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For Immediate Release, November 28, 2011                               

Contact:  Severn Williams, (510) 336-9566,
Kevin Bundy, (415) 436-9682 x 313, Center for Biological Diversity
Jack Shu, (619) 708-2050, Cleveland National Forest Foundation

Lawsuit Challenges San Diego Governments' Flawed Transportation Plan

Sprawl-oriented Plan Would Increase Pollution, Worsen Climate Change, Ignore Need for Public Transit

SAN DIEGO, Calif.— The Cleveland National Forest Foundation and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit today in the San Diego Superior Court against the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). The lawsuit challenges SANDAG’s 2050 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy. According to the plaintiffs, SANDAG used a deficient process to develop a flawed plan that will invest heavily in freeways at the expense of public transit, increase pollution and exacerbate global climate change.

“The time to move aggressively toward a more sustainable way of life is upon us,” said Jack Shu, president of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation. “SANDAG’s plan promotes an unsustainable vision for San Diego County: More traffic, less transit; more pollution, no solutions.”

SANDAG approved its $200 billion transportation plan on Oct. 28. The agency is required to update its vision for regional transportation developments every four years. The recently approved plan invests primarily in expanding and extending regional freeways, which will promote sprawl and reinforce the region’s dependence on expensive, car-oriented transportation.

Most of the transit improvements identified in SANDAG’s 2050 plan would be delayed by decades and fall far short of creating a robust transit network comprised of efficient rail systems supported by bus, bicycle and pedestrian options. Instead, the plan would encourage more driving, leading to more air pollution. The American Lung Association gives San Diego an “F” on air quality. Air pollution contributes to chronic diseases like asthma, which are associated with widespread public health and economic costs.

“SANDAG’s plan is a failure of leadership, plain and simple,” said Mr. Shu. “We cannot wait four more years to start building responsible transit systems, planning livable communities, and reducing air pollution. We need cleaner air, not more asthma. We need more time with our families, not more time in traffic.”

San Diego is the first region in the state charged with updating its long-range transportation plan under SB 375, a new State law intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — and climate change — through compact land-use and transportation planning. In contrast, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments have been working jointly on a groundbreaking plan that integrates land use and transportation planning to create compact, transit-oriented development in the coming decades in the San Francisco Bay Area.

SANDAG’s plan relies so heavily on freeways and sprawl that regional per capita greenhouse gas emissions will actually increase over the coming decades, interfering with California’s landmark efforts to curb climate change.

“SANDAG’s plan flies in the face of everything we know about climate change,” said Kevin Bundy, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The science is clear: We need ambitious, lasting reductions in climate pollution by 2050, and that means livable communities with access to transit systems that really work. More freeways and sprawl won’t get us there.”

Throughout the planning process, opponents of the plan have urged SANDAG to prioritize transit investments in the urban core and reject extending freeways into the far reaches of the county.

“SANDAG has given a lot of lip service to investing in alternatives to car-based transportation,” said Mr. Bundy. “But if we’re going to see real change, SANDAG must put its money where its mouth is. Investing in transit first has worked in other parts of the country — like Portland and Washington, DC — in recent decades. There’s no reason it can’t work in San Diego.”

About the Center for Biological Diversity (
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 320,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

About the Cleveland National Forest Foundation (
The Cleveland National Forest Foundation is made up of private citizens who believe that action must be taken to protect the remaining undeveloped lands in the forest and that sound regional planning to build sustainable, quality urban communities is fundamental to saving the integrity of our wilderness areas.

About Shute, Mihaly and Weinberger LLP (
Shute, Mihaly and Weinberger LLP, whose attorneys are lead plaintiffs’ counsel in the case, specializes in government, land use, natural resource and environmental law. Since 1980, the firm has provided representation to public agencies and community groups throughout California. 


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