Planning to Disaster: San Diego and California’s Sustainable Communities Strategies

The San Diego metro area has been institutionalizing its boring reputation by undertaking in recent years what is arguably the most aggressive regional planning effort in the country. Enviros and “anti-sprawl” (read: anti-poor, anti-choice) types have fallen back in love with America’s Finest City over San Diego’s ease of meeting SB 375’s Sustainable Communities Strategies targets. Thanks to the members of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), San Diegans can look forward to this whiter brighter future:

While the notion of efficiently coordinating transportation, housing, and commercial development across thousands of square miles and millions of people sounds daunting, officials in the San Diego area say that drafting the SCS was not nearly as difficult as it may be for other regions.

“A lot of the stuff in our plan is not new to us,” said SANDAG Executive Director Gary Gallegos. “It’s not a huge game-changer because we were already doing a lot of these things because they were good for us.”

The SCS relies on complex forecasts for regional growth—which is anticipated to include a growth in population from 3.2 million to 4.4 million and 400,000 more housing units by 2050—but much of the actual planning work that will contribute to the SCS has already been done.

Indeed, much of the region’s growth is already prescribed and accounted for, some of it before SB 375 was even imagined.

“San Diego, in spite of the fact that SB 375 and AB 32 came along, was already doing a lot of what was required by those pieces of legislation we had incorporated into our planning,” said County Supervisor Ron Roberts, who also is also an ARB board member. “We were already on a course to get to the transportation corridors and move the density from the furthest out areas.”

The California Air Resources Board set per capita emissions reductions targets for the state’s MPOs just last October. San Diego’s targets are 7% by 2020 and 13% by 2035.

So San Diego’s out front in the most out-front state in the country with respect to enviro-regulating itself into a situation far worse than climate change could ever do. Thanks to their heavy-handed land-use regulations, city officials’ hell-bound well intentions now add $220,000 to the price of a new single-family detached home. This so-called “smart growth” is anything but: it drives up housing prices and goods prices, reduces employment opportunities and entrepreneurial activity, limits personal mobility, and is generally supported by a very large, taxpayer-funded planning bureaucracy that’s primary purpose is to perpetuate itself and increase its political power.

Overall, “anti-sprawl” forces are reducing quality of life and the costs are disproportionately borne by low-income minorities, which is what makes this leftist program so ironically terrible.