote at the city's Planning Commission on Thursday.

San Diego's Climate Action Plan, passed unanimously by the City Council in December 2015, requires the city to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2035. A key strategy for accomplishing that goal is to vastly reduce the percentage of people commuting to work by car — from about 83 percent now to 50 percent in 2035.

The city's analysis found the North Park and Golden Hill community plan updates will miss those targets. North Park should see 58.7 percent of people still driving by 2035, while Golden Hill should see 63.7 percent.

A memo signed by Jeff Murphy, director of the city’s planning department, said the analysis does not account for other policies that will be implemented throughout the life of the community plans that will accelerate the shift away from cars. Some examples he included are "additional bicycle and pedestrian improvements whenever street resurfacing occurs, as feasible,... promotion of bicycle and car sharing programs... and, improvements to enhance transit accessibility."

'That's a red flag'

Those additional policies do not impress Nicole Capretz, executive director of the nonprofit Climate Action Campaign. Two of the policies — car sharing and pedestrian improvements — were, in fact, already included in the analysis.

Capretz said she had lobbied the city for months to complete the analysis before sending the community plan updates to the City Council for a vote. She said the numbers for North Park and Golden Hill are alarming.


North Park and Golden Hill Transit Analysis

North Park and Golden Hill Transit Analysis

The San Diego Planning Department commissioned an analysis of its community plan updates in North Park and Golden Hill, examining whether they would meet the transportation goals of the Climate Action Plan.

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"These are denser, older neighborhoods, and they are close to employment centers," she said. "So if we, in this future buildout, are not offering the community the kind of infrastructure they're going to need so that it is viable to get to work without taking their car, then that's a problem. That's a red flag."

The transportation goals are citywide, and the climate plan does not offer targets for individual neighborhoods. They also apply only to residents living near existing or planned public transit stops.

But given that some less urbanized neighborhoods are likely to have a tougher time reducing their share of automobile commutes, Capretz said, North Park and Golden Hill should be expected to exceed the citywide goals.

"Some communities need to go under the percent (of commutes by car) required so that we can allow for a buffer," she said. "When we're talking about communities that are in the mid-city area that are close to downtown and, again, close to employment centers — when they're not even getting to the goal, then how are we going to reach that goal?"

The city's analysis found the North Park and Golden Hill community plan updates would exceed the citywide goals of reducing the average distance a resident has to travel to get to work. But Capretz said shorter commutes would not make up for the higher share of people still depending on cars for their transportation.

A city spokesman said in an email that transportation is just one element of the Climate Action Plan, and that the plan allows the city some flexibility in how it achieves the overall goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


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Andrew Bowen
Metro Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover local government — a broad beat that includes housing, homelessness and infrastructure. I'm especially interested in the intersections of land use, transportation and climate change.

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