By Jim Miller
In a recent interview, Naomi Klein discussed the reality facing anyone interested in promoting meaningful climate action. The “structural problem” we face, according to Klein, is that people can “simultaneously understand the medium to long term risks of climate change” and still believe it is in their “short term economic [or political] interest” to continue business as usual. This is precisely the situation concerned San Diegans face when dealing with the San Diego Association of Governments’ (SANDAG) limited vision when it comes to taking the actions needed to address the pressing threat of climate change at the local level.
As Doug Porter has pointed out here in the San Diego Free Press, given SANDAG’s history, it’s easy to be cynical about our regional planning efforts. Nonetheless, our future hopes depend on us not giving up. We must continue to push for a just, sustainable future.
Last Friday, the San Diego Quality of Life Coalition, a group of labor, environmental, social justice, affordable housing, and transit organizations representing over 150,000 San Diego County residents submitted a vision statement to SANDAG’s Transportation and Regional Planning Committee meetings for consideration as the basis for the sales tax ballot measure currently under discussion at SANDAG.
This coalition, which is a historically unique one for San Diego, is comprised of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (Local 569), the Climate Action Campaign, the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council and its Environmental Caucus, the American Federation of Teachers (Local 1931), the Plumbers and Pipefitters (Local 230), San Diego 350.org, San Diego Coast Keeper, the Center on Policy Initiatives, the Surfrider Foundation, the Environmental Center of San Diego, the Environmental Heath Coalition, the Sierra Club San Diego Chapter, Circulate San Diego, the San Diego League of Conservation Voters, Mid-City Community Action Network, Bike San Diego, the Community Budget Alliance, the San Diego Audubon Society, Save Our Countryside, Save Our Cities, the Bike Coalition of San Diego County, and the California Nurses Association.
After months of collaboration and discussion, the Quality of Life coalition has unified around a vision that is centered on taking meaningful action on climate change with an emphasis on climate justice. The Quality of Life Coalition called on SANDAG to develop a ballot measure aligned with these priorities. The goal is a measure that invests public money in a socially and environmentally equitable manner (based on need). This coalition believes the measure is an opportunity to invest in building a vibrant, inclusive economy that lifts up families, creates healthier communities, and addresses climate change.
The Quality of Life Coalition vision, if implemented, would benefit residents throughout the county as well as position San Diego communities to leverage state and federal funds and accelerate regional efforts to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, a state requirement and a necessity.
You can read the vision statement here:
SAN DIEGO QUALITY OF LIFE COALITION
Invest our public dollars in a social and environmentally equitable manner to build a vibrant, inclusive economy that lifts up families, creates healthier communities and addresses climate change.
OUR GOAL: PASS A QUALITY OF LIFE INITIATIVE SUPPORTING THIS VISION
- Adopt more sustainable and socially equitable patterns of land use; preserve open space.
- Protect and improve water quality.
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions through enforceable measures consistent with state law.
- Create good, middle-class jobs, especially in vulnerable neighborhoods.
- Expand affordable housing.
- Expand mass transit, biking and walking options to reduce driving, congestion and air pollution.
HOW DO WE GET THERE?
Preserve and Expand Open Space
- Fund completion of land acquisition for critical habitat for endangered species to support Multi Species Habit Conservation Plans, including support for the planning process, land acquisition above what is required for Transnet project mitigation, habitat restoration, and long-term management and monitoring.
Protect and Enhance Regional Water Quality through Improvements to Storm Water Handling
- Fund improvements to and expand maintenance of storm water systems that prevent trash and pollution from being carried through storm drains, watersheds, and the ocean.
- Eligible projects must address source control and/or include multi-benefit regional projects that capture, infiltrate and reuse storm water and support a local sustainable water supply.
Ensure Meaningful Action on Climate Change
- Ensure funding is prioritized to transportation projects in local governments that have adopted Climate Action Plans with enforceable greenhouse gas reductions and performance measures consistent with state law, including the County of San Diego.
Invest in Social, Economic and Environmental Equity
- Dedicate majority of funding to communities identified as most disadvantaged. For this purpose, disadvantaged communities are defined as the 25% of San Diego County’s 628 census tracts that rank highest within the region on the most current version of CalEnviroScreen.
- Equitable transit operations and fare structures that provide people of all ages with access to the transportation essential for a quality life and develops long-term sustainable transit habits.
- Provide training and work opportunities for County residents through a Project Labor Agreement with three key provisions: 1) participation in state-approved joint labor-management apprenticeship; 2) local hire with enforceable standards targeting vulnerable communities and populations, like veterans; and 3) labor peace.
Develop a New Funding Stream to Build Affordable Housing near Transit Sites
- Require a dedicated set-aside of funding for the creation of transit-oriented affordable homes and related infrastructure.
- In order to enable spending for a funding set-aside for development of affordable homes, require SANDAG to pursue legislation to expand their spending authority for such expenditures.
Accelerate Construction of Transit, Bike and Pedestrian Improvements in the Next 10 Years
- Fund transit operations and maintenance.
- Re-allocate Transnet funds currently designated for freeway lane additions.
- Require that all future Regional Transportation Plans, beginning in 2019, align with QOLI priorities.
- QOLI will not fund freeway expansion (i.e., adding lanes to existing freeways or developing new freeways for more car capacity) but can be used for neighborhood complete street improvements.
- Dedicate funds from QOLI to accelerate and fund new construction in the next ten years of transit and active transportation projects.
Note: Jim Miller is a member of AFT Local 1931, chair of the Labor Council Environmental Caucus, and part of the Quality of Life Coalition.