By Dave Fidlin
SANDAG’s 35-year plan anticipates density, population growth and transit needs
After 2 1/2 years of hashing through the finer points, leaders of a San Diego area intergovernmental planning agency are taking the wraps off a plan that addresses long-range transportation issues across the county.
The San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG, on April 24 released for public consumption a 172-page draft document, “San Diego Forward: The Regional Plan,” that includes a vision for greater uses of various forms of public transportation.
SANDAG’s lengthy plan addresses projected population and density growth in many areas of San Diego, including the city’s Uptown, Mission Valley and Downtown areas.
Sustainability is also incorporated into the plan, with a variety of environmentally friendly practices that call for a reduction in greenhouse gas.
As a next step in the process of minting the plan, SANDAG officials will hold a series of public workshops in communities across the county, including several in the city of San Diego. Two formal public hearings will be held in June — an overture SANDAG officials say will assist in making possible refinements to the plan.
Taken as a whole, SANDAG’s plan that extends through 2050 calls for building a regional transportation network, an ambitious endeavor that carries an estimated $200 billion price tag over the course of the project. The network calls for building out existing mass-transit infrastructure, including train and trolley lines, bike and pedestrian paths and bus services.
Councilmember Todd Gloria, who represents most of the neighborhoods in San Diego’s Uptown area, also serves on the SANDAG board. Gloria is among a handful of governmental officials across the county who had a role in shaping the plan in its draft form.
Gloria described San Diego Forward as a “critical document” that will assist in planning for the region’s future. Components of the plan, he said, are designed to address the influx of residents entering the Uptown, Mission Valley and Downtown neighborhoods.
“The most exciting element of the draft regional plan may be its inclusion of four streetcars that would operate in several neighborhoods,” Gloria said. “The Uptown streetcar is currently in the 2035 phase and includes routing through Hillcrest and Balboa Park with a downtown San Diego loop.”
As with any long-range plan, a number of assumptions are incorporated into the document. As a guiding force, SANDAG officials anticipate an additional 1 million people calling San Diego County home by 2050.
With that swell in population growth comes an anticipated increase of 489,000 jobs and 330,000 more housing units within the timeframe.
Demographically, the median age within the San Diego region is expected to climb upward within the next 35 years. Projections suggest nearly 20 percent of the population will be at least 65 years old.
Diversity also is expected to rise by 2050, with nearly half of San Diego County being comprised of persons of Hispanic, Asian and other ethnic backgrounds.
Geographically, SANDAG is earmarking 55 percent of the region for open space, parks, habitat and farmland — a figure that takes into account higher density from today’s levels in the remaining 45 percent of the area.
When tossed together in a mixing bowl, SANDAG officials say the San Diego Forward document addresses all of the assumptions.
Jack Dale, who chairs the SANDAG board, said input from local agencies and a wide array of community members were taken into account as the tentative document was being assembled.
“The resulting plan encourages the development of vibrant, healthy communities that are connected by a range of transportation choices, including public transit, walking and biking facilities and roads,” Dale, a Santee councilmember, said in a statement.
While SANDAG is at the helm of the long-range planning, Gloria said public input is an equally important part of the process.
“I urge San Diegans to look at the plan and weigh in so that it reflects how we want our neighborhoods to feel, where we can grow and how we can get from place to place,” Gloria said.
Once the public input portion of planning is completed early this summer, SANDAG officials will compile residents’ comments and make further refinements to the plan as needed.
—Contact Dave Fidlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.