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Keeping an eye on SANDAG

ED GALLO SPEAKS

Whenever I think about what subject matter to select for this column along comes the San Diego Association of Governments. My new slogan is, “Have no fear SANDAG is here” and they come through once again. September 27 at 9 a.m. in the Wells Fargo building, 7th floor, at 4th & B in San Diego will be a very important SANDAG (San Diego Association of Governments) board meeting discussing and voting on diverting funding from our roads and highways to trains and bicycles. Make your voice heard if you can make the meeting.

Hardly mentioned is that the original TransNet bond was passed in 1988 with promises to North County for improvements to Hwy 76 and Hwy 78. Our votes were needed to have the bond passed; ergo the carrot and the stick. Sixteen years later, nothing having been done as it promised us SANDAG again promised, cross my heart style, we will do these improvements just vote to approve this TransNet extension. It passed and now SANDAG wants to renege on the promises and divert the funding to other projects. It seems SANDAG is Lucy and North County is Charlie Brown.

A shout out to State Senator Brian Jones and State Assemblywoman Marie Waldron; who are joining local opposition to the switcheroo. In fact, last week Waldron commented that since the voters approved both TransNets with the spending provisions then the voters should vote to approve or disapprove any future changes in spending. Not the Board of Directors of SANDAG. YES. You can add kudos to Supervisors Desmond and Gaspar for carrying the water for us in North County.

This is an interesting anecdote. In 2004, TransNet 2, the late Poway Mayor Mickey Cafagna was the board chair. Today, Poway Mayor Steve Vaus is the board chair. What most people probably do not know is that the City of Poway did not approve the 2004 ballot measure and today Mayor Vaus is continuing his city’s history with TransNet.

One of the bones tossed to North County is a high speed rail line from Oceanside to Escondido. Does Bullet Train ring a bell? Having served 16 years as a North County Transit District board member, I know that all that is needed is to complete the double tracking which will increase headway times and shorten the current travel time. Even in the current configuration, the commute can be shortened by five minutes—which I personally observed having ridden the Sprinter numerous times to meetings. I agree with Sup. Gaspar to continue funding new Coaster cars since NCTD is very far along planning improvements.

The outcome may already be decided, given the new voting method that gives the combined vote by the City of San Diego and Chula Vista the hammer. Added to them will be Encinitas and probably Del Mar and the other 14 cities can go pound sand. Should be an interesting meeting.

More great news. Two weeks ago SANDAG approved the new housing quotas for the county. The methodology was challenged by numerous mayors and kudos to Escondido Mayor McNamara for questioning Escondido’s “share.” Escondido is the fourth largest city, by population, in the county, yet we have been assessed a quota three times more than El Cajon the fifth largest city not far behind Escondido, We have about 20% less population than Oceanside yet are required to have almost double the amount of new housing. I guess this trumps our Prop S. We may have to join with Coronado Mayor Bailey who stated his city will not go down without a fight.

Another challenge is the fact that almost every new housing proposal coming forth, at least what I can attest to in Escondido, is met with stiff opposition from current residents. And any new housing commands many years of planning and revisions due to overregulation along with local opposition. BUT, there is good news. The SANDAG methodology must be reviewed by the state Department of Housing and Community Development which will take up to 60 days and make possible changes. Perhaps Senator Jones and Assemblywoman Waldron can keep a close eye on this.

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

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