As expected, the regional planning agency SANDAG will appeal to the state Supreme Court a ruling that says its long-term transportation plan doesn’t meet state requirements to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

The vote wasn’t close: 20 of SANDAG’s directors voted for the appeal and just one, Oceanside City Councilman Chuck Lowery, voted against it. (San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria and Councilwoman Myrtle Cole both voted to appeal.)

SANDAG said the appeal is necessary to clarify state law. If the Supreme Court heard the case, it would set precedent for planning agencies across the state.

In emails with constituents asking her to vote against the appeal, though, SANDAG board member Kristine Alessio, who’s also a La Mesa councilwoman, got right to the point: SANDAG isn’t rewriting its transportation plan anytime soon.

In an interview, Alessio said the most important aspect of the case is more big-picture than any particulars of SANDAG’s plan – the point of the appeal is to knock down the precedent that an executive order can trump laws passed by the Legislature.

“If this appellate court ruling stands, a governor could say we don’t need (environmental review) at all,” she said.

We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

A 2005 executive order by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger established greenhouse gas reduction targets for the state. It said that by 2020, the state should return to its 1990 emission levels, and reach 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050.

A year later, the Legislature passed AB 32, which tasked a state agency with determining that 1990 leveland the reductions the state needed to make by 2020. It didn’t mention 2050.

The appellate court ruling argues AB 32 was essentially an extension of the executive order, and that the Legislature effectively endorsed its long-term goals as state policy.

That is, the court doesn’t see the executive action as trumping legislation; it says the Legislature was intentionally building on the executive order.

Nonetheless, Alessio, a lawyer, said she viewed the appeal as a way to ensure future executive actions can’t nullify legislation.

“Following appellate court logic, that could be the case. I’m sorry, I’m not going to take that,” she said. “In essence, you could gut CEQA with an executive order.”

In emails to environmental and public transportation advocates who asked her to vote against an appeal, Alessio said her decision would be driven by “application of fact to law and not the desires of special interests” and that the overwhelming majority of constituents she’s spoken to wanted her to go forward with the appeal:

Two people out of 58,000 of my constituents in La Mesa have urged me to vote to not appeal the decision. That’s not exactly overwhelming public support. Most of my constituents are irritated at CNFF for filing the suit in the first place. My constituents want me to close some of our trolley stations. They want freeway offramps completed, that’s what they want from SANDAG and MTS. It’s interesting to see what matters to people, transit wise, based on where they live and what their needs are. We have a large geographic area and each part has different transportation needs.

    This article relates to: Infrastructure, News, Public Transportation, Regional Neighborhood Growth, Regional Planning, SANDAG, Share

    Written by Andrew Keatts

    I'm Andrew Keatts, a reporter for Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at or 619.325.0529.

    peggyo subscriber

    I will never understand why people think SD is not able to have decent public transportation. People in cities all over the world are able to use great transportation systems. We must have the ingenuity to implement a cohesive system here.

    The only reason I can possibly see for the idea that we can't have transportation here is Money. People are getting paid to maintain the idea that freeways are the best and only option.

    Founder subscriber

    Jack Shu, President of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, did all the residents of San Diego County a big favor by calling out the SANDAG presenters at the San Diego Forward 2014 Workshop for only presenting 2 plans, both of were lacking putting all non-highway construction on the front burner so as to not only enable more people to use NON gas/diesel vehicles but also if done sooner rather than later, reduce or even eliminate the need for building future roads and transit infrastructure.

    At $25 million a mile, saving one mile of construction could provide thousands of commuters with "free" eBikes and jump start both reducing traffic while also adding more bike friendly lanes to what is "planned" for the future! 

    Another issue left out of the discussion is the "cost" to tax payers of doing construction piecemeal which cost enormous amounts of money in wasted fuel to all drivers, since highways are turned into construction zones for years!  SANDAG should push for 24/7 construction and get all construction done ASAP which would save everyone BIG bucks in both construction and wasted fuel costs. 

    Posted 08-13-14

    Founder subscriber

    The key issue raised at the San Diego Forward 2014 Workshop by the public that was able to attend was that the elected Leaders that form the SANDAG Board are only thinking of their specific piece of the Regional Transportation Plan instead of working together to do what is best for Southern California.

    Big building projects equate to hugely expensive work projects for major construction Companies that donate to the very Leaders that vote to approve these projects, so it is no wonder that after all the smiling and photo ops, elected Leaders choose to build more over and over again, despite the proven fact that by the time highway expansions are completed the traffic is just as bad if not worse than it was before the project was implemented!

    If SANDAG was forced to spend big bucks on removing drivers from single occupancy gas and/or diesel vehicles, what we would see is that ever more would opt to commute by personal electric vehicles that would not only help improve our air quality but also reduce the near-gridlock conditions that makes commuting such a waste of energy resources, money and personal time.

    The new mandate of SANDAG should be to remove as many single occupancy gas and diesel commuter vehicles from our roads by spending SANDAG money to enable commuters to own personal electric vehicles at little or no cost, especially for all those living in urban areas.

    By building a few less miles of freeway, SANDAG would be able to:

    1.  Reduce the number of vehicles using our roadways

    2. Reduce the pollution generated as required by State mandate

    3. Begin the shift to clean personal electric vehicles, like 

             eBikes, eMotorcycles, eScooters, eMobility Scooters, etc.

      4.  Model the way toward a 2050 that would not rely on ever more Freeways

              being constructed, at ever increasing expense.

      5. Reduce parking congestion, since personal eVehicle take up much less space

            than traditional Vehicles both on the roadway and when they are parked.

      6. Inspire commuters to live a healthier lifestyle, by getting some exercise as they commute.

    Founder subscriber

     As pointed out at SANDAG's San Diego Forward 2014 Workshop, the very Leaders tasked with making these important decision about commuting in San Diego did not use public transportation to attend the meeting, so the idea that the general population will happily spend huge amounts of time riding public transportation instead of personal transportation is delusional at best.

    Public transportation for the masses will always be the less preferred method to commute since doing so puts one at risk as compared to the safe door to door service that personal transportation guarantees.

    Given the choice, those traveling with children, those traveling at night and especially those with physical limitations all would opt for using personal transportation instead of having to use public transportation which leaves them to deal with getting to and from their homes to wherever they would access public transportation, especially at night and/or in foul weather.

    In short, Public transportation is less safe than for to for personal transportation, and our elected Leaders know it, which is why they chose door to door personal transportation for themselves and their loved ones!

    Don Wood
    Don Wood subscriber

    I've lived in La Mesa since 1989. The city has three major freeways (I-8, Highway 94 and Highway 125)

    running through it, more than enough freeway capacity for the most avid freeway fan. It also has a

    branch of the San Diego trolley that runs through it. I've never spoken to one La Mesa resident who said they believe we need more freeways or less trolley service. I believe that when a politician says we need to

    build more freeways, they more interested in subsidize sprawl housing developers by opening up more rural back county lands to sprawl housing subdivisions than they are in better serving the transportation needs of residents in already built out cities like La Mesa.

    h.creger subscriber

    Alessio's constituents are not the only people in the San Diego region, thousands of others within the urban core want public transit so that we could reduce our car dependency. As a student, I know that there is overwhelming support from universities for this long-needed transit infrastructure. Alessio's conviction that the public does not want transit is false and unsubstantiated. Freeways cannot be widened forever, we need a change in San Diego's transportation system and we need it now. 

    Right now world leaders are meeting in Peru to discuss steps to fighting climate change, SANDAG should be doing the exact same thing. Yet they are squabbling over trivial matters instead of taking action.

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember


    " Alessio's conviction that the public does not want transit is false and unsubstantiated."

    Neither is the position that the public does not support SANDAGs position. Of course people think transit is a good thing but

    The real question about public transit should be "would you use it or prefer your own vehicle?"

    And of course things are going just peachy in Peru. Let them come to consensus on Global warming first. Or they should address 

    Global car sales


    h.creger subscriber

    @Mark Giffin Assuming that SANDAG actually did their job and built an efficient transit system that is competitive with the automobile, then thousands more San Diegans within the urban core would prefer to take transit! One cannot deny how inept and ineffective our highway-dependent plan is, when commuters must endure hours of gridlock everyday. All we are asking is for a viable public transit alternative, not a complete overhaul of the highway system. Personally, as a student I do not have the financial ability to own a vehicle, which is one of the many reasons I prefer public transit. Yet even if I could afford a car I would choose not to own one. I value my personal health and therefore prefer to exercise by biking or walking, instead of confined to a sedentary lifestyle in a car. On top of that, I have great concern for the threat of air pollution and climate change in San Diego. It is a personal responsibility of all individuals and our "leaders" to actually take steps to ensure a healthy future for generations to come. 

    Clearly you are oblivious to the groundbreaking global political consensus on climate change and what must be done to prevent catastrophe. In Peru global leaders have agreed that countries must now set GHG targets that go much beyond their current undertaking by 2015. It's time for SANDAG to do the same and stop denying this reality. This article you cite about global car sales is just one more reason that we need a real public transit alternative in order to reduce our contribution to climate change. Accounting for global population growth in the following decades, it is clear that leaders must embrace transit alternatives as an incentive to decrease personal automobile use. 

    kyolong subscriber

    I ride the trolley everyday to work, and I want more trolley stations with express trains to get from El Cajon to Downtown faster than by freeway in rush hour.  Anyone who has lived in a modern European or Asian city knows a better quality of life with clean, fast, affordable public transportation.  

    Let's give our children a cleaner, sustainable, efficient city with a functioning public transit that reduces GHG emission according to State Law.  It's time for SANDAG to stop tired old dirty "more freeways" thinking, and lead the city to a healthy transit future.

    Jack Shu
    Jack Shu subscriber

    What a great concept. Build more freeway off ramps so more cars can get off the road thus reduce GHG emission. Close trolley stations so more people have to walk and bike improving their health.  Why didn't SANDAG include these ideas in their plan?

    Craig S. Maxwell
    Craig S. Maxwell subscriber

    It's nice to read common sense coming from a politician. Thank you Ms. Alissio. California's arbitrary and utterly ineffectual carbon emission mandates and the policy craziness that's followed in their wake--things like, trolley lines, and bike/walking paths amidst vast urban sprawl, and the industrialization of our last remaining open spaces as millions of acres are bulldozed, buried and wired under massive solar and wind "farms"--are so plainly, foolishly and hideously wrong that it's hard to believe they're really happening.

    The Cleveland National Forest Foundation's lawsuit is a farce. It's refreshing to see elected officials who're willing to fight (back) for what's right

    paul jamason
    paul jamason subscribermember

    @Craig S. Maxwell Can you explain how carbon emission mandates are "arbitrary and utterly ineffectual"? And if these policies are so extreme, why were they put in place by both a Republican governor and a Democratic legislature, both elected by the citizens of California? 

    If you disagree with these state laws, start a campaign to overturn them and let's see how successful you are. But don't pretend SANDAG is "fighting for what's right" when they're essentially a rogue agency flouting state law on this issue.  

    Craig S. Maxwell
    Craig S. Maxwell subscriber

    @paul jamason @Craig S. Maxwell  Briefly,...

    Unfortunately, "reducing emissions" in California with alternative/sustainable energy sources (primarily wind, solar and geothermal) will, due to recent discoveries of and an increased reliance on ... View more coal in the developing economies of the world, do nothing to alter the rising level of greenhouse gases worldwide.
    Again, the only thing it will accomplish is the destruction of our already rapidly dwindling wilderness areas and the flora and fauna they support.

    paul jamason
    paul jamason subscribermember

    I wonder which of Ms. Alessio's La Mesa constituents want the trolley stations closed.  Is it the younger residents who are increasingly using mass transit?  Or is it seniors, who have lived a car-based lifestyle and oppose any new housing near transit? 

    If it's the latter, I'm not sure why they alone determine Alessio's vision of our region's transportation system in 2035 or 2050.  Because they won't be here to use it.

    shawn fox
    shawn fox subscriber

    @paul jamason They didn't say that they want them closed.  Nobody in the article stated that.  The article suggested what people might not want more of.

    Andy Kopp
    Andy Kopp subscribermember

    @shawn fox:  "Most of my constituents are irritated at CNFF for filing the suit in the first place. My constituents want me to close some of our trolley stations."

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    Bravo Kristine Alessio for standing up for what the majority of citizens want.

    Cars are here to stay and we need the roadway infrastructure.

    Public transportation is good and should be developed where practical but for most of San Diego it just isn't.

    Evidently even Todd Gloria understands this.

    Marcus Bush
    Marcus Bush subscriber

    @Mark Giffin "Cars are here to stay and we need the roadway infrastructure"

    I'm so sick of these nonsense straw man arguments... No one has said that we need to get rid of all cars, and we already have several times more roadway infrastructure for cars instead of infrastructure for bikes, pedestrians, BRT, and light rail. 

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    @Marcus Bush @Mark Giffin 

    Marcus. First of all no one has said that infrastructure for bikes, pedestrians, BRT, and light rail shouldn't factor in. What has been said is they need to pencil out rather than the "build it and they will come" mantra. No one has yet to demonstrate that people will actually use public transit to the point it doesn't require huge ongoing subsidies.

    The narrative on this has been "sustainability" "climate change" Bla, Bla Bla.

    The reality is our current infrastructure is and will continue to be roads and automobiles.

    We have it. We should improve and maintain it.

    Hardly a "straw man"

    Greg Martin
    Greg Martin subscriber

    "Two people out of 58,000 of my constituents in La Mesa have urged me to vote to not appeal the decision. "  

    We don't know to what extent she solicited any comments from her constituents, much less the total number of comments she received whether in support or not.

    If she didn't solicit comments, yet got two comments urging her to not appeal the decision and none urging her to appeal, what would that say versus how she chose to represent the feedback she received?

    Marcus Bush
    Marcus Bush subscriber

    @Greg Martin I thought this exact same thing when I read this. It's very misleading to use that 58,000 population figure... since when has Councilmember Alessio ever received comments from 58,000 people??? Also, SANDAG issues are extremely complex, regional issues that tend to draw more wonkish, public policy folks, so the fact that 2 of her constituents even brought it up should mean something. 

    Angela Deegan
    Angela Deegan subscriber

    As one of Mrs Alessio's constituents who is very much in favor of improving our transit system, enabling more bicycling and walking and NOT adding to our road infrastructure, I am bitterly disappointed in the results of the SANDAG vote. Our children and future generations are counting on us to tackle climate change before we reach really serious tipping points.  Transitioning to public transit is key to tackling climate change, so we must do all we can, without delay, to make that transition. @TransitSD @SanDiego350